I was fortunate enough to see Shawn Achor recently speak on Happiness at HireVue’s Digital Disruption. His TEDx talk is one of the most watched ever, and is completely fascinating to me as a HR Pro, check it out. What strikes me from his research is how so many of us have sold ourselves a false dream and promise. Traditional thought leadership has told us for decades, work hard, do well, reach your goals, then, you’ll be happy.
Shawn’s research blows up most traditional thoughts on this. Happiness isn’t created via you reaching some goal or end. You are either a happy person or you’re not, this completion of a dream isn’t going to make you happy. We see this constantly in employment. “Once I become VP I’ll be happy!” The promotion comes and the person finds out that happiness didn’t come with the title and pay increase.
As HR Pros we do this same thing with engagement. We need to increase engagement, so we need to find ways to get our employees to be more engaged. It could easily be argued, from Achor’s research on happiness, that you are either an engaged type of personality, or you’re not. Meaning, nothing you do as a HR Pro or leadership team is going to have much effect on overall engagement of your employees. This goes back to selecting people who have a predisposition to be engaged to begin with. It’s the chicken and egg scenario of what comes first.
The cool thing is, though, if you’re unhappy, or unengaged, you can actually make yourself. And if you’re an HR Pro charged with increasing this, you can help your folks out in becoming happier as well. You can’t make them happier, but you can show them a path to help themselves become more happy. Achor recommends the following 5 things:
- Jot down three things they were grateful for. (make sure it’s 3 different ones each day!)
- Write a positive message to someone in their social support network. (keep it to two minutes to draft this out and send)
- Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
- Exercise for 10 minutes. (Cardio -get that heart pumping! )
- Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours. (actually write it down)
Shawn recommends dedicating yourself to doing these five things for 21 days straight (habit forming time frame). It takes about 15 minutes and the level of happiness increases people get from doing this is off the charts in Shawn’s research at Harvard.
One of the key takeaways from Achors research at Harvard is that Happiness has a positive effect on every single measurable business outcome (higher revenue, higher profit, higher margin, higher retention, etc.). Every. Single. One. As HR Pros we focus so much on ‘engagement’ and I wonder if we might be better off just focusing on happiness!
Thank you for sharing this TED talk. It’s so easy to to do the same thing everyday and not stop, take a step back and look at your work with a fresh perspective.
A little column A, a little column B.
Happiness doesn’t create engagement.
Engagement doesn’t create happiness.
But being happy makes you more likely to engaged and being engaged makes you more likely to be happy. I think it depends on your internal starting point…
Think of it like this… if you are overweight and you want to get healthy you can start exercising – you then begin to lose weight so you begin eating better to help you sustain that progress.
Unless you’re so overweight you don’t like to (or you feel it is too uncomfortable) to exercise so you don’t do it. So you diet and you lose some weight and that makes you more likely to exercise so you get healthier.
So is the answer – diet or exercise? Is it both? Does the order matter?
Both work – which order is kind of irrelevant if the outcome is the same – engaged AND happy?
When it comes to happiness and engagement – those are outcomes from the process of finding something in your work that connects to something you find meaning in – when you find meaning in your work your happiness goes up and so does your engagement.
The processes you walk through to “make yourself” happy – are simply excises to get you document the things you find meaningful and important.