Why are you leaving your competitive edge and profits on the table? (More importantly why are you not developing employees who are both Happy AND Engaged to achieve breakthrough performance?)

I asked a number of colleagues the following question. I wanted to see what the paradigms were and did we as, Leaders of Business through People! Really understand what it takes and do something about it.

The question I asked was:

“What are the differences between a happy and an engaged employee? Simple enough…

I wondered what road we were taking on the “hot road to engagement” and were we prepared to take the  “road less traveled.” http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken

I believe that the key to real business success (that which differentiates your business from your competitors to achieve inequitable superior performance) is to have both elements of engagement and happiness work in tangent in the same person! That way we get the very best out of the very best.

P.S.  Is it possible for a fully engaged employee to give 100% if they are not “happy” in what they are doing!!

It seemed that from much of the conversation we couldn’t have both “Happy and Engaged.”

Yes we can! And it’s the job of Leadership to understand what needs to be done to achieve it! That is the key leadership imperative!

A number of assumptions developed.

  • Engaged employees can be happy (some or even all of the time), and not all happy employees are truly engaged. Obvious we know. (Yikes! this means only part of the (whole) employee contributes!!! Even if engaged. So what are we doing about it?)
  • So it follows that an engaged employee who is not happy is only partly engaged! AND de facto only giving part of who they really are to deliver fully effective business performance.
  • Happiness and engagement are very different and we usually concentrate on engagement rather then happiness as “ happiness is just to difficult to manage” (sic) the latter is just not something we can (want) to do much about!!  Therein lie concerns with existing business thinking and the inability, or desire, to lead (and think) outside boundaries.

So what does research say?

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (amongst others) and the Positive psychology movement have studied Happiness in recent years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness the conclusion:  “that happiness is a combination of positive emotions and positive activities.”  Ok! That means you can have both in the same person in the workplace! Clue #1!

Thanks Sebastian Salicru for providing this research.

  • Defining happiness seems impossible it is said, due to its uniquely personal nature, but science has produced some promising new research into what makes people happy. 
http://www.suite101.com/content/research-on-happiness-a84218 Here Psychologist Martin Seligman divides “the happy life” into three different types: The Pleasant life, the Good life, and the Meaningful life. Now there is no reason these cannot exist at the same time or place…in our workplace! Clue #2!
  • Based on research, engagement results from a combination of factors including high levels of Satisfaction, Commitment (affective commitment), Discretionary Effort, Intention to stay and Intrinsic Motivation. In addition the workplace needs to have the basic concept of Trust and Equity as part of its cultural dynamic. Clue #3 these can all be achieved in the workplace.

Anecdotes on Engagement and Happiness within employees.

  • An engaged employee is engaged in the work, their co-workers and the workplace.
    • Their focus is on the work to be completed and they have the desire to participate.
    • They are responsible and accountable and will go the extra mile.
    • (Seems this makes Jack all work and no fun!)
  • It’s more important to engage them then make them happy. (Is one exclusive of the other?)
  • Sometimes being engaged is doing things that you are good at. They are the skills sets required by your company and yet as good as you are, you is not happy doing them! (Work-Personal balance of Inequity)
  • Happiness alone is great, but it has little context when not applied. (So does applied happiness get you engagement?)
  • An engaged employee is someone who feels like the work that he/she is performing is vested towards the achievements of the company as a whole. (and not in their own development?)
  • An engaged employee would feel they are an important member of the team contributing to the organizational goals and visions. While, a happy employee is content with the here and now and may need extra incentives and positive reinforcements to continue to work. (Role Misalignment).
  • An engaged employee truly desires for their company to excel and understands that in order to do so they must become involved in the success of that enterprise rather than “delegating” that concern to “someone at a higher pay grade”. (Missing link of personal satisfaction)
  • ” Happiness”, is emotive and not an outcome of being engaged in the company. Happiness comes from within. (And is not focused on generating an outcome for self or company!)
  • Engagement is about behaviors, happiness is an emotional state. (Yes! And we want and need both to be positive in our workplaces!)
  • An engaged employee can be one of the biggest “critics” of the organization, “unhappy” with the current state of affairs. (These employees provide “positive” feedback for improvement)

Images of a Happy AND Engaged Employee (A Oneness)

  • The employee would score high on Satisfaction AND high on ‘Affective Commitment’, ‘Discretionary Effort, and ‘Intention to Stay’ (which when taken together predict “Performance”)
  • An engaged employee is happy. When they feel job worth and equity, have a say in what they do in the organization, have good relationships with co-workers and supervisors, and are made to feel their work adds value. Too many still believe that money is the answer, instead of recognition which gives more satisfaction, make people feel good and results in a state of happiness.

Thanks Steve Siegrist for this contribution.

In conclusion to this fascinating conversation I want to thank Riquard van der Vliet who sent me the following link! This link captures the essence of what we have been discussing.

This “10 minute movie” is by RSAnimate  and gives us insights into how we can attract, retain engage and develop those happy and engaged employees!!!


Thanks to all that contributed from the following Linkedin groups. Everyone had great comments to make!

Human Resources Professionals Worldwide – www.HRProWorld.com

HR & Talent Management Executive (25,000+ members)

Organizational Culture Assessment to Change

Thanks to LinkedIn who made it all possible in the first place.


About HRMexplorer

Managing Director - Human Capital Europe and USA - My ability is to recognize ingrained assumptions and patterns of operation that aren’t productive, and offer practical, cost-effective and value-based solutions.

Posted on October 21, 2010, in HRMexplorer Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great piece Peter. You’ve outlined the challenge we all face in trying to create an environment where both engagement and happiness are actively addressed. As leaders, we can not simply count on an engagement “score” to tell us that everything is “fine” in our organizations. Let’s face it, effective leadership takes work!

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