Getting to the Bottom of Employee Engagement vs. Happiness

by Apr 18, 2017Employee Engagement Training

Let’s get to the bottom of the difference between employee happiness and employee engagement. Are they the same? If not, how do they relate to one another?

From our viewpoint of over two decades in the field of evaluating employees’ satisfaction with their work situation, we maintain that employee engagement and happiness are very much connected. It is almost impossible to have one without the other. But the difference lies in one’s perspective.

Leaders rightfully strive for high levels of employee engagement. They recognize that engaged employees are more productive. When employee engagement is high, employee discretionary effort, advocacy, alignment and performance are also high. And a company with positive engagement has lower employee turnover. What’s not to like from a leader’s perspective?

Employees rightfully care about their own happiness. They want to like their job and the people they work with. They want to feel that what they do matters in the greater scheme of things. And they want to feel as though they are fairly rewarded and recognized when they contribute to the organization’s success. When they look forward to going to work each day, they consider themselves happy in the job.

Happy employees are engaged employees. There is mutual benefit. The terms are not synonymous but they are definitely complementary. In fact the semantic distinction is so minor that it can be side-stepped as we look at what employees need to be happy (or engaged) in the workplace. Here are two important levers to create employee engagement and happiness:

#1 Purpose
Employees who find purpose in what they do are willing to work hard, day in and day out, to fulfill the goals of the organization because their personal goals align with the company goals. They willingly put in discretionary effort because what they do matters. They understand and buy into why they are working. They check in each day not just for their pay check but to do their part for their team and, ultimately, for the company cause.

Old fashioned employers did not seek to make their employees “happy.” They were afraid that these employees would get spoiled and might slack off. But happily engaged employees do just the opposite. Our employee engagement survey research shows that engaged and happy employees “feel an obligation to work as hard” as they can for their team and organization. They feel valued for their contribution and know that the team and company would suffer if they did not do their job well.

#2 Committed and Caring Leadership
Happy, engaged employees believe in and subscribe to the leadership’s vision of what the company can accomplish. They trust in their leaders; these are leaders who invest in their employees by supporting their growth and development, by sharing how the business works and what is going on, by encouraging employee participation in solving problems, and by listening to employee perspectives when important decisions affecting the future health of the organization must be made.

A business with happily engaged employees will be filled with employees who look forward to coming to work, to doing their part, to helping their team and to achieving the vision of the organization.

To learn more, Download employee engagement and retention toolkit for leaders

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