Is Engagement the Key to Workplace Happiness?

Lately, there has been a lot of talk around providing a nurturing environment for the happiness of a person, family, and community. Organisations often look to create a ‘happier’ working environment, but will this achieve a win-win result for employees as well as the bottom line?

Is Engagement the Key to Workplace Happiness?

11 May 2017 by  Elias Dib

In the last 12 months, the concept of achieving happiness has been high on the agenda—not just in the Middle East, but around Asia Pacific as well. There has been a lot of talk around providing a nurturing environment for the happiness of a person, family, and community. The question is, how can organisations contribute towards creating a happier working environment and achieving a win-win result for both their employees and their bottom line? Is it about employee happiness, engagement, or both?

Happiness is not engagement

Although there is a clear link between the two, happiness is not engagement. Traditionally, organisations have attempted to assess their employees’ happiness through satisfaction surveys, to measure the work climate and determine what can be done to better motivate and retain them. However, organisations realised that actions taken to only increase happiness did not result in the desired behavioural change or improvements in turnover, productivity, or business performance.

As a result, leading organisations sought a more quantitative and robust approach to link employee attitude measures with behaviour and business measures. This led to the methodology we now know as Employee Engagement, defined as the level of an employee’s emotional and psychological investment in their organisation, reflecting the employee’s willingness to ‘Say’ positive things about the organization, ‘Stay’ for a long time, and ‘Strive’ to give their best efforts to help the organisation succeed.

Many employers believe that paying employees high salaries (compared to market average) will increase retention. However, this is not the case. For example, a manager who is paid a generous salary might be happy with their rewards and recognition and not actively looking for a job elsewhere—but this does not mean he/she is going to ‘Say’ positive things about the organisation, ‘Stay’ for a long time, and ‘Strive’ to give their best efforts. Even if they’re happy with their salary, they might still speak negatively about the firm to external recruiters (reflecting low ‘Say’ behaviour), have the willingness to change jobs for a minimal increase in salary (reflecting low ‘Stay’ behaviour), and remain excessively concerned with leaving work on time even during busy periods (reflecting low ‘Strive’ behaviour). Such poor behaviours will have negative impact on business outcomes.

Employees must be happy with the entire work experience

Aon Hewitt has identified 15 dimensions critical to having an effective workplace—overall happiness/satisfaction with these dimensions will in turn drive employees’ engagement and consequently the business outcomes.

What differentiates Best Employers from the general market organisations is their ability to drive overall happiness/satisfaction with all the dimensions.

What can be controlled and influenced with appropriate effort is how employees show up for work and how effectively they are enabled to get their work done. That is one of the main reasons why organisations that value their employees and treat them as their most important asset ensure that they are creating an overall happy work experience, capable of driving employee engagement and business performance; and creating continuous listening strategies to have a full understanding of the employee experience—starting from the initial stages of recruitment and orientation all the way through to exit.

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Elias Dib

Elias Dib is a Partner at Aon Hewitt and leads the Employee Engagement solution across the Middle East & Africa. His areas of expertise lie in Employee Engagement, Talent Management, Leadership Assessment and Development, Total Rewards, and Employee Communication. With 20 years of Middle East experience, Elias partners with major regional clients to assist them attract, engage, and reward talent, uncover ways to reduce their HR costs and develop comprehensive solutions that improve their bottom line.

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Elias Dib
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Boon Chong Na