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What happiness at work is and how to use it

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Abstract

Purpose – Change management, organizational, team and leadership development is often conducted through frameworks that do not meet expectations. This paper aims to look at how the science of happiness at work delivers strategic outcomes when used in a bottom-up and top-down approach. Design/methodology/approach – While the idea that happiness is an important concept outside work is now prevalent, there is little research or practice to show how it can be used to drive organizational success or deliver return on investment. The case study shows how to deploy the approach in an organization-wide strategic intervention. Findings – The science of happiness at work delivers return on investment and strategic outcomes when properly implemented. Practical implications – This new approach is a powerful methodology which offers traction at individual, team and organizational level: it opens up a different evaluation and development methodology that positively fast-tracks change and growth. Social implications – There is huge potential for making teams and organizations better places to work by using a simple, practical and aligned framework rooted in something that matters intuitively to everyone. Originality/value – This paper provides an understanding of the theory and application of the science of happiness at work. It shows how strategic issues can be addressed within a short space of time and highlights the benefit of an approach which encompasses personal, social and organizational issues simultaneously.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E info@iopenerinstitute.com
©iOpener Institute 2014
www.iopenerinstitute.com
An iOpener case study
Happiness at Work. That short phrase can sound pretty flaky taken in isolation. But research and
scholarship are showing time and again
i
just what an important subject this for driving top line growth and
bottom line results. And how deeply underestimated it has been
ii
.
Why happiness at work matters?
The iOpener Institute based in Oxford UK has run an extensive, rigorous and robust research program since
2005 into what everyone is increasingly called the Science of Happiness at Work. And our empirical data
has found that a happy worker is a high-performing one
iii
. The happiest employees:
Take one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues
Are six times more energized
Intend to stay twice as long in their organizations
Are twice as productive
Let’s look at this last statistic in more detail.
The data we’ve gathered from 41,000 respondents shows that employees who are happiest at work report
being “on task” 80% of their working week. That’s four days a week. It would be impossible for anyone to
be on task 100% of the time: it would be unrealistic as we need to chat and connect. Water cooler and
coffee moments matter as any leader, manager or employee knows. But we also get stuck when laptops
crash, when others are ill, when minds get changed and stuff suddenly pops up which temporarily derails
us. So 80% time on task is pretty good.
On the other hand employees who are really unhappy at work spend only 40% of their time on task. That’s
two days a week. And it represents a huge cost to any organization. In effect an organization is losing
about 100 days’ work – or about 3.5 months for every really unhappy employee. So the data is presenting
some really interesting metrics-led facts about the cost of unhappiness at work.
What is happiness at work?
So how do we define happiness at work? Our definition is that “it is a mindset which enables action to
maximize performance and achieve potential”, so it’s a simple yet practical definition which applies to an
individual, a team or an organization. But the key focus here is this mindset: everyone knows that
approaching something in a positive manner is more likely to get results than doing the opposite. It’s
common sense. Yet common sense seems not to be so common when it comes to organizations.
Of course the highs that happiness in the traditional lay sense bring are important too and they also fall
within our model. These short bursts of positive emotion which lasts up to 10 seconds, tell us to keep going
because we derive personal enjoyment from the activity. But they this isn’t the objective of the approach.
The objective of what we do is to create sustainable and enduring change through people, because it’s
people who deliver results, not programs or emotions.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E info@iopenerinstitute.com
©iOpener Institute 2014
www.iopenerinstitute.com
At the iOpener Institute, Headquartered in Oxford, UK and located in the USA, Dubai, Germany, the
Netherlands, USA, Mexico, Israel and South Africa, we help organizations with their people strategy and
implementation, so that business critical employees can be at and contribute their best. That’s what drives
high performing workplaces. Doing this in a metrics-led, outcomes-oriented practice ensures return on
investment of any interventions.
What’s the model we use?
For us happiness at work is based on a researched-based
iv
and practitioner-driven model. The Performance-
Happiness Model is made up of 5 important components, which we know as the 5Cs. They are:
Contribution which is about what you do
Conviction is your short-term motivation
Culture is your feeling of fit
Commitment is your long-term engagement
Confidence is your self-belief
These are all interlocked, working as an ecosystem which means that they have a strong impact on each
other. Trust and Pride in an organization and Recognition back from it help form the context in which the
5Cs are operationalized. And, to be happy at work, an individual must have a sense of achieving their
potential, which is why it lies at the heart of the model.
©iOpener Institute for People and Performance 2011
What leaders need to understand is how to create that context of pride, trust and recognition, then it’s
more likely that their team members will be able to deliver on the 5Cs.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E info@iopenerinstitute.com
©iOpener Institute 2014
www.iopenerinstitute.com
How is this different from engagement?
While we acknowledge that there is some over-lap between both the Science of Happiness at Work and
engagement (whatever definition you use), we can see from our data that there are some important
differences. For example senior leaders and general managers frequently report that they are highly
engaged at work but they are not happy. We hypothesize that this is because they often also show high
levels of Conscientiousness (NEO-PI-3) and therefore invest heavily in their work regardless of mindset.
