When I tell people my job title, Head of Global Happiness, people often think I’ve made it up (I have!) but they also ask “What does that mean?” Once I’ve explained my story, I find many people ask how they can become Head of Happiness in their organisation.
Happiness and Me
I’m going to tell you about how I started The Happiness Index, but first let me set the scene with a little story about my first business.
Imagine it – it’s May 2008 and a very youthful looking man (me!) and my business partner, Chris, are sitting in an attic above Wimpole Street in London’s West End starting our very own business. We could not have been happier!
Side note – I can’t say that starting my business in a huge financial crash was easy but I certainly learned a lot!
Despite the international climate, our company got bigger! The clients we worked with also got bigger, and we found we weren’t able to see them as much as we would have liked. Our approach was not scaling well and we needed to do something about it.
Chris and I sat down with our CTO to figure out if there was a way we could use technology to see how happy our customers were. I suggested that if we were going to do this with customers, then we should do this with our employees as well to see if there was a connection.
The science behind caring about happiness
We instinctively felt that if our people were happy then our customers would be happy. I’ve spent the last decade or so researching happiness and, as it turns out, the science backs up this gut feeling.
I want to start by telling you about my favourite happiness study.
In 2012 Michael West and Jeremy Dawson published a paper with The Kings Fund that still shocks me nearly a decade later! Their study aimed to look into a link between employee engagement and job performance. They looked at a range of metrics to measure performance. These included things that are quite specific to the healthcare industry, such as mortality, but also some that are relevant to other industries, such as safety measures and patient (or customer) satisfaction. They even looked at some that are arguably relevant to every employee – absenteeism and turnover.
West and Dawson proved that there were many clear associations between happiness and workplace performance. Strikingly, the data showed that an improvement in employee engagement of one standard deviation led to a decrease in patient mortality of 2.4%. This means if there were two hospitals, and everything else was exactly the same but one had happy staff and the other had unhappy staff, more people would die in the second hospital!
The benefits of caring about happiness
We were running a business not a hospital. But by listening to our people, and making small changes to our processes, communication & culture, we soon saw that the same was true in our business. These days we measure the happiness AND engagement of hundreds of thousands of employees across 90 countries.
I’ve seen countless data points that highlight how focusing on culture and happiness has changed organisations and improved lives. You can read more about it in my book Freedom to be Human – The Business Case for Happiness. But safe to say, what I learned was that caring about how your employees think, feel and behave is key to running a thriving business.
Traditionally, emotions are left out of the workplace, but neuroscience shows us that we need to unite both the head and the heart.
Happiness speaks to our hearts. Engagement speaks to our brains. By understanding how staff are thinking and feeling the business will thrive. Engagement gives us direction and happiness creates energy. Imagine a car… engagement is the Sat Nav and happiness is the fuel. It’s one thing knowing where you want to go, it’s another to have the energy to take you there!
Spreading the good news
Soon our customers were asking to use the tool, and what had started as a quick in-house solution to a problem, became a success story outside of our business. Word spread and we were able to help forward thinking organisations across the world gather more data on their people and turn that data into actionable insight.
As a company our vision is #FreedomtobeHuman, and we aim to work with people around the globe to build thriving cultures. We now have offices across the world to help spread the message.
Where are we now?
Unlike other measurement companies we look at both happiness AND engagement. Within these broad strokes, we have a proprietary neuroscience model which uses 8 key themes which build together to help create a happy and engaged team, a thriving culture, and, in turn, a productive organisation.
Our 20+ pre-built surveys are designed to show you which key neuroscience themes your organisation is currently performing well for and where you have areas to improve. This will allow you to take best practice and apply to different areas of the organisation, for example between teams or locations. It will also give you an idea of where your weaknesses lie, allowing you to dive deeper into this area in a separate survey, or indeed create a focus or work group to implement actions identified through other means.
Happiness for Everyone
We believe that happiness at work is something that everyone deserves and not something the privileged few should get. That’s why we’re working with forward thinking HR and People Professionals to create a force for good! If you want to connect with like minded professionals, we’d love to see you join our community.
To find out more about Matt and the Happiness Index visit thehappinessindex.com
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