All posts by Alexander

The 3 most important things bosses should learn from swing dancers

In dancing – just as in business – there are leaders and followers. But if you think this means that “The leader always leads and the follower does what they’re told” then you’re very wrong.

Miranda van Wonterghem is an international swing dance teacher and in this amazing talk from our International Conference On Happiness at Work,  she revealed the three main things business leaders should learn from dancers to create happier and more effective leadership – AND demonstrated it with dancing.

20 ways to measure happiness at work beyond the usual useless satisfaction surveys

Measuring employee happiness is a great idea.

Sure, it has its problems. Any time you measure anything, you run the risk of getting bad data, the wrong data or making bad decisions based on the data.

But it still makes sense for two main reasons.

First and most obviously, if you measure employee happiness right, it can actually guide efforts to improve the workplace by identifying organizational problems and strengths.

Also, most business leaders are highly results oriented and data driven and find it hard to value things they can’t put a number on. Tracking employee happiness with hard numbers in some way can bolster organizational commitment to happiness initiatives.

So what can you measure? This can go way beyond just an annual job satisfaction survey. It’s essential to find the metrics that are relevant to your employees, your customers and your organization.

Here are all the potential ways we’ve come up with to measure employee happiness. Did we forget any? Write a comment if you have one we didn’t include.

Measure employee mood

If you want to know how happy your employees are, you can quite simply ask them. The traditional way is of course to run annual satisfaction surveys but I’m very skeptical about that approach.

You can measure things like:

  • Happiness
  • Satisfaction
  • Engagement
  • Well-being
  • Psychological capital

You can conduct the measurement using surveys, apps, mood boards or even just tennis balls.

Other employee metrics

Two other obvious employee-related metrics are:

  • Absenteeism
  • Employee turnover

Each of these have a direct bottom line impact and are directly correlated with employee happiness.

Hiring

Happy organizations also attract more and better new hires. That means that you could also measure on metrics like:

  • Applications received per opening posted
  • Time to fill positions
  • Rate of acceptance of job offers
  • Rate of successful hires (how many new employees stay at least x months)

This will be especially relevant in fast-growing workplaces or in industries where there is strong competition for the best talent.

Customer metrics

We know that happy employees make the customers happy. Some potential metrics are:

  • Customer happiness / satisfaction
  • Customer loyalty / repeat business
  • Brand perception

Employee performance

We also know that happy employees do a better job, so measuring happiness could also mean tracking metrics like:

  • Productivity
  • Quality / errors
  • Workplace safety / accidents
  • Success rate of innovation / change projects

Negative behavior

Given that happy employees are less likely to engage in bad behavior at work, we could also track metrics like:

  • HR complaints
  • Fraud / stealing

Physiological measures

This area is a little more speculative but some people have suggested measuring things like:

  • Cortisol in saliva samples
  • Blood pressure
  • Sleep time and quality

These do raise some ethical issues around privacy and bodily autonomy.

The upshot

Measuring employee happiness can help efforts to improve a workplace and strengthen leadership’s focus and commitment to these efforts.

While traditional satisfaction surveys have a long list of problems, there are many other metrics you can look at.

No workplace should measure all of these metrics. Depending on the industry, situation and type of employees only a small subset of these will be relevant. It’s up to each workplace to define which are the most relevant and to find a good way to track and act on these metrics.

How best to measure employee happiness

We have collected all our best insights and experiences on this topic and developed a tool called heartcount which allows any team or workplace to measure happiness at work simply and in a way that generates actionable insights. Read all about it here.

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More amazing work from our global partners

In 2015 we started the Woohoo Inc Partnership and we now have partners promoting happiness at work in 30 countries.

We are incredibly proud to be supporting these amazing people. Here are some examples of the fantastic work they do.

Argentina: Team building with purpose

Grupo Aukera in Buenos Aires did a teambuilding workshop for a big international insurance company where the teams had to work together to assemble bicycles.

But there was a surprise:

While the teams were working, they all thought that the bicycles would be drawn by the participants or that they would be left for the winning group.

The surprise was that by the end of the game when the bicycles were finished, the real “clients” were poor children who received help from an NGO and used bicycles not only for playing but also to go to school or to the dining room where they they served food daily. In this way the concept of “Results” came up very clearly, understanding the meaning of our work.