Second, we take a fundamentally different philosophical position from practitioners and academics who
focus on engagement. Typically engagement is held to be a manager’s responsibility; we believe that
individuals not managers are responsible for their own happiness at work.
Third, we believe in the power of language to create culture. Happiness is a word that everyone uses: when
would you go home to your partner and talk about an ‘engagement’ issue inside or outside work? You
wouldn’t. If we are to encourage authenticity and transparency we need to adopt a language that reflects
this.
So how is the approach useful to organizations?
How to use the approach? A case study
An organization came to us with a big strategic problem about 18 months ago. They were having trouble
retaining business critical employees and this was having a devastating effect on their ability to grow. They
simply couldn’t take on more client work and were in danger of over-trading. Internally there were
problems scoping projects, meetings milestones and delivering quality outcomes for their clients. The
business was simply unable to expand or grow because they were losing talent fast. That meant that every
team was pretty much in permanent crisis, so our goal was to help them improve this turnover number.
So we:
Assessed the whole organization using our research-driven tool, the iOpener People and
Performance Questionnaire (iPPQ).
Analyzed the data to see what worked and what could work better both at a team and
organizational level.
Ran focus groups to flesh out some of the internal issues which were hampering growth.
Coached the board and senior leaders using our proprietary 360 tool which aligns with individual
iPPQ reports.
Ensured that the people strategy was aligned with the organizational strategy.
Re-aligned some of the HR processes to ensure that they were based on what worked well and
what could work better.
Helped leaders to implement the refreshed and realigned HR processes.
Worked with HR to plan then deliver leadership development aligned with the Science of Happiness
at Work.
Ensured knowledge transfer into the organization so that HR, leaders and managers could be self-
sustaining.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E info@iopenerinstitute.com
©iOpener Institute 2014
www.iopenerinstitute.com
Found champions for every team so that the approach would remain alive and at top-of-mind.
Re-assessed the organization.
What issues did we face during implementation?
During this time the organization went through significant change in terms of ownership with all the knock-
on consequences in terms of delivering a large-scale intervention. In addition there were, as always, a few
leaders who are not ready for embracing new ways of working or leading others. Senior leaders who aren’t
prepared to get behind an initiative create risk which needs managing and addressing because employees
always take their cue from the top.
What was key to overall project success?
Access to, support from and the attitude of the CEO was a critical success factor. This CEO had an intrinsic
and unshakeable belief that the approach was absolutely the right thing for this knowledge-based
professional services organization. And we see that in our data too: knowledge-workers who unhappy at
work create much more instability and risk because they can so easily jeopardize projects they are involved
with.
A second important key to success was that leaders could very quickly see the immediate difference that
positively-oriented processes and conversations made. This isn’t to say that they shied away from the
tougher conversations: on the contrary. A large part of happiness at work consists of doing difficult things
and this includes giving negative feedback when needed. And a core part of the leadership development
process included helping those leaders coach team members and grow their willingness and skill in offering
development feedback.
A third core factor that helped deliver success was ensuring that we were working bottom-up and top-
down simultaneously. This meant that everyone could quickly see that things were starting to happen and
changes were being implemented.
So what were the outcomes?
When the project started, turnover of business critical employees was running at 25%. Over 15 months, this
halved to 12.5%. Not only has this reduction created much more stability and a platform for growth, but of
course the recruitment costs to the organization have fallen dramatically. What matters more is the
intangible effect on the organization’s social networks. Real-time relationships and therefore trust within
and between teams has increased greatly because there is a much greater sense of stability and progress.
A further positive outcome is that the language of the organization has changed. Employees and leaders
are using the terminology of the Science of Happiness at Work. This means that conversations are easier
because there is a framework and language where before there wasn’t. And that means it’s much easier to
have new, deeper and potentially more meaningful interactions. When the shape of language changes you
open up different conversations, cultures and outcomes. And to do that through a positive approach
creates incredible cohesion - which is something that all organizations need in today’s uncertain world.
iOpener Institute for People and Performance™
The Old Bakehouse 2 South Parade Oxford OX2 7JL UK
T + 44 (0) 1865 511522 F +44 (0) 1865 552918 E info@iopenerinstitute.com
©iOpener Institute 2014
www.iopenerinstitute.com
For more about the iOpener Institute please visit www.iopenerinstitute.com; if you would like to try the
short report, go to http://bit.ly/1bWL9fy. And look out for the next Global Happiness at Work Survey in the
Wall St Journal.
i
Boehm, J.K. & Lyubomirsky, S., 2008, Journal of Career Assessment; 16; 101 “Does Happiness Promote Career
Success?”
ii
Fisher C., Happiness At Work, 2010, International Journal of Management Reviews, 12;4
iii
Pryce-Jones, J. & Lutterbie S. 2010, Why leveraging the Science of Happiness at Work Matters: the happy and
productive employee. Assessment & Development Matters, 2;4
iv
Lutterbie S.J. & Pryce-Jones J., 2013, Managing Happiness at Work, Assessment and Development Matters 5;2
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Why leveraging the science of happiness at work matters: the happy and productive employee”
  • J Lutterbie
Managing happiness at work”, Assessment and Development Matters
  • S J Lutterbie