I recently gave a presentation on this topic as I often feel that much of the HR vernacular is always around employee engagement and should be much more about employee happiness. Now my written word is about as eloquent as a line backer ice skating but try to bear with me!


I asked the audience the question “Can you be engaged but unhappy”. I think you can. I could be engaged in a project I am doing but I am actually unhappy with my boss/manager/pay/commute/lots of things….


So if we turned the question around, “Does happiness increase engagement?” absolutely…. So the focus is how do we make our employees the most happy they can be within the workplace as we cannot control their personal lives. In truth work happiness will spill over into their personal lives as work wont be the thing they moan about.


I did an experiment prior to the presentation. I went into a number of companies with little or no notice just telling them that I needed to get with their HR team for 10-15 minutes ahead of the HR conference. I then showed up with a video camera and some music the result is the video below which we showed at the start of the HR conference.


We visited 20+ businesses and every time we had laughter, smiles and fun and I can guarantee that the first thing anyone told their better halves when they were asked the question, “how was your day”, they immediately told the story of the crazy guy with a camera…. They returned to their desks smiling.


So, were those employees more engaged/receptive after something spontaneous that they enjoyed? Well follow up with their line managers suggested “yes”. So the next question is how do we keep that sort of momentum going? It is very easy to make someone genuinely smile, random acts of kindness is good, downing tools for 10 minutes and cracking open the biscuit tin is another, but to really create a movement we needed a path to happiness (sounds very Buddhist!). I remembered a talk by Steve Gilliland at the SHRM13 conference. Steve talked about how one person can make a difference and how no matter what your station or position in life/company you can be the difference. So if I bought someone a coffee that doesn’t expect it they smile creates a small bubble of happiness, if I notice that someone is working through their lunch and I grab them a sandwich another small happiness bubble. If as the HRD of my company I start thinking about what would make the employees happy that doesn’t cost the company much money then I think I have struck nirvana. In all we create our own environment by how we act towards the people we spend most of our lives with! This does not have to be a top down approach it can start from anyway and it will percolate its way through the organization. If one teams sees another team having fun they want to be like that team they will ask “Why” and “how” then lets do that….


Ryan Kahn spoke at length at the CISHRP14 conference on Gen Z “the digital workforce” plus how people want to work for companies with causes, well if your cause was to “be the difference” would it make you an employer of choice? If through small circles of happiness a large happiness bubbles was created would it be one of the best places to work? Would internal politics decline? Would collaboration increase?  Well take a look at companies like TOMS Shoes and see if that isn’t this model personified….


Thanks and be happy  :)

Views: 227

Comment by Anna Brekka on May 22, 2014 at 5:19pm

Very cool and so true. 

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 22, 2014 at 8:31pm

Thanks, Chris. Most companies can get very good people in most skill areas just by offering a FT- benefited job. Furthermore, most companies can't reasonably expect to get people who AREN'T satisfied with just a FT- benefited job, because they have nothing special to offer the "Fabulous 5%" anyway....

Comment by Chris Bailey on May 22, 2014 at 8:38pm

Thanks Both - I think this is more geared toward retention, which I know would set most recruiters teeth on edge but happiness and fun in the workplace would also lower turnover and thus lower the cost of recruiting :) 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on May 25, 2014 at 12:25pm

You're welcome, Chris. May I suggest a variation:

Happy recruiters and our managers to increase engagement and unhappy other employees to decrease retention and increase our job security- it's a fool's errand to try to fill a full cup, but there's job security  in trying to fill a sieve!




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