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The Future of Employee Engagement: The Case for The Happiness KPI™

Employee engagement is a stagnant idea. And while “How have you felt at work this week?” may feel like an awkward question to ask employees, talking about people’s emotional experience of work — their happiness — and measuring it in the workplace can lead to improved team morale, greater resilience, more innovation and greater productivity.

As the economy starts to recover there are risks that new tensions might emerge between employers and employees stemming from disagreements over what are acceptable working conditions. Ideological differences over hybrid work and productivity threaten to disrupt otherwise stable companies.  

As employers everywhere seek to understand their workplaces better, they look at different measures like ‘engagement’ to do the job. Yet, we’re adamant that engagement is a poor metric for a period that requires increasing nuance in understanding the wellbeing and productivity needs of employees. 

The future of people metrics is the Happiness KPI™. 

Based on 25 years of research, the Happiness KPI™ draws upon data insights from over 1,000 organizations to measure and improve happiness at work. More importantly, it taps into the power of positive emotions that can create organizations with high levels of initiative, innovation, loyalty, productivity and creativity.  

By asking “How are you feeling at work this week?” the Happiness KPI™ highlights how every team in the organization is performing. The weekly happiness score — out of 100 — creates a powerful people metric helping to monitor and track wellbeing across the organization, and capture employees’ experience of work.

Today, we’re excited to share a new whitepaper about the Happiness KPI™. This article is a sneak peek into what the paper holds: the future of employee metrics, the business case for happiness, and the science behind the Happiness KPI™. It’s also a guide on how you can actively build and sustain happiness within your company. 

What is the future of employee engagement?  

A happy employee is an engaged employee. But an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee. There’s a fundamental flaw in asking about engagement. No one can really answer the question, “How engaged are you at work?” There’s always layers of ambiguity for employees to sift through in answering the question. 

Engagement can mean any number of metrics perceived to increase performance and productivity — efficiency, satisfaction, work hours — but ultimately doesn’t deliver a simple measure. It’s useful for management, but not for employees. As a result, the question itself won’t deliver a clear and simple measure. 

Further, the adoption of engagement as a metric is a red flag or an eye roll for employees. There are few things that sound as corporate and impersonal as engagement. Engagement conveys an arm’s length relationship that sounds extractive. At best, it sounds like the only thing an organization wants out of its people is getting ‘more’ from them. This is demoralizing for employees that may feel like they’re already giving a lot. 

Why happiness is more engaging than engagement

Happiness, on the other hand is a concept with which everyone can relate. It’s a natural good/bad signal. When an organization focuses on happiness, it builds trust with their employees, signaling that they are interested in the individual, not just what they can produce. In the question “How happy were you at work this week?”  happiness replaces the vagueness of engagement with something everyone can answer clearly. 

Beyond the elegant simplicity of the question, we ground happiness in a methodology that converts emotions into tangible data. At Friday Pulse, we employ a technique called “episodal measurement” for measuring employee happiness because it creates a simple, time series that captures the dynamic nature of our experience of work. And, the working week is the most natural and relatable episode of work, with the week’s end a natural time to reflect back on how the week has gone. 

Asking about happiness on a weekly basis also gives employees a voice, more so than a yearly or monthly survey can provide. It provides an opportunity to speak up and provide honest answers. And, the weekly data is not only easy to gather, it’s also incredibly easy to understand and act upon.

Good leaders review the data every week, allowing them to identify the opportunities to take meaningful action. This makes employees feel heard and builds trust. 

The Happiness KPI™ helps organizations recover from setbacks

The onset of COVID-19 highlighted the strengths of the Happiness KPI™.  As Julia Hasenthal, Founder & CEO of ProSearch Strategies comments, “Other CEOs can only guess at how the pandemic has impacted their employees. Yet, I know the impact because we track employee experience every week. We’ve been able to act on the weekly data, and it’s helped us navigate our way through the crisis.

The Happiness KPI™ has shown our clients how their people experienced the pandemic on a week-by-week basis. This depth and nuance allowed leaders to intervene where necessary and ease burdens when needed. This, ultimately, led to faster rebounds and navigating a stronger way through the crisis.

The graph above highlights how Friday Pulse clients faced an 18% drop in weekly happiness scores, compared to 30% reported by UK white-collar workers. Yet, within 3 weeks they experienced a return to 90% of their pre-pandemic scores and end of year happiness levels were 20% higher with 47 weeks at (or above) 90% of their pre-pandemic happiness levels (compared to 20 weeks). In short, they bounced back 4x quicker from the first wave and completely avoided the second.

How can the Happiness KPI™ transform your organization? 

Change in any organization is always challenging. However, starting at the team level creates a real engine for positive change. The data from Friday Pulse’s Happiness KPI™ provides support to leaders to unlock the potential of their teams. To learn more, download our Happiness KPI whitepaper today.

As a pioneer in workplace happiness, Friday Pulse has also created a framework called The Five Ways to Happiness at Work. Based on 25 years of original research, this in-depth quarterly data complements the weekly Happiness KPI™ and demystifies company cultures by profiling what organizations need to focus on each quarter. 

And, we want to help your organization become a better place. For more information on how Friday Pulse can help, please reach out today