The role of engaged and empowered employees is pivotal to delivering a superior customer experience. But employee engagement tends to be the remit of the human resources department, and in many organisations HR is disconnected from the customer-facing departments. So what's the solution?
Footwear retailer Zappos has a reputation as a customer experience leader, and its CEO Tony Hsieh is a huge advocate of the importance of employee happiness, even referring to himself as the company's chief happiness officer.
In this video, Tony explains why a happy culture at work has huge implications for the brand as a whole.
So what exactly is a chief happiness officer? And does your organisation need one?
The following article by Marie Puybaraud, global head of research at JLL, explores the what, why and how of chief happiness officers.
The importance of happiness
Fostering employee happiness is fast moving up the agenda and is becoming a key focus for many organisations of all sizes and industries. Companies are increasingly coming to realise that happy employees make engaged, empowered and high performing employees.
Ultimately, businesses in which staff wellbeing is not only taken seriously but is made a fundamental priority are transforming the workplace landscape and setting new standards for HR teams.
At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of a more demanding new generation that wants to safeguard their quality of life and happiness at work.
For instance, JLL’s recent report, Workplace - powered by Human Experience, which analysed the responses from over 7,300 respondents across 12 countries, found that nearly 70% of employees worldwide think that their workspaces should facilitate happiness at work, more than any other consideration.
But this concept of happiness – which businesses and employees are so keen to promote – goes beyond simply joy: it’s about fulfilment through health and wellbeing.
Promoting happiness, then, isn’t a simple ’box-ticking’ exercise achieved with the quick introduction of a ping-pong table or a novelty slide, it’s about focusing on the human experience as a whole and ensuring that employees share the values of the company they work for.
Introducing the chief happiness officer
The growing importance of happiness in the workplace has transformed the traditional HR approach and has led to the creation of a new role: the Chief Happiness Officer (CHO). According to JLL’s report, almost 90% of employees across the world think that hiring a CHO would be a good idea and a number of businesses are already doing so.
Google was arguably the trailblazer in this approach – Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer and wellness and meditation expert, was appointed for the position of ‘Jolly Good Fellow’.
If a business takes the role seriously and invests the right resources in the position, a CHO could have profoundly beneficial long-term effects on a company.
This is a trend that isn’t exclusive to big corporations. Many start-ups focus on appointing a CHO as they scale up, merging the traditional roles of HR and internal communications into one.
This combined approach is often a result of the financial pressure that start-ups can initially face. However, the inclusion of staff wellbeing and happiness within HR priorities contributes to the creation of new jobs to support fulfilment within your work and the workplace.
But what is the CHO’s role?
The CHO has the potential to boost employee performance and mental health, but this is not their fundamental purpose. CHO’s are focused on wellbeing in its widest sense as well as improving employees’ quality of life and making it possible for employees to be themselves at work.
Their mission is to attract and retain talent while fostering employee engagement, empowerment and fulfilment in the organisation, and should not be seen as the sole solution to staff productivity.
By investing into this new role, firms demonstrate that they fundamentally care about their employees.
That said, if a business takes the role seriously and invests the right resources in the position, a CHO could have profoundly beneficial long-term effects on a company.
As part of the evolved concept of happiness, JLL’s report revealed that employees want to feel their workplaces provide opportunities for personal learning (54%), creativity (53%) and inspiration (43%). It is the CHO’s responsibility to help employees realise these professional and personal goals. Whether it is by arranging team workspaces to boost creativity and collaboration, or by organising learning expeditions to inspire workers outside of their work environments, the CHO is responsible for overseeing the physical and mental wellness of employees and ensuring they are fulfilled within their work.
Employing a CHO says a lot about a company
It’s not just what a CHO does, but what they represent, that demonstrates their added value. By investing into this new role, firms demonstrate that they fundamentally care about their employees, and that employees are as important as their clients.
The emergence of the CHO is part of a fundamental transformation of the traditional HR approach, which sees businesses adopt a more forward thinking mindset to focus on talent retention and attraction – especially when it comes to targeting a diverse workforce and more aspirational millennials.
Today’s workforce places a greater emphasis on work-life balance, employee benefits and their quality of life at work. This hype workforce aspires to work for organisations whose values they identify with.
Prioritisation of happiness by employees now needs to be matched by employers. What is evident is that happiness is essentially about engagement, empowerment and fulfilment, which are all very strong levers of performance.
At the same time, managerial approaches linked to recognition, personal learning and development also affect employees feeling of fulfilment.
What makes a great CHO?
Human: Most importantly you need to be a people person. Someone who is approachable, easy to talk to and above all trustworthy.
Visionary: Being able to gauge the future and prepare for it. Having the ability to think strategically along with optimistic and ambitious thinking is key.
Curious: Having an eagerness to learn and discover means that you won’t rest until you feel the job is done. An inquisitive nature will make you consider the questions others wouldn’t even have thought of!
Insightful: Being receptive to change as well as having a shrewd, smart and astute outlook will stand you in good stead to be an excellent CHO.
Adventurous: A great CHO will have the confidence to explore new and unchartered territory with conviction and enthusiasm.
A version of this article originally appeared on MyCustomer sister site HRzone.