Eileen Kern

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The absence of disease is not health

If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.

I read an article the other day about Net Promoter Score (NPS) and, specifically, how the idea of NPS can apply to a company’s internal stakeholders: that is, how simple surveys can be used to measure employee happiness. But let’s jump back for a second: What is NPS?

According to The Net Promoter Community, a company may develop its Net Promoter Score from the results of customer surveys:

By asking one simple question — How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague? […] Customers respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale and are categorized as follows:
Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

Here’s what I find interesting: The assumption that those who rate themselves in the middle are detractors, not simply passives. And, furthermore, only those who responded at the highest level of satisfaction are considered promoters of your brand.

Now, while this isn’t how Zappos scores its survey for employees, I wonder if this is also a correct scale to assess employee engagement. If the question were “Overall, how likely is it that you would say that [Company X] offers a great work experience?” should we assume that any company that isn’t presenting its employees with a “9” or “10” work experience is failing them?

I think about this tonight because Shawn Achor’s TED Talk reminded me that the absence of disease is not health–that “neutral” and “happy” (or “satisfied”) are very different concepts. And, of course, because many people including Achor assert that happiness makes workers more productive.

I had originally intended to spend the rest of this post describing things employers can do to increase employee happiness and support a more productive, successful workforce. (It’s a combination of things like honest recognition of good work, providing access to exciting projects, attempting to break down silos and foster progress toward clear shared goals, and occasional treats like a team outing or an individual gift card or an early Friday departure. It’s things like a fair work environment and access to necessary training and resources for self-betterment. I’m sure it’s a lot more as well. If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts, I recently wrote a post titled “How a Manager’s Style Impacts Engagement” on iCIMS Hire Expectations Institute; you can read it if you’d like.)

But I want to finish this post on a different note: Employees should look out for the happiness of their colleagues. While many happiness and engagement initiatives need to come from the top down, there’s a lot that employees can do for each other to ease burdens and celebrate victories. Something like sending a thank-you card or writing a recommendation on LinkedIn or offering to help with a challenging assignment can be a powerful way to lift someone’s spirits.

Why do I want to focus on what employees can do for their peers? First of all, because it is within the employee’s control–even if leadership is behind the times on creating an engaging environment, colleagues can still acknowledge and celebrate each other. And secondly, because our emotions tend to be contagious so just by being thoughtful one may be able to help spread joy within his team or company.