The Link Between Excellence and Happiness at Work
This group of executives from some of Canada’s most important private and public sector organizations defined happiness at work, gave specific examples of the impact of excellence on happiness, and discussed the direction of the causation. This article will explore three themes: the definition of happiness at work; the specific impact of happiness on employees; and the relationship between a strategic approach to quality and satisfaction.
Defining Happiness at Work
The group saw a link between the three items and there was consensus that satisfaction was a basic need, morale was dependant on satisfaction, and engagement was the ultimate goal and was dependant on both morale and satisfaction. Figure 1 shows the relationship between the three variables. As you go from the base of the triangle from Satisfaction to Morale to Engagement. The employee is more likely to stay and go over and above the call of duty.
Employee Engagement is reliant on the basics of morale and satisfaction
What is the specific Impact of Excellence on Employees?
Relationship between a Strategic Approach to Quality and Engagement
Relationship Between a Strategic Approach to Quality and Morale
Relationship Between a Strategic Approach to Quality and Satisfaction
The TLRT group were interested in understanding the specific impact (both positive and negative) on employees. The positive benefits can be split up in two categories. The first is how implementing excellence will benefit the organization in terms of employee happiness and the second is how implementing excellence will benefit the individual employee. The negative impacts were also explored with some thought as to how these might be overcome.
The positive impact (benefits) to the organizations of implementing excellence can be categorized as either performance improvements or the benefits associated with being recognized as a leader:
It was thought by the TLRT that the benefits to individual employees of organizations implementing excellence are often unsaid. They are valuable in telling the “what’s in it for me” story. Many of the benefits identified by the TLRT are summarized here by theme:
Positive Impacts of Excellence on Employees
- Opportunities, both professional and personal
- Job success/sustainability
- Stable employment
- Growth and Development
- Increased self-awareness
- Sense of belonging
- Co-worker cohesion
- Political credibility/respect
- Enhanced career path
- Financial/performance recognition
- Peer recognition
- Clear understanding of direction
- Personal alignment to common goal “I make a difference”
There were several negative impacts identified by the TLRT. The TLRT thought that these negative impacts were based on perception and managing these perceptions was the way to overcome them.
Negative Impacts of Excellence on Employees
- Perception of increased workload
- Perception of front-end workload on documentation and process
- Lack of understanding of “who is going to do all this work?”
- Can be perceived as unfair when there isn’t a clear line of accountability
- Perception that we must not be doing a good enough job today if we are trying to improve
- General fear of change from status quo
- “Here we go again” mentality associated with “flavour of the month” programs
Because these negative impacts can stop an organization’s progress in implementing excellence the following counter measures were proposed to get past the perceived negative impact.
Counter Measures to Get Past Perceived Negative Impact of Excellence Activities
- Increase trust and transparency
- Increase communication
- Define clear lines of responsibility and accountability
- Clearly identify how this will benefit the individual employee (publish the above list of benefits for individuals)
- Reason for embarking on Excellence focus needs to be clearly communicated
What is the direction of the causation?
What was beyond debate was that the relationship exists. Members of the TLRT felt strongly that you can’t truly fix business problems without having engaged employees. You can’t have engaged employees without having a focus on excellence principles. When you create an environment that fosters excellence then everything else becomes possible. When leadership teams remove barriers and empower employees to fix their own problems then happiness can thrive.
The conclusion on causation was that it’s an iterative process where positive results from an excellence focus lead to happier employees and happier employees then contribute more to the excellence focus.
The opposite vicious cycle is also possible and should be noted where unhappy employees’ poor attitudes and negative behaviours impact the organization’s ability to implement excellence, making them more unhappy etc. etc.
First we wanted to define employee happiness at work. Happiness at work is a function of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale. Engagement was the most significant driver of an organization’s excellence journey. Employee engagement was a key measure for organizations implementing excellence and good levels of engagement were dependant on good job satisfaction and good morale.
Second we wanted to see the link between excellence and happiness and detail the benefits. There is a clear positive relationship between an organization which successfully implements excellence and higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale. Some of the specific examples of benefits to the organization are improved performance in the area of customer satisfaction, financials/bottom line, and process management. Also, the organization can be recognized for their efforts and see benefits of recognition and improved reputation. The benefits are not only for the organization because the individuals within these organizations also see clear tangible benefits including financial/performance recognition, growth and development, enhanced career path, sense of belonging, and the ability to make a difference.
Third, we wanted to discuss the direction of the causation. In theory there is probably a start and a finish to this equation however in reality this cycle doesn’t have a clear starting line. An organization’s commitment to excellence helps foster an environment that makes people happy at work. Happier people at work help makes implementation of excellence easier. So this cycle has an iterative, virtuous nature that we need to continue to nourish on both ends.
There is no debate that excellence and people happiness at work are related. As a result organizations must continue to find ways to implement the principles of excellence and engage employees in the process to see all the related benefits for both the organization and the individuals who work at these organizations.
- More Excellence Canada Thought Leadership Round Table Articles: http://www.excellence.ca/en/knowledge-centre/tlrt
- Excellence Canada Training: http://www.excellence.ca/en/training-and-consulting/