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Engagement Surveys vs The Science of Happiness at Work

27 November 2015

The general consensus around the employee engagement survey is: they're nothing more than a ‘tick in the box’ exercise. Very few employees believe that anything will actually change after the results are published.

As with most engagement surveys, the accountability and responsibility for taking action and creating change, lies with management. All the employee is required to do is simply fill out the survey. In fairness, some employees may get involved with creating an action plan for improvement but the main responsibility still lies with management to actually ‘do something’ with the survey results. 

And here lies the major difference between engagement surveys and the broad and empirical research conducted by the iOpener Institute and their approach known as ‘The Science of Happiness at Work’.   

Using the happiness approach, employees don’t just tick a box; they are responsible for their own levels of workplace engagement and job satisfaction. Of course any organisation needs to play a supporting role but in contrast to engagement surveys; there is no waiting around for management to make employees happy.  

The ‘Science of Happiness at Work’ is about creating opportunities for people to own and take responsibility for their own happiness mind-set and performance. The research also shows that people who are engaged may still be unhappy, but people who are happy are always engaged.

Using this approach, employees are responsible for making themselves happy using a selection of researched tools and techniques supplied after their ‘happiness levels’ have been analysed and reported upon.

The institute carried out academic research into the factors that determine happiness and unhappiness, identifying five important drivers which are key for happiness at work and high performance. 

These are known as the 5Cs:

  •  Contribution. This relates to how much effort an employee is willing to put into their role. Things which may assist the level of contribution include staff having clear goals and objectives, feeling secure in their job and also having people around them who listen and value their opinion.

  • Conviction. This is about the factors which cause short term motivation for employees. Inputs include feeling like their work has a positive impact and knowing that that they are doing a good job.   

  • Culture. Happy staff also needs to feel positive about their role and feel that they have a good ‘fit; within an organisation.  

  • Commitment. This related to long term motivation and the reason of why people do what they do.  In order to feel a high level of commitment, happy employees need to feel that they are doing something worthwhile and are making a difference. They also need to feel like they are aligned with the vision and objectives of the organisation. 

  • Confidence is the gateway to the other four drivers. This relates to employees having a belief in their own abilities and feeling confident enough to take a risk.

When comparing the Science of Happiness to the traditional staff engagement survey, it is clear that this is much more than a tick in the box exercise. The iOpener research also confirmed that the happiest people at work, compared to the least happy:

Take less sick leave (<1.5 days compared with 6, or even 11-20)

Intend to stay in their role longer (>2 years compared with a few months)

Are more ‘on-task’ (as much as a day and a quarter per week – adds up to 80 days a year!)

In addition, happy employees are seen to:

  • Spend double the time focused on what they are paid to do
  • Take ten times less sick leave

For the Financial Directors concerned with the ROI the news is also good. Organisations currently using ‘The Science of Happiness at Work’ reported the following:

  • Increased share price by 100%

  • Increased employee retention by 100%

  • Reduced sick leave by 40%

  • Increased discretionary effort by 4%

  • Reduced accidents on site year-on-year by 45%

  • Increased goal achievement by 9%

Companies are realizing that it is not enough to get people to show up to work; the real challenge is creating cultures that empower staff to take responsibility for their own happiness which in turn, provides an increase in productivity and profitability.