Using Positive Psychology to Boost Workplace Morale, Engagement

Voice of the Employee | Employee Experience

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Trusted Experience Management Partners

As our previous post, “Bridging the Engagement Gap with Positive Psychology,” explained, the millennial field of positive psychology examines how people can become happier by focusing on the meaningful, positive aspects of their lives. Researchers who study positive psychology ask how, why, and when positive emotions surface, and what individuals and institutions can do to increase happiness. Here at PeopleMetrics, we see happiness fitting into the passion part of our equation for Customer, Employee, and Physician Engagement. We weren’t surprised, then, to find that the founders of positive psychology also emphasize engagement.

First, let’s establish why employee engagement matters from a business perspective. PeopleMetrics has proven a connection between employee engagement and better business outcomes, including profitability and customer engagement. Research in positive psychology confirms this correlation; as Sue Shellenbarger writes for the Wall Street Journal, a 2004 study published in the journal American Behavioral Scientist found that “Teams with buoyant moods who encouraged each other earned higher profits and better customer satisfaction ratings.” As a final example of how employee mood figures into performance, the “Broaden and Build” tendency uncovered by positive psychologists shows that people who experience more joy and contentment in their lives are able to think more broadly and creatively (characteristics employers love to see).

The time is ripe to apply the lessons of positive psychology to the workplace. According to the Wall Street Journal article cited earlier, employee satisfaction is at an all-time low—just 45% of US workers are satisfied with their jobs, as compared to 52% of workers in 2005, and 61% in 1987. To raise that percentage among their employees, companies including American Express and UBS are hiring happiness coaches to teach the lessons of positive psychology.

When these happiness coaches present to work teams, they begin by exploring just what it means to be happy. According to an article published in the APA’s journal American Psychologist, positive psychologists have found three general types of happiness:

  1. Positive Emotion/Pleasure—People find happiness through living a pleasant life.

  2. Engagement—People feel happy when they can “lose themselves” in their work and activities.

  3. Meaning—People experience happiness when they participate in what they feel are meaningful activities.

Positive psychologists have found that the happiest people among us exhibit all three types of happiness.

Managers can attempt to affect employee engagement by helping employees understand their role to the big picture by providing actionable, timely feedback and a variety of other methods. PeopleMetrics Employee Engagement Management program helps managers pinpoint exactly what actions will be the most effective to increase engagement for their employees.

To identify the actions that will help increase Employee Engagement you must first understand how employees rate you on both the emotional and functional aspects of their employee experience. That’s why we begin every Employee Engagement Management program with an employee survey. This establishes a baseline of Employee Engagement and gives employees the opportunity to provide feedback. Ongoing EEM research can help you better understand your employees’ needs—and, ultimately, create a happier more productive workforce.

Top photo by Jessica Tam.

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Topic: Employee Experience

Posted on 07-07-2010