You Don't Need Happy Employees

You Don’t Need Happy Employees

The biggest reason our efforts to improve employee engagement over the last 20 years have been a horrible failure might surprise you: it’s because we’ve been trying to make people happy.

Our collective image of an engaged employee is someone who likes coming to work, someone who smiles a lot, someone who has a positive sentiment about their workplace. They approve of how we do things around here. They like the way their managers treat them. These are the people who want to stay and will put in the extra effort. Happy = engaged.

Wrong.

Sorry to bust your bubble, but happiness and engagement are two entirely different things. Sometimes there’s an overlap—you do see engaged employees being happy, no doubt—but one does not cause the other, and one is not necessary for the other to exist. I know a lot of people who are deeply engaged at work, but also quite frustrated with how things are going. The root of engagement is not happiness—it’s something else.

That’s why after spending billions of dollars over the last two decades trying to improve engagement, we’re still stuck at roughly 1 out of 3 employees being actively engaged. We’ve been asking them, year after year, what they like and don’t like about their workplace, and then we’ve been trying to fix those pain points to make them happier and more satisfied. I know that sounds logical (what could be wrong about fixing pain points?!), but take a look at the results we’ve been getting (twenty years, barely any improvement). It’s obviously NOT working.

So what should we be doing instead? Well, Maddie and I just wrote a book that spells it out for you (all the way down to guidance on developing your action plan).

You’re welcome. 🙂

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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