As CEO of a consulting firm providing advisory services to global Fortune 100 companies on everything from operations to strategy, you may be surprised to hear that happiness is a lot on my mind during the day. But in my company, we aspire to be the happiest company in the world because we know that it is a win-win for the company and employees.
When we talk about happiness, we do not mean the immediate happiness in having a glass of red wine on a Friday night but rather happiness as a measurable parameter for success in our company. A parameter for how satisfied our employees are with their lives in general.
OECD uses happiness as a parameter for the prosperity and progress of nations, and companies across the globe have begun to see the value and opportunities in having employees that not only thrive in their work but who also find meaning and purpose with their lives. The boundaries between work and private life have never been more fluid than today, and it is my belief that we, as leaders, have a responsibility to as well as an interest in creating the best possible conditions for the whole human being in the workplace. We should ensure that the welfare and growth of our employees become a success parameter in our company. Companies have measured employees’ job satisfaction for years, but the fact remains that job satisfaction is only correlated with 35% of our feeling of happiness. This means that there are many parameters that you will miss entirely if you only measure and look into job satisfaction in your organisation. And the 35% is notably a number that is going down. We should instead put the whole human being in focus, both as a company and as an employee.
Happiness is a worthwhile pursuit
Research shows that happy people are more productive and good at cooperating. They are more confident, are better leaders and negotiators and are more innovative. And last but certainly not least, happy people remain significantly longer in their employment before changing jobs. Doesn’t that sound like employees you would like in your company? With this in mind, it seems obvious that it is relevant for us to broaden our conventional view on job satisfaction to include something more, and that we should concern ourselves with 100% of the factors and not just the traditional 35%. Happy employees is not just a highly satisfying objective to work with as an organisation and as a leader, it is also a sound business agenda.
I am not even close to having all the answers, not even to some of the tricky questions on the boundaries between private life and work life. But one way to get started is to familiarise yourself with the concept of happiness and to understand what creates happiness and mental welfare for us humans. And to ensure that the company’s purpose and thus the employees’ purpose in going to work is crystal clear and truly motivating. You may also look into how you talk about mental health issues, well-being and welfare in your company. Do your middle managers and managers generally talk with their employees about how they are doing? I mean, do they not only talk about whether their employees have reached their goals and carried out their work satisfactorily but also talk about whether they feel safe and satisfied at work? And I am not only referring to the annual job satisfaction survey but to a frequent dialogue. Do your employees know who to turn to for help and support if there is something troubling them, if they are lonely, if they are experiencing symptoms of stress, if they are feeling inadequate? And do you know what to do about it?
Scandinavian companies should seize the opportunity to lead the way
Scandinavia is often in the lead of global happiness surveys, and not least Denmark has a global super brand when it comes to happiness. We are known as the happiest country in the world. This position offers us a unique opportunity to work with happiness as a measurable parameter of success and thus to strengthen our global brand even further. Many Danish companies are already looking for talent across the globe, and any strong point can help make a difference in such cases. But this is just an added bonus.
The real reward lies in having a company with employees that thrive and are happy. Because that is a company with committed, innovative and productive employees. And that is the way to success!