Happiness in the workplace is fast becoming a trending conversation in many boardrooms – but how do you turn meaning and happiness from a fuzzy good intention into reality? The simple answer is to prioritise it and one method of doing that, which is gaining momentum, is appointing a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO).
As more and more data emerge on the many tangible benefits of workplace happiness, businesses in all sectors are coming to realise how much they have to gain from ensuring their staff are happy and doing meaningful work. Studies have shown that workforces that are happy can be 43% more productive (Hay Group), and can achieve a 37% increase in profit (Martin Seligman). These are the sorts of stats that are compelling reading for executives.
The primary idea behind a Chief Happiness Officer is assigning somebody to take ownership for employee happiness and making it a strategic business priority. The CHO is responsible for defining what happiness means in the organisation. This is hugely important as happiness can be perceived as too abstract and fluffy to manage. Through our consulting work we see that fostering long-term staff happiness and meaning at work is an organisational capability with a corresponding leadership capability. The CHO leads strategies to inspire a vision around happiness and shape meaning, ensuring that steps are taken to make it come to life.
The CHO also acts as a point of reference for employees to share their concerns and ideas about workplace meaning and happiness, and facilitate feedback between management and the workforce. Just the mere act of announcing the appointment of a CHO has the immediate effect of signalling to staff that their happiness is taken seriously and the company cares about them. This is enough to kick-start to happiness levels straight away with 61% of the Australians we surveyed in a recent study saying they would find their work more meaningful if their manager cared about their happiness.
The CHO role doesn’t need to be a new, fully paid position, nor does it have to be taken on by just one person. It can be taken-on alongside a regular job and rotated around. Ideally, that person(s) will be in a senior position and sit on or report to the executive committee because without full support from this level, any efforts being made toward staff happiness are likely to end up as lip service. HR will play a key role in implementing strategies but it’s advantageous to have the CHO responsibility sit outside of HR, to energise executive level participation and engagement.
Most importantly, a CHO is able to encourage staff at all levels to understand the importance of having meaning at work by starting a conversation about it. Creating this role not only highlights to executives and managers just how vital happy employees are to the company’s performance and sustainability, but it demonstrates to employees that their leaders are committed to making work more enjoyable, fulfilling, and meaningful. This demonstrated care builds organisational trust.
Apart from the business benefits outlined above, we are starting to see a step-change in Australian attitudes toward work. We know that millennials are way more focused on doing something meaningful at work than previous generations, and more and more modern leaders see the shaping of meaning at work and happiness of staff not just as a means to more productivity but as a worthy goal in itself. From every angle, appointing a Chief Happiness Officer is not just a novel idea but good business sense.
Author: Rise team