A Morale Decision: How Improving Engagement Leads to Increased Happiness

As managers, we hopefully value the happiness of our workers, lest they show dissent or discourage their peers from working at the company. After all, negativity spreads like the flu.

Fortunately, it’s easy to meet people’s needs and keep them happy by simply having a certain dynamic, specific working conditions, hours and activities – to name a few. Engagement is radically different and significantly more complex.  You’re not going to promote interest in the company’s performance by installing a pinball machine in the lounge or providing free coffee.

Employee engagement isn’t indicative of happiness, but rather the level in which employees can identify, support and connect with their company. Instead of motivation through enjoyment (which doesn’t always occur), engaged workers want to see the organization thrive due to a genuine interest in its success. In short, their “noble cause” supersedes personal satisfaction.

So how does engagement affect overall happiness? Simply put, job fulfillment and engagement are directly correlated.  As employees become more engaged, they’ll feel a genuine sense of purpose and accomplishment as they further their employer’s goals. While the organization grows as a result of their efforts, new challenges and opportunities eventually open up. Variety, opportunity and a sense of direction are all great ways to steer engagement, not to mention crucial factors in staff happiness.

Measuring Happiness

As we’ve established, employee happiness is much simpler than engagement.  Things like satisfaction and enjoyment can be quickly measured on a micro scale.  It all boils down to simply asking for feedback.

There are several potential approaches, but a tried-and-true method is to ask employees to describe their feelings and attitudes.

Do they feel happy coming into work, or do they dread it like the dentist?

Are they equally satisfied throughout the day, or does the job wear them down until they feel drained by five o’clock?

How much do they enjoy their daily duties, and what – if anything – can we do to make them better?

These are just examples, but the basic concept is there. Happiness is easy to measure once you compile enough (anonymous) feedback.

Measuring Engagement

While surveys might work for simple evaluations like the one above, many organizations fall into the dreaded “survey trap” and rely on it as a universal measurement tool.  Although certainly effective in some instances, questionnaires have a poor track record for measuring engagement.

Unlike the micro approach required to assess happiness, determining the level of staff devotion requires an examination of many key trends and factors – a macro scale.  That being said, there are certain key indicators to evaluate.

Interpersonal relationships are one way to estimate engagement.  It’s been log established that strong, close workplace connections encourage teamwork and cohesion; the more, the better.

Connection with management is also a way to determine engagement. At some point, we’ve heard people complain about being “just a number” in what amounts to an impersonal corporate machine.  It’s impersonal and detached.  This is why, as managers, it pays to evaluate the level of dialogue between junior and senior staff – an “open door policy,” if you will.

Voluntary overtime is an excellent way to see how engaged employees feel.  Those who proactively dedicate their spare time to get the job done will do so for several reasons, one of which is genuine loyalty to their employer. Workers who simply clock in and out right on time, on the other hand, don’t want to do more than the bare minimum.  Take the time to examine this trend.

Collaboration through spontaneous meetings is a good sign of an engaged workforce, whereas forcing employee gatherings in a rigid schedule will often be met with groans of frustration. Consequently, staff won’t be interested in what management is trying to convey, killing engagement and potential happiness in the process.  To that end, it always helps to keep an eye out for these impromptu team meetings, as it’s a good indication that the business is fostering strong engagement.

Proactive networking is also a good benchmark for measuring engagement.  Workers who want their company to succeed will go out of their way to recommend their organization’s services, seek out new clients (if applicable) and do whatever else they can to stimulate growth.  If this behavior is high among employees, then chances are that engagement is high as well.

An engaged, happy workforce is the perfect combination to stay competitive.  Although it may take time and resources, taking major steps to evaluate and improve engagement will have significant long-term payoffs.