Happiness as a business model for success


Posted on: March 20, 2019 by Marianne Hewlett

Many businesses and organizations are facing digital disruptions and need to transform their way of working in order to remain successful.  Often the focus is on implementing new technologies, business models and customer services faster and more efficiently. But in placing customers at the heart of their product innovation, employers must also place greater emphasis on creating an exceptional employee experience. After all, how can a customer be expected to love the brand if its employees don’t love it first?

With the speed of technology increasing and pressure on employees rising to perform in a constantly changing environment, 80% of executives rank creating a great Employee Experience as very important according to Deloitte. Can happiness become a business model for success and how can companies work on creating a better employee experience?

Today on International Happiness Day, I would like to share my views on happiness as a business model for success and the importance of creating a great employee experience.

What is employee experience and why is it so important to employee happiness?

Employee experience looks at the world of work through the lens of the employee and includes all the perceptions, emotions and interactions in the workplace. From the physical environment – is my office pleasant to work in – to the technology that enables you to carry out your tasks, the company culture and the colleagues you work with.  For most of us to be productive and creative at work, it’s important to feel happy and enjoy your work, have a sense of belonging and feel your work matters and is appreciated.

A great employee experience means your office or work space offers the right environment to carry out your tasks. For instance, if you need to concentrate on preparing an important presentation, there should be a quiet space available without interruptions or noise. It also means the technology and tools supporting you need to work, and usually you need them to work fast. Having to wait for your computer to start up for 30 minutes is a drag, if tools are not performing and need to get fixed regularly, this stops your flow and even worse you can’t get your tasks finished on time. Last but not least, having supportive colleagues and a manager that encourages you also contribute to a better experience.

What are the business performance impacts of happy employees?

According to Gallup, 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged and therefore not happy in their work. Each disengaged employee costs on average 34 % of their salary because of low productivity and spreading negativity whilst undermining their colleagues. That is a massive cost to businesses and it is such a shame as it is avoidable by focusing on building a better employee experience.

There is plenty of research available that demonstrates that a great employee experience - happy employees - leads to better business results. Think about it, when you are happy at work and in your flow, you are more productive, more creative and you will stay longer with the company you work for.

For businesses a better employee experience will therefore improve productivity and retention rates, attract the best talent and reduce absenteeism. It will also create a workforce more resilient to change and one that is more likely to embrace rather than resist the introduction of new technologies, agile ways of working, retraining and – looking to the future of work - learning to work alongside robots and artificial intelligence.

Why is building a better employee experience so important now?

Every organization that is going through digital change – no matter what market they operate in – will have challenges related to employee engagement, productivity, talent attraction, retention and reskilling. Digitalization is often happening faster than today’s workforce can adapt to it, influencing their personal experience of the organization they work for.

I am convinced that within the next two years, employee experience will push up the business agenda and forward-thinking organizations are already addressing it. It is a topic that is not just the responsibility of HR, but of every manager in the organization:

  • From the CEO and the board who need to continuously support and drive the cultural change,
  • to the IT manager who needs to ensure that the supporting technology is fast and efficient, is easy to use and provides employees with flexibility and mobility,
  • the facility manager who must provide a physical work environment that is safe, stimulates wellbeing (for instance standing desks) and productivity,
  • the communications manager who can encourage open dialogue and feedback and support HR with interventions to improve the employee experience,
  • to the direct manager who has a key role in coaching his or her team members, encouraging them to develop and grow, provide feedback on a regular basis, reward and recognize achievements and good behavior.

How can technology help to create a better employee experience?

Technology can certainly be used as an enabler, helping employees to perform their tasks more efficiently, to connect and collaborate with colleagues worldwide without having to travel and to provide the flexibility to work from any location, at any time and on multiple devices.

Recent research from VMware suggests that employees who are free to use the applications and devices they want and need to do their job, are almost five times more likely to report gains in productivity. Having access to the right technology can support the ease and speed at which employees can perform their role and in turn, boost focus, happiness and enthusiasm.

