Lessons from measuring happiness - The story of Harkn

November 20, 2019   ·  

Did you hear that recent research has shown that six of the seven dwarfs are not happy?


OK, I know, it’s not a great joke, but when I heard it I couldn’t help but smile… nor could I resist using it to promote the rare insight Harkn offers — how happy people in your company are… how they really feel on a day-to-day basis. Isn’t that something you’d like to know?

But is it something you need to know, is it something you should know, or indeed, would knowing how people feel actually make a difference for you and for your company? 

We think so… 

It can be easy to think of tracking happiness as those push-button systems we’ve all seen in places like airports — different coloured buttons allowing us to express whether we’re happy or unhappy about what we’ve just experienced. 

You may have come across similar approaches in the workplace, buttons to press on the way out of meetings or near the exit each day for employees to share how their day has been… but these aren’t really tools for understanding how we feel, they’re more about how we feel about something — a feedback mechanism. Useful, but not if you want to understand happiness. 

In the workplace, employee surveys remain the primary tool for helping companies to understand how employees feel… except that’s not what they do. 

What they do is help us to understand how employees feel about work. About the company in general. About Leadership. About their experience associated with key events. About whether they feel listened to. About whether they feel fairly treated. About whether they get to use their strengths on a regular basis… 

As a result, most companies know a great deal about how their people feel about aspects of work, but very few know how they feel… 

How we feel influences our performance — creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision making — and our behaviour — collaborating, communicating, being open, or even how we are around other people. Critically important issues such as work-related stress, mental health, inclusivity, wellbeing (to name but a few) have significant emotional aspects to them. 

The impact of our feelings and emotions can be felt right across any business yet it’s a largely untapped source of insight about performance and behaviour that we could use to good effect to make work better in all respects.

We’ve been tracking happiness in the workplace for a couple of years now. When we started, we thought of what we were doing as being about providing the company (our client) with real-time data about what was really happening in their business… accelerating insights with a more nuanced lens related to how people experienced work. 

Those two years have been quite a ride… the lessons haven’t stopped — showing us things about our product that we’ve needed to change; revealing ways that people use Harkn that we hadn’t imagined; reminding us of the challenges that we all face at work (including those associated with the introduction of technologies like ours); and we’ve affirmed and dispelled our beliefs about happiness at work in equal measure… 

…all of which leaves us not only with a much richer product and a clearer understanding of why what we do really matters, but it has also provided much greater clarity about why tracking how we feel is about much more than data and insights. 

In this series of short articles, I’ll be sharing our story— what we’ve learned, the things we’ve seen, and the stories shared with us… and as you’ll see, they extend far beyond tracking happiness.

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David Bellamy
David Bellamy

Founder and CEO, Connect with David on LinkedIn


Further reading