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If research shows that happy organizations are more successful, why don’t we act?

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Everybody talks about it: success does not lead to happiness, happiness leads to success. Is it the crisis or The Age of Aquarius? We have finally come to the conclusion that happiness is not only important to people’s individual lives, but for organizations as well. Not just for non-profit organizations already striving for a better world, but also for 'normal', commercial companies. That is, if we are to believe the books, articles, and TEDTalks that suddenly seem to appear about this subject. In 2012,  Harvard Business Review devoted an entire issue on the economics of happiness, full of scientific evidence. Happiness is hot. Still, there are few organizations that steer on happiness. They steer on shareholder value and, with some good will, on customer loyalty or sustainability. But happiness? "Let people be happy in their free time.”

We shouldn’t blame those companies. There are many reasons why happiness does not yet have the status of, let’s say, the quarterly results. Four in a row:

Happiness is for wimps

For decades, we were brought up in a system where everything revolved around financial growth. Who cares how happy you are when you are rewarded for targets, transactions, the bottom line? It simply didn’t occur to us that a happy sales force helps its customers better and sells more as a result. Just like we were not passionate to create happy customers. Too busy we were with moving them to buy our stuff. Happiness? What a hassle.

We don’t know how to measure happiness

Number of clients, number of clicks, price per share, NPS, CES. Clear metrics representing success. Rational and quantifiable. But how do you measure happiness? Happiness is a feeling. Can it be translated into statements? Measured with Likert scales? Can you just ask directly? To what extent are people able to assess their own happiness? There are not many metrics claiming to measure happiness. And the ones available are still in development.

We don’t know how to create a happy culture

Suppose you know how happy you organization is. Suppose you even know the dimensions on which happiness scores high and low. How do you stimulate a happy culture? How do you transform an unhappy organization? Is there one strategy? Should we all strive for the so-called 'start-up culture’? Will brands still be unique then? Do we even need brand positioning strategies in happy organizations? Or will employees just do the right things when they are happy? But how?

Who is the 'owner' of organizational happiness?

The happiness of an organization lies in the happiness of the individuals who make up the collective. Who is responsible for the welfare of all those people? HR? They are responsible for the human potential. Or brand management? The people are the brand. If the happiness of the organization is the key to success, then shouldn’t it be the CEO? Well, he’s not driven to create happiness. His bonus depends on shareholder value.

Anyone who has ever been unhappy at work knows how awful it is. How can it suck energy in a way that nothing succeeds. Happiness is not for wimps. It creates an upward spiral of productivity, success and pride. We can measure it. Perhaps not as objective as price per share, but we are developing valid metrics. We can create a happy culture. By involving everyone, collectively searching for the company’s purpose and showing positive behavior. And who the owner is? Everyone. Happiness starts with you. And fortunately there are more and more CEO’s who understand that.

Original post published at SWOCC (in Dutch).