America's CU Conference Preview

Achor: Employee Happiness Spurs Profitability

Learn how your organization can help employees prosper in the workplace.

May 4, 2012

Happiness is the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy, says author Shawn Achor.

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

Build staff’s social support

One way to augment employee positivity is to develop the organization’s social support system. Achor recalls a Harvard study that found social support was the best predictor of happiness during times of high stress, with a 0.71 correlation—higher than the link between smoking and cancer (0.37).

People in the top quartile of giving social support at work were 10 times more engaged than the bottom quartile, says Achor. They were also 40% more likely to be promoted within two years.

“If you give to the social support you reap an advantage not only in terms of happiness, but a financial one as well,” says Achor.

Some simple ways Achor advises organizations to improve their social support systems: help employees when they’re behind in their work, organize lunches, and set up other social engagements.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineEven small changes can improve the happiness of others, he adds.

“The more we smile, the more optimistic we are, and the more we’re positive actually ripples out to other people around us—our coworkers, our family members, and our clients,” Achor says.

It’s also important to remember you’re in charge of your own happiness.

“Happiness is a choice,” says Achor. “The research is clear; you’re not controlled just by your genes. So if you make a positive habit change you can raise your levels of happiness.

“Happiness,” he says, “is actually the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy.”

Shawn Achor will address the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego, June 17-20. Click here for more information.