Employee Happiness vs. Satisfaction

March 18

Happy employees are crucial to the future success of a business and building on what makes people happy at work is more effective than just fixing what makes them unhappy. Employees who judge themselves to be ‘happy’ in their work, will be more productive and perform better than those who admit to being ‘unhappy’. Though, a happy employee is not necessarily an engaged one, there is a striking correlation between what makes employees happy and what engages them. People, who enjoy good working relationships, receive proactive career development, feel valued by the organization and well treated in times of change; in turn, they contribute the most to a business. They also will be ambassadors for the organization and enhance the employer brand. Even in the event of redundancy, people can leave happier if given appropriate support to find a new role, and this in turn, sends a message which raises the spirits of colleagues who remain with that organization. Such messages make recruitment and retention easier and are cost effective. If businesses think a little more deeply about what employees really want and what will make them happy, they could reap considerable rewards. Happy employees will not only improve the working environment, but could also increase revenue.

The HCL Story

Vineet Nayar, Vice Chairman and CEO of HCL Technologies, an India-based global IT services company, emphasizes the importance of employee happiness as a driver of business results; while a few other leaders believe that employee passion is a key to employee happiness.

Vineet believes that management must do everything possible to empower and support workers who create the most value for the company. Do we disagree, or are we saying the same thing in different ways?

HCL's business and culture differed greatly as it was more hierarchical and the employees worked directly with customers with the least power or influence. These are the employees who created the most value for customers and had a huge effect on the company's success. HCL decided to create a much broader service offering -- end-to-end mission-critical IT services—which required developing long-term client partnerships. To accomplish that, HCL made management as accountable to the employees who created value as those employees were accountable to the managers who created strategy. The initiative was called "Employees First, Customers Second" (EFCS).

Engagement, Not Satisfaction

EFCS is a process of change, pursued through various activities and tools designed to increase transparency, build trust, empower frontline employees, and shift responsibility for change away from management toward the workforce. E.g.: "The Smart Service Desk" (SSD), an online portal that allows frontline employees to seek solutions or access information from managers and determine when issues have been satisfactorily resolved. "Open 360 Review" lets employees evaluate their direct managers or any superior who influences their work.

The goal of EFCS initiative is not about making employees happy or comfortable or satisfied, but engaged. Employees feel passionate because they know that management understands the importance of their role, respects them making it easier for them to accomplish their work.

The following questions emerged… Are happiness and passion just two sides of the same coin? Are both about doing meaningful work and getting recognition for it? Being part of a winning team and feeling you contributed to its success? Connecting with other people who feel similarly engaged?

For HCL, the quality of day-to-day interactions between employee and customer matter, but not as much as the end result. Customers are less influenced by the short-term attitude and contentedness of the employee and much more affected by how deeply engaged with and committed to the work the employee actually is. It is essential that HCL employees feel passionate about the IT solutions themselves, but less important that they always feel happy at work.

So a distinction does exist between happiness and passion. But the goal is to create a vibrant, successful company whose employees are absolutely critical, not tangential. Whether or not they are happy or passionate depends on the company and putting them at the center of the business. Customers will surely benefit and employees will definitely stay, much longer, for sure.

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