Posted: October 24, 2012 by Matthew Hanwell in Customer, Leadership, Organization

I have always believed that people who enjoy what they do produce better results, but does that mean that people should be happy at work?

It sounds nice – happy employees, as does happy customers – is this something we all want? What is the business value of happy employees? What are the tangible outcomes? Does happiness have any place in our tough business environments? Shouldn’t employees be happy that they have a job especially these days? What is the ROI of doing anything with the aim of achieving happy employees?

I’ve been thinking about happiness recently. (From Wikipedia: Happiness being an emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy). And in particular about happiness at work.

Not perhaps immediately related to employee happiness I recalled reading “The DNA of Customer Experience”, by Colin Shaw, where he identifies four clusters of emotions that either create or destroy value as the Customer interacts with an organization. Limiting to the extent possible or avoiding altogether the negative emotions and invoking the right emotions in your customers will increase revenue, customer spend, customer loyalty and promoters. He describes a hierarchy of four emotional clusters – Destroying cluster, up to the Advocacy cluster. (Obviously much more in the book).

This got me thinking, wouldn’t exactly the same approach of value creating/value destroying emotions apply to Employees; based on their emotional experience every day of working in an organization? The book can be titled: The DNA of the Employee experience. Again the objective being to minimise the Destroying cluster emotions and maximise the higher levels within your organization and I don’t think it is too far a stretch to think that this would drive exactly the same value creation for an organization? Oh and make it a better place to work!

What emotions are you invoking in your employees every day? What is the employee emotional signature of your company?

Are you intentionally addressing the emotional experiences of your employees, with a goal of having happy employees?

Perhaps difficult to answer, but what would be the value to the organization or business anyway?

I haven’t seen or heard of many comprehensive studies that link employee’s attitudes to business results. The one that comes to mind is the 1998 Sears Employee–Customer-Profit chain study (http://hbr.org/product/employee-customer-profit-chain-at-sears/an/98109-PDF-ENG), which found that a 5 unit increase in employee attitude drives a 1.3 unit increase in customer impression which in turn drives a 0.5% increase in revenue growth. And not only for employees with direct customer facing roles! What would 0.5% increase in revenue growth be worth in your organization?

And then more recently Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose has much the same thinking – happy employees leads to happy customers.

I remember several years ago a Head of HR sitting next to me, whispered in my ear as we were listening to the record breaking Employee Satisfaction survey results for that year, “we don’t want satisfied employees, we want positive dissatisfied employees” – initially startled, but the more I thought about it the more correct it was, we want employees that are not just satisfied with how things are, but have a positive attitude towards and are happy to change things for the better.

So does happiness have a place at work?

  1. Matthew Hanwell says:

    Emotions also play a role in Business to Business…read…


  2. The positive returns of a happy workforce – FT article….”Naturally our workers look happy, the penalty for not being happy is instant dismissal” 🙂


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