CUNA Corner

'The Happiness Advantage'

May 18, 2012
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Few subjects have been explored and scrutinized more than business strategies to improve profitability.

But Shawn Achor says many businesses have overlooked a simple solution: employee happiness.

His book, “The Happiness Advantage,” argues that happier employees are smarter, more energetic, and more creative.

These benefits translate into increased productivity and profitability.

Achor cites three main predictors of happiness: an optimistic mindset, social support, and the ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.

He says his research has proven that employees with these characteristics generally are more successful than negative employees.“Happiness is the precursor to success—not really the result of it,” says Achor, who’ll address the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego (June 17-20). “One of the things we suggest to people is to stop saying, ‘I will be happy when [this or that] happens,’ because if we can find a way to become happier now, it raises our success rate of getting to that goal.”

Achor advises organizations to have employees do simple exercises to boost their happiness. These methods include things like journaling about positive experiences, consciously smiling more often, meditating, or having employees write quick emails to those in their social support networks.

Even the smallest behavioral changes can make a big difference, Achor says, citing a study in which the 1,100 employees at Oshner Health Systems took part in Achor’s “10-5 way” activity.

In this exercise, employees passing within 10 feet of someone made eye contact with the person and smiled. If they passed within five feet, they said hello.

As a result, the hospital experienced huge increases in employee engagement and happiness. Patients picked up on the positivity, Achor says, and were more likely to recommend the organization.

Engagement among doctors also improved—to the point that when offered higher-paying jobs elsewhere, they chose to remain at Oshner.

Next: Build staff’s social support


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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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