Why you don’t need a chief happiness officer

At the same time many businesses are starting the question the role and the relevance of a Chief Digital Officer, a new concern is rising : do they need a chief happiness officer.

Before trying to answer the question, let’s understand why it’s rising. Employee engagement is at its lower, the relationship between employees and businesses is more and more about defiance than trust, new generations are looking for a new meaning for their engagement, are looking for new values, focus less (or at least are said to) on money than on having a positive impact on the world and society. That’s a quick list but il explain why, with a mix of pragmatism, common sense and a little bit of marketing to wrap it into, businesses are wondering if the solution could be happiness at work.

Making people unhappy is not the best way to take full advantage of them.

Not that stupid. It’s like businesses could have thought that making people unhappy was the best way to take full advantage of them. A bit of common sense is enough to understand that happy employees will make a more engaged and performing business, even if there are limits.

Happiness and engagement do not mean the same thing. One can be engaged and unhappy, it does not last, it’s a big waste, but happens too often. One can be disengaged and happy. I can make a very long list of people who eventually began to feel happy in the locker they were put in because they were too disruptive for the organization. It’s complicated at the beginning but they learn to deal with this over time and bloom, even with side activities. Even more when the end of  their career is close and they don’t believe in the company anymore.

And knowing if a happy employee is more engaged or an engaged employee is more happy is not that easy as most people can think.

Happy at work or happy in work ?

Another question is about the levers to use to make make people happy, what is a common matter with “well being” initiatives and, more recently, with employee experience, when these concepts are lead astray.

Do we want work to make people happy, that happiness comes from working ? Or do we want them to capture as much happiness as possible besides work to endure a work that will bring anything but happiness.

In other words : do we want to change the nature, the content of work or just give cuddles during breaks ? We’ve seen lots of businesses offering terrible work conditions, stressful  and painful and balancing it with a good canteen and a fitness center and it’s easy to understand the difference between the two approaches. Between what’s perennial and what’s not. What is structural and what is window-dressing.

That said, whatever the purpose, having happy employees is better than unhappy ones .

Where des happiness lie ?

So, happiness at work covers a wide range of matters.

• “external” work environment : benefits, comfort, facilities.

• the content of work : tasks and processes simplification, removing irritants, challenging work and missions.

• interpersonal relationships : collaboration, kindness, making oneself available to help others.

• HR programs : ability to learn and improve and so to embrace the future, recognition, career management, work-life balance, personal fulfillment.

• Tools : having the right tools (technological, organizational, managerial) helps to improve the content of work and is a sign the company is taking care.

• Enterprise culture : conflictual or pacified, favoring the group or individuals, focused on kindness or not.

Happiness at work lies in many places. It’s not “located” at a single place so it needs many small levers rather than a big one.

Hence the following question. To master the entire scope, where should be Chief Happiness officer be assigned ? What skills should he have ? Except if a company can find a very rare bird I hardly can see how can someone embrace the full scope. What can explain that in many cases the Chief Employee Officer focuses on “soft” program that are not directly related to work instead of dealing with the nature of work.

Moreover, the overlap with existing functions is so big that such a position does not look very sustainable over time.

From happiness to experience

Moreover I don’t think that happiness at work has the same meaning for everyone. Each person has his own expectations that are not his neighbour’s.

This makes me think of AirBnB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer. He has an extended scope but does not compete with existing function since he replaces the CHRO, focusing on having people working in different silos working consistently to make the employee experience consistent.

A consistent employe experience seem to me more reachable and tangible than happiness at work. It’s not happiness but it contributes to it and aims at creating engagement and effectiveness, which is not that bad.

So, do you need a Chief Happiness Officer ? Yes, if you prefer cuddle to transforming work. If not, I believe more in reinventing the HR function in the perspective of employee experience.

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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