"Every business" should have employee happiness as one of their key performance indicators (KPIs), an expert says.
Nic Marks, a science-of-wellbeing specialist, says an unhappy team of workers is likely to collapse, even if they're profitable.
The conversation around employee happiness and well-being has changed significantly during the pandemic, due to the sudden shift to remote working arrangements.
Meanwhile, many businesses will be looking at how to ensure their staff feel safe and happy once they return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.
Nic told Down To Business the pandemic ‘fast-forwarded’ something that was already happening.
He said: “There was already a lot of talk about employee well-being, but it was a little bit more lip service and theoretical.
“We all had to adjust so much last year - everything got thrown up into the air.
“We had to be really creative and adaptive in how we did that. It’s sort of impossible to think it can go back to exactly how it was before.”
Happiness at work
Happiness at work can be a complex issue - it can cover a broad range of situations, from a sense of accomplishment or simply getting on with other workers.
Nic said: "It covers a broad range of emotions - from quiet ones like peace, serenity and contentment, right up to joy, enthusiasm, awe and wonder."
He said an unhappy team can be profitable, but the unhappiness is a risk as the team is likely to collapse.
Typically, KPIs usually revolve around performance in a job - in a sales job, for example, a key KPI could be how many sales a worker actually makes.
Nic, however, believes every business should have a "happiness KPI" too.
He explained: "You should know how your team is feeling. It’s important business information.
“People always say ‘our people are our most important assets’. Well, then know how they’re feeling! Otherwise, you don’t know what your assets are doing.”
He suggested many businesses currently don’t have a good “people metric”.
‘Churn’ (i.e. the employees who leave the organisation) is one indicator regularly used, but that’s a “laggy” indicator - one that often takes months or years to show a trend.
Nic suggests happiness, in contrast, is “right now” and can predict people’s future behaviour - including whether they’re inclined to stay or leave the firm.
One key issue many staff and employers alike may wonder about is how exactly to measure a worker’s happiness level.
Nic’s own business Friday Pulse has created a test that focuses on five different categories - connect, be fair, empower, challenge and inspire.
Nic said boredom, in particular, can be the biggest killer of enjoyment at work, so staff need a challenge.
However, he suggested the trick is not to “over-challenge” people either.
Friday Pulse’s own ‘happiness at work’ test is available to try online.