What a great idea – and one that lead to a 50% improvement in that division’s satisfaction surveys.

Lebanon: The country’s first ever conference about happiness at work

Randa Farah of I have Learned Academy arranged a conference on happiness at work in Beirut and over 300 people came and saw some great local and international speakers at a very creative and fun event.

Belgium: Running a happiness program at the Department of Education

Tryangle are currently running a program which consists of a hybrid pack of webinars and keynotes on how to become happier at work with a focus on teamwork and communication. Griet Deca from Tryangle noted that:

Everybody in the department can enroll in their activities and for the first webinars we had a lot of participants. They were actively engaged creating a lot of interaction. And that made Kim, who did the webinar, also happy!

Hybrid learning tracks help to a) balance the budget and b) keep the happiness-idea alive all through the year. The fact that the participants of the webinars will meet the webinar animator is a big added value according to the feedback we get.

The public sector needs more happiness at work and doing a blend of online and physical learnings helps make the training more effective and affordable.

Poland: Putting workplace happiness on the agenda for the first time

Many Central and Eastern European countries have no tradition for focusing in happiness at work so getting attention can be tough. But Kasia Kern has been very successful in changing the conversation using a combination of social media, webinars and physical meetups.

I put together 1 hour webinar called “10 ways to become happier a work”. I remember that I posted it in the network and I literally went for vacation with my family. While sitting on the beach, I couldn’t believe what was happening, I was getting one email after another notifying me that another person register on my webinar.

When I came back I did my first webinar for 100 people, much more than I expected. So I repeated it several times and there was a similar audience each time.

I then decided to organize a few free of charge meetings in the biggest cities in Poland, to share more on Happiness at Work and included local companies to share their best practices. These events have also been sold out and attracted a lot of attention.

She will also be doing Poland’s first conference on happiness at work later this year!

Czech Republic: The world’s biggest conference on Happiness at Work

Our partners in the Czech Republic have done an annual conference on happiness at work for 4 years. It started out small with 70 participants but the latest edition had over 500 attendees, making it the biggest conference about happiness at work anywhere in the world.

UK: Rocking a closing keynote

Sarah Metcalfe of Happy Coffee Consulting in the UK gave the closing keynote at a conference called When Digital Becomes Human. She got awesome feedback, lots of questions and a 4.5/5 speaker rating.

Slovenia: Getting published

Petra and Maja of Paleta Znanj managed to get workplace happiness into some of the major business publications in Slovenia:

We prepared two articles on happiness at work for two professional magazines and they will be published in April and May. First will be an article for Direktor (a magazine focusing on development of managers) with more focus on long term and strategic advantages of H@W and leading with happiness. The second one comes out in May for an HRM magazine (focused on HR professionals) about happiness at work and its importance for a positive organizational culture.

Both magazines have a reach of few thousands, which is quite a lot for our country.

Israel: Launching a happiness board game

Games are a great path to learning and PlusConsulting in Israel have launched one that is focused on strengths and happiness at work:

FINDING THE PLUS is an interactive fun game that boosts happiness and enables participants to learn tools and solutions from the sciences of happiness at work and positive psychology.

“Finding the PLUS” game, will help you learn to implement and practice the positive perspective in a fun and engaging way. Through the game the players will get familiar with the four aspects of positive psychology: mental, emotional, physical and social. They will learn and practice new techniques that will enable them to increase their happiness level, become more empowered, improve their performance as well as their wellbeing.

How awesome is that!

Italy: The first conference about happiness at work

People 3.0 arranged their country’s first ever conference on workplace happiness with local and international speakers and 100 participants.

Much more coming

There are many, many more great things coming from the partner network. They are, without exception, smart people with great skills who are doing amazing work. If you’re looking for a local speaker or consultant to make your organization happier and more successful, you can see the whole list of partners here.

Are you interested in becoming a partner? Read all about the partnership here.

Jack Ma is very very very wrong about the 996 rule

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese tech company Alibaba, has come out in favor of the so-called 996 rule, i.e. that you should work from 9am to 9pm 6 days a week if you want to have a successful career. For anyone doing the math that’s 72 hours of work a week. Add a 1 hour commute on top of that and there’s very little time left for your family, kids, hobbies, exercise and life in general.

His belief in this is unshakeable:
“I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing,” he said. “How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?”

