Meaningful ways to measure employee happiness

07/08/2013 - 15:55


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Successful leaders know they need to balance the needs of employees, customers, and shareholders to build a thriving company.

Successful leaders know they need to balance the needs of employees, customers, and shareholders to build a thriving company. 

While many firms excel at tracking key performance indicators, such as profits, as well as customer feedback on a weekly or daily basis, they fall flat when it comes to monitoring employees’ morale – and it shows.

New research by Gallup has found that 52 per cent of American workers are not engaged in their work, while a further 18 per cent are ‘actively disengaged’.

Many CEOs think they can keep an eye on morale with annual employee survey, but that is like driving your car by only looking in the rearview mirror. By the time you get the results, most of the ‘accidents’ have already happened: grumpy employees have alienated good customers; incompetent managers have killed productivity; and the best talent has left for the competition.

You need to measure employee happiness daily, or weekly.

New analytics tools

There are some cutting-edge tools to help.

For example Australian software company Atlassian has created an internal app called MoodApp (I love the name) for iPads and scattered them throughout its headquarters, including one to the side of the elevator. On their way out, employees answer questions like ‘How are you feeling today?’ and ‘Do you think Atlassian is a fun place to work?’ A question about how much feedback people get from their managers uncovered deficits and triggered leadership development training to improve the situation.

Choosing a tool that will allow you to measure morale on your team daily, weekly or at other frequent intervals will help you keep levels of engagement high.

TINYPulse is a cloud-based tool that sends out weekly survey emails, captures anonymous feedback from employees and offers tools to help management visualise and analyse the data. When answering a question of the week, employees have space to add comments and suggestions.

One handy feature of TINYPulse is the ability to customise the questions you ask. One company I know lets employees come up with the weekly question (a technique that is worth considering).

TINYPulse also allows you to comment directly on suggestions and initiate a private, forum-like dialogue with the employee. Just make sure that you use the system in a way that does not violate employees’ anonymity, or they won’t want to use it anymore.

Talk with employees weekly

New technologies are no substitute for meaningful conversations with your team. Senior leaders should formally visit with one employee each week and ask three simple questions: ‘What do we need to start doing, stop doing and keep doing?’

Then take a few minutes at the weekly management meeting to share what you’ve learned. This qualitative data, collected weekly, will give the senior team a real sense of what’s working and not working among the employees as patterns emerge over weeks and months of conversations.

Add to this feedback by looking at some KPIs such as absenteeism, attrition or tenure with the company, knowledge-sharing activities, training hours, or the number of kudos people give each other.

Respond to feedback quickly

Make sure that you have the management bandwidth to quickly respond to feedback. Gathering data is useless if you don’t act on it. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked your opinion and then seeing it ignored.

People, your most valuable asset, are intangible in accounting terms. Measuring their happiness is a way of making them tangible. It will be some time until this type of metric will appear on a balance sheet, but that doesn’t mean you should not pay attention to these measures. They’re some of the best leading indicators of a company´s overall health and value.

Verne Harnish is CEO of Gazelles Inc, an executive education and coaching solutions provider, and author of Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits: What You Must Do To Increase The Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm.


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