How empowered do you feel to make a difference? How well is your performance supported by the organisation? How clear is the link between your work, team priorities and the business’ direction?
Those are some of the questions that an organisation can ask its employees when using The Happiness Index. This always on, pulse technology launched in 2014, and seeks to identify and analyse staff views in real-time.
“Because the index is always available, companies can track their workers’ feelings, voice and work satisfaction as they evolve,” explains Tony Latter (pictured right), the co-founder of The Happiness Index.
Indeed, the tool distances itself from the traditional employee engagement research, which typically is run once per year. Instead, it provides businesses with the opportunity to gather employees’ feedback on an on-going basis.
The Happiness Index
Despite the name of the technology, Latter and his team don’t try to define what happiness is. There is a simple reason for that.
“Happiness is subjective to each individual.”
In fact, the tool looks at eleven specific and customisable workplace factors: company, culture, giving something back, leadership, learning and development, management, performance, personal growth, team, well-being, and direction.
The technology, of course, enables an organisation to track the trends in each area. Ultimately, to identify which part of the business and topic areas need a specific focus.
A company can ask as many questions as they want. But, Latter’s advice is to be consistent. “Always ask the same questions so that you can see the changes in employees’ engagement over a period of time.”
He also believes that asking a few questions is key to the successful use of the tool. “If you want to keep the level of engagement high, you shouldn’t be asking 50 questions; it just becomes too much of an effort for people to answer. And, you risk losing the interest of employees in sharing their thoughts, frequently.”
All the questions use a rating scale from one to ten. There is also the option to write a comment for every question. “The company can decide whether comments should be made compulsory or not. That way, an organisation can gather both quantitative and qualitative information.”
A Kickstarter project inside the business
Part of Latter’s job is to help companies create “the right culture”, one that is open to accept people’s views, whatever they might be.
“It is about explaining that this is a platform for individuals to share what they think of the company, and how they perceive their experience at work.”
Indeed, it is about capturing and understanding each person’s reality and use that information to build an engaging workplace.
In fact, one of the things that Latter says to companies is to be brave.
“You may not like the results that you get. But, don’t hide from them. Use them as a Kickstarter project – like a change program inside the business.”
The Happiness Index makes available three options around anonymity.
First, an organisation can decide to make everybody anonymous. This option is usually chosen “on the belief that if somebody is anonymous, then they are more likely to offer an honest feedback.”
Another way of using the tool is by making all the respondents being known. This alternative relies on trust. “It is about the employees trusting the company to use the given information in the right way.” This means not using the data against the individual, but instead helping them achieve happiness at work.
The third choice is to let each employee decide whether they want to remain anonymous or not. “When the individual is providing their feedback they can say whether they want their responses showing their name.” Based on Latter’s experience, this is the most popular option among companies. One of the reasons for this is that it helps the organisation to build a buy-in attitude towards the survey.” Employees have not been dictated whether they are anonymous or not.”
Usually, Latter says, around 60% of employees are anonymous to start with. Then, once they understand how the company uses that information, many of them often change their minds and are willing for the company to know who they are. “So, a lot is around how the company positions the survey. But also, it is about creating the right environment to feel safe to speak the truth.”
The employee experience
The Happiness Index is intuitive and easy to use, which makes the tool stand out.
Yet, the mission of Latter goes beyond the piece of technology.
“It is about humanising the process of engagement.”
Indeed, he understands that engagement is about people. He works with a client organisation to understand the environment in which they operate and the results they want to achieve. “We reverse engineer the process. We look at the key areas of the business. We take notice of the happiness levels of their people. And, we work with them to change the culture.”
A good example comes from Inmarsat, a global telecommunications company with headquarters in the UK. They had gone through a period of growth following some acquisitions. They needed to culturally align the legacy businesses.
Inmarsat were looking for a tool to help them measure staff feedback using real-time data to generate a program of cultural change. “They had to take staff on a mindset transition, ” explains Latter.
In fact, one of the acquired companies had a parental management style that needed to mature to fit the Inmarsat corporate style. Last year, they started using The Happiness Index by asking their employees five questions every month from a pool of 25 questions.
“The questions look at the culture, leadership, personal environment, performance, and direction. The insights are fed into a presentation and sent to all staff within a week of the deadline.”
To embed The Happiness Index, Latter worked with Inmarsat on a series of internal communications initiatives, which resulted in an 83% initial response rate.
One of the questions that Inmarsat asks its employees is “How well do the leaders in your line management communicate?” They first asked this question in November 2015 to establish a baseline result. From the results, they created a new communications plan, which they rolled out over a six-month period. “When they asked the question again six months later in April 2016, the score had improved by 7.3%.”
Another question that Inmarsat asks its employees is “How well do we support our current range of products?”. They first asked this question in January this year. Based on the suggestions from the feedback, they decided to develop their client facing material. Ultimately, when they asked the question again three months later, the results had improved by 9.3%.
Other organisations that see the value of The Happiness Index are the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Sussex County Cricket Club. The former uses the tool among 600 members of staff at their Technology and Innovation Centre. The latter uses it as a well-being app for its players.
Internal and external benchmark
The platform provides an array of dashboards through which an organisation can access their data and see how they are doing against their internal targets. The analytics tools turn data into insight at the click of a button. From this insight, companies are able to identify opportunities and make improvements to their employee experience. They can view reports from the last week, month, year, and all the time. They can compare the positive and the negative comments of staff across departments and geographies. A word cloud also offers the opportunity to understand the language of the organisation – how employees describes their experience at work.
Future plans include providing an external benchmark facility. “It will allow a company to check their performance against other companies who are using The Happiness Index.”
In fact, according to Latter, there is an appetite within senior managers to understand where their company sits against its peers. “The external benchmark will show them whether they are performing well compared to others. Hence, confirming that what they are doing is good. Alternatively, if they are below the external benchmark, it will give them a catalyst to start taking action now so they don’t fall behind.”
Pictures of the app in use at Sussex CCC: Photography by Sarah Bardsley – 11 Eleven Media