Should you make employee happiness a goal?


I’m going to put it out there and say that, no, you shouldn’t make employee happiness a goal for your business. Happiness is important, of course but a successful business relies on more than just the happiness of their employees and that’s why you shouldn’t make it a goal.


Focusing purely on happiness also ignores the complexities of human emotion and psychology. Work satisfaction and happiness may seem interchangeable but in reality they’re not at all.

Studies show that employees who feel satisfied at work will be more productive, help recruit great team members, and stay put at your company much longer than employees who simply view their work as a job.

That person who views their work as just a job may be happy generally speaking but they don’t feel any satisfaction from their work, and that is the difference in what drives a successful business.

Someone who has job satisfaction tends to have a connection to what they do. As an employee, they feel that they are invested in. They want to achieve things and help you work towards the business objectives because it matters to them. Simply ‘being happy’ won’t do that.

Think about a challenge that you derived satisfaction from recently. Was it easy? Did you feel constantly happy throughout that challenge? Probably not.

Challenges are meant to be hard; they’re designed to push you. That’s how you improve and strive to make progress. Someone recently said to me, “pain is temporary but pride is permanent.” The same applies to your job. There are hurdles and challenges to overcome but when you make things happen, see a project through to the end or know that what you are doing makes a difference, that’s when you feel job satisfaction and pride in what you do.

True meaning comes from effort. It is that act of putting effort into something great that eventually gives a sense of meaning and connection with the company you work for.

That’s not to say that the odd perk – such as providing delicious cakes at the next staff meeting, allowing your team to finish early on a Friday or hosting Friday drinks won’t help to make your team happy. They definitely will.

However, you need to think more about the internal complexities that contribute to making someone truly happy in the work that they do. Don’t be afraid to build in some autonomy into job roles.

As this Guardian article explains, humans “thrive on mastery and self-development.” That is to say that when we are working to our own expectations we feel a greater desire to succeed than when we work to someone else’s expectation.

As an employer, it is your role to ensure job satisfaction by removing the barriers that result in people feeling disempowered and disconnected. It’s about fostering a culture that encourages teamwork, collaboration and independence.

Some companies now offer unlimited holiday or allow employees to work their own hours. Rather than taking advantage of this, employees are actually more productive because they are in control of their schedule and the result is a healthier work/life balance.

Surprisingly, studies have found that money accounts for just 5.4% of how happy an employee is with their job. Internal factors such as autonomy, influence and opportunities to be recognised are more important.

So if you are looking for ways to make your business more successful, which naturally starts with the people in the company, you need to think less about happiness and more about job satisfaction.

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