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Should the Chief Happiness Officer be your next hire?

Written by Aurélie Vercaempt
Wednesday 16 December, 2020

Should the chief happiness officer be your next hire?

More and more businesses are hiring a Chief Happiness Officer. What is it and where does it come from? And more importantly, do you need one?

The function blew over from Silicon Valley where the first CHO’s were appointed a few years ago. It is believed that happy people are productive people and so appointing a CHO becomes a win-win situation for both employer and employee. Foosball tables and ping pong don’t do the trick anymore when it comes to the mental wellbeing of your workforce. A chief happiness officer focuses on people’s contentment in the company and makes sure their happiness levels are as high as possible. Possible activities entail measuring happiness, out-of-office team building, leading workshops on everything from communication skills to burn-out prevention, and more.

However, the sunshine is not appreciated by everyone. The introduction has led to quite some discussion and controversy, so how do you know whether you want to hire/request a CHO? Here are some facts to help you.

  1. Businesses worldwide are facing declines in productivity. According to McKinsey, 58% of the world’s companies are proactively addressing productivity issues[1]. Furthermore, scientific research has shown that higher employee happiness levels were associated with a 12% rise in productivity. Companies like Google have already invested more in employee support and satisfaction has risen as a result.[2]
    Opposers usually express concern because the statement “ ‘A happy worker is a productive worker’ is a dangerous pathway. The paternalistic caring for your employee’s happiness quickly becomes an unspoken caring for the company’s profit.[3]"

  2. People leaving your company and hiring new profiles costs you an enormous amount of money. According to the US Bureau of National Affairs, $11 Billion is lost annually due to employee turnover[4]. Simultaneously, the war for talent is heating up - especially in the tech sector - and a growing number of companies are thus investing heavily in perks to make employees happy[5]. Happy employees stay at their jobs, [...] and prevent their employers from the costs of recruiting, hiring, training, and onboarding[6]. However, retaining people at jobs they don’t like costs you even more. At one point, Amazon came up with a remarkable strategy to offer bonuses to people leaving the company. “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.” says Bezos[7].

  3. Every generation grows up different from the previous one and next up in our workforce are the Millennials. So, do they fit into our profit-driven corporate culture? French philosopher Julia de Funès (daughter of - ) argues that “Personal development is the religion of our times”, not profit. Millennials have an increased interest in positive change states also Stewart Thornhill, teaching entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He attributes this change to them possessing a higher level of social awareness. “It’s always fascinating how long it takes them to get to profit”[8].

  4. According to another recent report on wellbeing and policy, job satisfaction is on a long-term downward trend in most advanced countries[9]. The same report also states four generally agreed-on features a workplace should have for high wellbeing.

    • Employees must have a clear idea of what is expected of them and how it relates to the bigger picture.

    • They must have reasonable freedom over “how” they do their work.

    • They should be consulted over things that impact them directly.

    • Employees should be rewarded in ways that make them feel personally valued by their employer. Tip: non-financial incentives are at least as effective as financial ones, often surpassing them.

So where does that leave your company?

Your people can be your company’s greatest strength, or they could become your biggest liability with productivity declining, labor costs rising and interests shifting. It is up to you to adapt and decide how you want to invest in your company’s future. Managing your company will always consist of managing your people; the CHO should never become a compensation for ‘bad’ management in that regard. Giving your people meaningful opportunities, getting to know them personally, and understanding in which areas they want to grow will always have a tremendous positive impact[10]. There is an undeniable call for wellness and health in the workplace, but whether you want to answer that call with a new job title or throughout existing functions is your own choice.

At Biztory, the company’s culture and cohesion are remarkable and consultants deliver outstanding work despite and because of it. As the company is growing and operational tasks are expanding for existing management, Biztory has decided to give the function a shot to keep up with and amplify the culture’s positive effects. There is a chance it won’t be called the chief happiness officer, as “ ‘happiness’ in itself is not a stable and ever attainable emotion”[11], says organisational psychologist F. Anseel.

Daughter Funès states that what a company should do is “giving the employees freedom and responsibility. Only then will their creative and critical mind flourish and will the company become truly innovative and performant.” We will find a suiting title for that.



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