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Indiana SHRM News
Indiana SHRM News

How to Dial Up Employee Happiness for Better Performance and Lower Turnover

This blog is contributed by Jenn Lim, CEO and CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of Delivering Happiness. Jenn is a keynote speaker at the 2018 HR Indiana Conference.


The word “happiness” is universal in the feeling it describes but becomes complicated when defining it. At Delivering Happiness, we define happiness using the science behind it. From our research and work with clients (including Zappos), happiness entails being true to your authentic self, living out your sense of mental flow and passion, and practicing your higher purpose.

We also found that three levers could be “pulled on” in the workplace to amplify happiness for employees: progress, connectedness, and control. Through these levers, workplaces can see an ROI from metrics like engagement, productivity/sales, and turnover (one of our clients saw a 30% decrease).


1. Progress

Progress is about establishing incremental benchmarks that can happen over short periods of time. Sure, most jobs have an annual or semi-annual review. But with milestones set so far apart, how likely is it that you and your employees stay on track? Out of sight, out of mind.

Focus on creating more frequent opportunities for growth and recognition so that your employees consistently know how well they’re doing, what direction their career paths are moving in, and what improvements they should make to win the grand prize (a promotion, a pay raise, whatever it is). Creating a sense of progress helps employees feel less stuck in their roles and motivates them to keep working towards the next level.

2. Connectedness

One of the keys to delivering great or WOW customer experiences is through personal emotional connections (PECs) – and they’re not limited to the customer relationship. Workplace culture is built upon the interactions we have with one another, and that includes friendships. The truth is, we tend to work hard for our coworkers (if we like them), but we will work harder for our friends. In fact, when more employees report having a best friend at work, businesses can see a 12% increase in profitability.

To increase connectedness, a client of ours (Canpa) incorporated an activity from one of our masterclasses into their meetings. The practice is to select one person at the beginning of each meeting to leave the room while everyone wrote on cards about how that person inspires them. When the chosen team member comes back, he or she reads the comments out loud accompanied by smiles, laughs, and sometimes (very happy) tears.

PECs aren’t created by just small talk and happy hours – they grow out of meaningful conversations and experiences.

3. Control

Control or autonomy is about giving employees more trust and more decision-making power. It can be as simple as allowing people to create their titles. It might sound silly, but it empowers people to take ownership of their roles. There was a woman we knew who was the receptionist at a doctor’s office. As conventional as her role might have seemed, she titled herself as the “Director of First Impressions.” Both creative and insightful, the title told an essential truth about her role and how she wanted to own it.

Empowering your teams to have accountability and autonomy encourages behaviors that help maintain trustworthiness. Exercising this lever could include having flexible work schedules, paths with a clear career progression, input on decisions with direct impact, and importantly, transparency from leadership.