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Who’s In Charge of Your Employee Happiness?

employee happiness

It’s not the news you’d expect or want: Employee happiness continues to plummet. We’d hoped that employees would be happier by now in the aftermath of the Great Resignation and the sorting out of the quiet quitting trend. However, according to Bamboo HR, employee happiness is at an all-time low. In fact, employee happiness plunged 10x faster in 2023 than in the previous three years.

Who’s Happy and Who’s Not?

When breaking down the Bamboo HR survey by industry, the trend that is most concerning appears in the tech sector. Up to 2021, the industry was the happiest. However, recent layoffs and return-to-office mandates have shattered employee confidence and caused the sharpest decline in employee happiness over the past year. The finance industry has been steadily declining, which should be no surprise if you read our recent post about the mounting pressures caused by The Great Accountant Shortage.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. While the technology and finance industries have declining employee happiness, they remain near the top of the happiness list. And that the very top? The construction industry. Sure, there’s been volatility, but the construction workforce has generally experienced high demand and rising wages for years. Still, there’s room for improvement in every industry. And the steep declines in happiness should be concerning for all employers.

Why Does it Matter?

It’s no secret that employee happiness correlates to business success. We love this list compiled by SnackNation that illustrates the point. In short, happy employees are 12% more productive, outperform their competition by 20%, produce 37% more sales, and take 10x fewer sick days.

On the recruiting and retention front, it’s important to note that happy employees are four times likelier to stay at their jobs. They’re more likely to refer other happy employees, who also tend to perform well. Plus, happiness trumps compensation alone as the reason someone stays at their job.

What Are Employers Doing About It?

“Employee happiness is simply smart business. But while the case for wanting your team to be happy in their jobs is cut and dried, the question of how to actually promote happiness at work can get complicated,” writes Columnist Jessica Stillman.  

Let’s consider the elephant in the room regarding employee happiness: Who is responsible for it? Is it the human resources team? In most businesses, HR is best suited for the task. After all, HR is traditionally in charge of employee engagement, recruitment and retention, conflict resolution, performance management and compensation, training and development, and wellness. Those seem like the most obvious components of employee happiness.

But before dumping the rather abstract task of “increasing happiness” onto an HR professional’s already full desk, consider the following:

The Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) Is Back

2010 was the pinnacle of the employee happiness movement. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had just released his book Delivering Happiness about how company culture and employee happiness can drive business profit and purpose. The role of chief happiness officer (CHO) was popping up everywhere. By 2014, the role had really taken off. But few understood what it did. Was it a true C-Suite position or just a figurehead title for someone in HR? 

Ten years later, those questions aren’t entirely answered. Nonetheless, the CHO is back. You could say it’s a product of this epidemic of unhappiness at work or a reverting back to a more neutral role from the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In either case, employers are re-emphasizing employee happiness by assigning someone near the top with its care and handling.

So, what exactly can a CHO do for your organization? We found these two articles helpful when it comes to better understanding the role:

  • How Hiring a Chief Happiness Officer Can Save Your Business talks about the role of a CHO, which includes surveying and measuring employee happiness, implementing programs and activities to cultivate happiness, training managers and supervisors for more effective leadership, and more.
  • What Is a Chief Happiness Officer? This article from Indeed defines the role and how it can operate within an HR department. “A CHO may have an abundance of strategic duties, such as analyzing workplace policies, reviewing analytical data, and developing implementation plans for HR strategies. In many businesses, a CHO focuses more on the behavioral and mental aspects of employment to identify activities and tactics to enhance employee happiness,” Indeed explains.

What if a CHO Isn’t in the Cards?

Chances are you’re not Google or any other giant corporation that can dedicate an entire executive position to employee happiness. What can you do?

First, consider the makeup of your HR team. Is it time to add a team member who is at least partially responsible for measuring and developing programs to increase employee satisfaction (aka happiness)? Then, consider how employee happiness can be cultivated from the top down. How can that team member be supported and directed in a way that aligns with business objectives?

Many organizations can benefit from an advisor with the experience and know-how to study their culture, conduct surveys, and recommend next steps. Check out Poor Retention & Your Management Problem for ideas on how professionals like The HT Group Executive Advisor Heather Ball can spearhead efforts, including an initiative to improve employee happiness and get things moving in the right direction.


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