Chief Happiness Officer is perhaps the most controversial job title in business. To some, it’s a sign that employee engagement is finally being taken seriously. To others, it signals an unwelcome move towards employers tinkering with our emotions at work.
In the UK, we’re a sceptical bunch. The idea of an employee whose sole job is to make people happy is laughable to most of us. Visions of endless teambuilding exercises, constant exclamations of ‘Are you having fun?!’ and compulsory office Nerf gun wars are enough to make us feel slightly queasy.
In fact, some commentators feel that the recent emergence of the Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) role is something sinister. In New Republic, Josh Kovensky called the role of Chief Happiness Officer the “creepiest job in corporate America” and went on to recall the unfortunate similarities between CHOs and 1984’s Ministry of Love.
What’s the purpose of a Chief Happiness Officer?
CHOs are HR professionals whose role is to make (and keep) employees engaged and happy at work. Engaged employees are more productive than others, and are more likely to stay loyal to the company.
Disengaged employees cost the US economy $370 billion each year, as these workers get less work done and often at a lower quality than their counterparts. A study for the UK government [pdf] found that companies with poor employee engagement scores earned an income nearly a third lower than companies with more engaged employees. Companies with high employee engagement saw an average annual growth in income of 19.2%.
In short, a Chief Happiness Officer role is to help staff look forward to their workdays instead of dreading them – to the benefit of employees and employers alike.
In order to achieve such a lofty goal, many CHOs turn to data to better understand what makes employees tick. This is where the privacy concerns come in. What do you monitor to understand employee happiness? Emails? Phone calls? Internet usage? The time an employee spends at their desk?
However, privacy-aware CHOs can collect data in less questionable ways, too. Employee survey software such as TINYpulse lets employers send out anonymous weekly, one-question surveys to employees. These systems are ideal for gaining feedback from staff in a way that doesn’t annoy them or identify them.
Is 2016 the year of the CHO?
The title of ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ may be a little cheesy, and the concept of forcibly creating happiness is problematic. However, employee disengagement is a huge burden on businesses, and taking a piecemeal approach to tackling it rarely works. If a single employee can focus on making the working environment a better place for employees, they stand a much better chance of succeeding.
If your business is having problems with retention and engagement, employee happiness could be the root of these issues – and a happiness officer might be the answer.
We’re still far from a world where Chief Happiness Officers are a business necessity, but all businesses should take steps to improve employee engagement if they’re to remain competitive in the future.
Anna Roberts is Head of Content at RotaCloud, a UK-based software startup that provides easy-to-use online staff rota software for hundreds of businesses across the globe. You’ll find more of her writing on employee engagement over at the RotaCloud blog.