September 15, 2023

The happiness business case

Ready to create your own business case for happiness? In week 4 of the Organizational Happiness course delivered by Lars Kure Juul through UPEACE Centre for Executive Education we focused on the why and the how of a business case for happiness.

Happiness requires investment. As with any other initiatives within an organization, a “happiness project” will take time, people, and money, hence the need for a solid business case. Because of course if we had unlimited time, people, and money organizations could work on everything, but given that that’s not the case, we need to understand the return on investment and we do so by building a business case taking into account the organization's specifics.

Having done my share of business cases in my ten years of corporate jobs, I came to believe that business cases are a form of art. While they are based on data, they also require the ability to understand impact and benefits across departments and across time, and the ability to communicate not only the what (the numbers), but the why (the vision). The way we present our business case makes all the difference. That’s how we engage, motivate, and energize our stakeholders to join us in our journey. Take away any of these three elements and you will be left with a weak business case, one that might not get the approvals required, or maybe will lack the commitmentment needed to get the project delivered successfully.

So we now know why we need a business case for happiness at work. Now let’s talk about how we create a business case.

Here are 5 easy steps to creating a business case for happiness at work:

  1. Acquire/Put together deep knowledge of your company: culture, values, and reputation, and review the numbers (turnover, sick leaves, employee satisfaction and engagement, etc).
  2. Set a vision, mission along with setting smart goals and KPIs.
  3. Define a roadmap of activities and potential investment.
  4. Create a business case to show ROI and justify the required investment.
  5. Implement activities, review, and pivot as needed to ensure the project remains on track.

Never skip step one. It might be tempting to get straight into action, but don’t. Without clarity on where you are now, you won’t be able to set a clear goal and direction, and measuring impact and progress will become extremely hard.

Next set a vision and mission along with your goals and KPIs. Setting a vision and a mission will allow you to always be able to share it with others without a need to delve into your goals and KPIs.

When it comes to the goals and KPIs, it’s important that you don’t set “happiness” as an ultimate goal. I want to share here the five elements that will make a difference and which you need to consider when thinking not only of the goals and KPIs, but also of the activities.

I want to bring to your attention the PERMA model by Martin Seligman as a north star:

  1. Positive emotions. Feeling a range of positive emotions. Positive emotions are achieved when you create a work environment where positive emotions are predominant, and negative emotions are acknowledged and addressed constructively.
  2. Engagement. Feeling emotionally committed to the organization and its goals. Engagement is achieved when employees are involved in, enthusiastic about, and dedicated to their work.
  3. Relationships. Feeling part of a group with shared values, vision and direction. You cultivate positive relationships through shared experiences where collaboration is productive, innovative, and/or fun.
  4. Meaning. Feeling part of something meaningful. Meaning is created when employees feel like their work contributes to more than profits.
  5. Achievement. Feeling in control of your future path, able to work on things you are good at and learn new skills. Achievement is possible when people are trusted and given the resources to pursue their goals.

Remember you should design for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. Happiness will be the by-product after these goals have been achieved. Your activities should enable one or several of the above elements to flourish.

When it comes to the business case, the below 14 HR metrics are good ones to assess in your organization and use to set a new direction. Look to incorporate as many metrics as possible in your business case, why will make your ROI more appealing. Remember to think about impact across departments and across time.  

14 HR Metrics Examples - AIHR

Last but not least, follow-up with the implementation of defined actions and constantly review your project, including the company’s situation, your goals and KPIs and your activities. Whenever deemed appropriate consider implementing changes to ensure the best possible outcome for your project.

Remember there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, however achieving happiness within your organization will always have positive benefits to the bottom line. These range from increased productivity, to development of a greater number of innovative products, to fewer sick days, among a large list of benefits.

Simply put, happiness pays off, for your employees and for your business.

If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for next week’s article which will mark the end of the Organizational Happiness course and with it my insights articles.

Written by Andreea Pap

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