In recent years, wearables and connected devices for tracking health and wellbeing have been gaining pace. From fitness trackers to mood sensors and even smart fabrics for measuring posture. This trend suggests an increasing amount of mood and health data that could be helpful for employees to improve wellness and subsequently productivity.

Meet your digital Chief Happiness Officer

Now we are getting to my favorite topic! At Atos we developed a digital Chief Happiness Officer – we call it CHO – who is always at your side through your mobile phone. It is a very engaging user interface that enables polls (for instance which coffee machine should the company buy?) and real time pulse surveys (was the meeting successful?), monitors your mood, gives wellness advice and through CHO you can also send compliments to colleagues.

CHO is not just an app, it is based on an open data platform with machine learning capabilities. Data from different sources come together and through machine learning actionable insights can be shared with the employee to help improve his or her experience.

On an aggregated and anonymized level, managers can view a dashboard that will help them to pinpoint areas where intervention, encouragement or improvement is needed. Continuously measuring the impact of these actions through direct feedback and ongoing dialogue via CHO, enables a more personal employee experience.

Employers are already preparing for this, with Josh Bersin recently revealing that 69% of large organizations already have a people analytics team in place. Now it will be key to put this data to good use, in the first place for the employee to have a better experience, and for the organization to gain insight where improvements can be made.

I would like to stress though that data privacy is key. For teams to achieve their full potential, a level of trust will need to be established between the organization and employees. There should always be an opt in or opt out for sharing personal data such as mood and fitness. For those willing to entrust their company with personal information, the business will have to ensure that the trade-off is worthwhile. Reporting back to employees, introducing new initiatives or perks will be key.

Happiness as a business model delivered by a personal Chief Happiness Officer – how to get started:

My advice is to take building a better employee experience seriously and simply get started by putting it on the business agenda. The good news is that most companies have already different initiatives in place and ongoing, however they are often not connected. HR usually has good initiatives for instance to increase wellbeing, IT might have a plan to roll out new applications like online collaboration tools and chat functions, and FM might be busy with the opening of a new office.

Step 1: create a joined-up program where all stakeholders start working together and put the employee at the heart of the change activities. And it can start small, for instance if an organization is planning to implement a new technology such as an online collaboration platform or the opening of a new office, then this can be a first pilot project to drive a better employee experience.

Step 2: establish objectives and a number of measurable Experience KPIs (ExKPIs) that are monitored on a regular and real time basis. The digital Chief Happiness Officer can help to make the voice of the employee heard through mood sensing, polls and dialogues and the data platform can also extract and add data from company systems. Through an intelligent layer based on machine learning, both employee and the organization will get insights that will help to create a great employee experience faster and more efficiently.

The future of work will become increasingly hyper-personalized, like our experiences in our private lives (for instance car settings already adjust to the driver’s preferences, online shops offer suggestions based on your previous buying behavior and preferences, etc). Trust will be key; trust in the company culture to have your best interests at heart and trust in the technology to manage your data securely.

On a personal note, I would love to have my own Chief Happiness Officer, learning from my behavior and giving me insights that will help to improve my work and my experience. And ensuring that when I arrive in the office my Latte Machiatto is already ordered and waiting for me, just the way I like it!

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About Marianne Hewlett

Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community and member of the Scientific Community
Marianne Hewlett is a Senior Vice President at Atos and a seasoned marketeer and communications expert. Passionate about connecting people, technology and business, she is a member of the Atos Scientific Community where she explores the Future of Work and the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society. She is a strong ambassador for diversity and inclusivity – and particularly encourages female talent to pursue a career in IT – as she believes a diverse and happy workforce is a key driver for business success. As an ambassador for the company’s global transformation program Wellbeing@work, she explores new technologies and ways of working that address the needs of current and future generations of employees. A storyteller at heart, she writes about the human side of business and technology and posts include insights into the future of work, the science of happiness, and how wellbeing and diversity can drive success.

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