He also added that you can only achieve business success through suffering and sacrifice.

I realize I may be wasting my time here by going up against a belief that is so prevalent among business leaders, but there’s no way I can let that kind of nonsense pass and not point out exactly why it’s wrong. Here are 5 quick reasons:

1: Pointing to successful people that achieved success by working 72 hours a week proves nothing. What about all the people that worked just as hard but failed?

2: Many of the mental qualities that make a person successful at work are lost when people are overworked, tired, stressed and unhappy, including networking, creativity and effective decision making.

3: Permanent overwork kills people. For instance, those working a 55-hour week face 33% increased risk of stroke.

4: Permanent overwork doesn’t result in increased output.

5: Many people believe that success can only be achieved through suffering, but they’re wrong. In fact, employee happiness leads directly to higher performance and business success.

So permanent overwork does not lead to increased results and success – in fact it hurts people AND profits.

It’s easy to point to Alibaba and say “But they work really long hours and the company is successful. Check mate!” But that’s just correlation; where is the proof that they are profitable BECAUSE OF the long working hours? Maybe they would’ve been even more profitable if their employees were happy, relaxed and had lives outside of work too? The research certainly indicates that.

So why do so many people still believe this nonsense? As the psychologist Daniel Kahneman noted, it’s difficult to change people’s minds. Look at this picture:

Every horizontal line is perfectly straight. Don’t believe me? Hold up a ruler to your screen and check. OK, now that you know the horizontal lines are straight, what does your mind see? Bendy lines.

Kahneman notes that cognitive illusions are even more stubborn than visual illusions and the business leaders he has worked with almost never changed their beliefs no matter how much evidence they were presented with.

Fortunately, there are also many enlightened leaders out there:

biden

And US Vice President Joe Biden wrote an awesome memo to his staff that said in part:

I do not expect, nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work.

The upshot

There is strong evidence that permanent overwork hurts people and performance. Let’s stop promoting such a dumb and dangerous idea.

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Try this easy happiness hack in your next meeting

When is your next meeting? Tomorrow? This afternoon? Or are you already late for your next meeting?

We spend a lot of time in work meetings and they don’t seem to make us very happy.

So here’s a simple tip you can try very easily:  Open your next meeting with a round where each person shares something positive. You can pick one of these questions and let everyone share:

  • Name one thing you’ve accomplished since the last meeting that you’ve been proud of.
  • Name a person who has helped you since the last meeting.
  • Mention one thing you’re looking forward to at work in the coming week.
  • What’s the funniest thing someone has told you in the last week?
  • Mention something interesting you’ve learned in the last week.

Don’t spend a lot of time on this, just give each participant about 30 seconds to share something positive. If the group is bigger than 10-12 people, let people share in pairs and then let 3 or 4 people share with the whole group so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

It really works wonders for a meeting. One person told me this after trying it out:

Hi Alexander,

I have been reading your work for a few days now, and I cannot get enough.

We have 4 analysts on our team, who touch many if not all groups in our company. Our role often means our view is black and white in order to deliver results, which is often received in a bad light.

So, I tried starting a meeting with something positive. It was like the Jedi mind trick for convincing others to lobby for our interests!

My Sr Analyst was struggling to keep her jaw from dropping. No more than a simple ask of what is the funniest thing your kids have said to you lately. Everyone had a story, and we all laughed for a quick 2 minutes before getting to the agenda.

Just wanted to say, “Thank you,”

All the best,

-Grant

And it’s not only fun, it will also make your meeting more effective as this experiment shows:

Psychological experiments can be very devious, and this one was certainly no exception. The focus was meetings and the format was simple: Groups of people were asked to discuss and reach consensus on a contentious topic.

Here’s the devious bit: Unbeknownst to the other participants one member of the group was an actor hired by the researchers. The actor was told to speak first in the discussions. In half the experiments he would say something positive while in the other half he would start by saying something critical. After that he simply participated in the discussion like the other group members.

The experiment showed that when the first thing said in the meeting was positive, the discussion turned out more constructive, people listened more and were more likely to reach consensus. When the first statement was negative the mood became more hostile, people were more argumentative and consensus became less likely.

The researchers concluded that the way a meeting starts has a large impact on the tone of the discussion and on whether or not the group will eventually reach consensus.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

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