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Is it really possible to measure that most human of emotions, happiness?
What about the equally intangible and hard to define, ’employee engagement’?
At Surveylab, we are firmly in the ‘yes’ camp. Measuring happiness and engagement doesn’t just give a warm glow, it’s an effective bellwether to see what’s working and what’s not. Our employee survey framework uses these concepts to help us understand the results and make more informed decisions.
How to measure happiness and engagement
We think of ‘measurement’ as something precise. Something that relates to the tangible world:
- We count the number of people on a bus
- We weigh groceries by the kilo
- We measure the stopping distance of a car in metres
Happiness can’t be seen or touched, though it is possible to measure. To do that, we observe behaviours and outcomes. A simple question could give us a starting point: “How happy are you?“
A scale, from “not happy at all” to “very happy”, provides a yardstick against which to measure happiness.
We can dig a deep hole very quickly deciding what is meant by employee engagement. Here at Surveylab, in simple terms, it is a catch-all term that describes “how we (the employees) are getting on at work overall.”
As with happiness, we measure engagement by looking at outcomes and behaviours. We combine 4 questions or statements to create an engagement score:
- Overall, how satisfied are you with [company] as a place to work?
- How likely would you be to recommend working for [company] to a friend or relative?
- I plan to be working for [company] in two years’ time
- I feel valued for what I do
Then we can compare engagement between different parts of the organisation, and where it’s higher or lower we can look at what else is going on there, or what has changed since the last time. Tracking employee sentiment in this way, we can start to see what factors are at play, and by how much.
Perfect measurement is not the goal
We don’t need a strictly perfect measure of happiness or engagement. Critics can rightly argue that other variables have an impact at different times. Crucially, the results tell us more than we knew to start with to give a steer on decision making and policy.
I am always saying, surveys often confirm suspicions and affirm anecdotes. They can also tell us how big.
What’s good for employees is good for business
The NHS hit the headlines recently because public satisfaction with the health service reached the lowest recorded level. Amidst the media chatter, astute observations noted that public dissatisfaction correlated with staff dissatisfaction. Unhappy employees, unhappy patients.
The NHS is a public organisation, not a private enterprise. Yet the principles are the same: happiness and engagement are linked to performance.
“Employees are the beating heart of any organisation” is true, and measuring their happiness and engagement is a powerful tool. Taking steps to improve employee experience benefits everyone: leaders and managers, staff and customers, and most importantly – the future of the organisation itself.