03/28/2019 Molly Moseley

What companies can learn from the World Happiness Report

Last week the World Happiness Report was released. Per usual, the Scandinavian countries dominated the list, with Finland claiming the top spot for the second year in the row. As for the U.S., we dropped one spot to 19. Hey, we’re still in the top 20, right?

In total, the report ranks 156 countries using variables that contribute to happiness, including: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perception of corruption.

It’s a fascinating report and it inspired me to think about these variables from a different perspective. What if we applied the measures of happiness for countries to companies? These parameters can be useful for employers who desire to boost employee happiness, satisfaction and loyalty.

GDP per capita: Just like countries, companies need healthy finances considering the size, age and goals of the organization. Making wise investments in products and people can pay dividends that go beyond the bottom line. When companies are doing well and employees know finances are positive, they worry less and can focus on doing their jobs the best they can.

Social support: Do employees feel supported by their peers, their managers and the company? It’s important to create an environment that is supportive and inclusive. This helps build employee trust and loyalty. Set up mentor programs, create team-building events, maintain strong communication and prioritize an open-door policy.

Healthy life expectancy: The physical and mental wellness of employees directly impacts their happiness at home and work. Start by looking at your health insurance offerings to ensure employees have access to the resources they need at an affordable cost. What’s more, develop a culture that embraces health. Create walking clubs, healthy-eating programs, and make it acceptable to take a few mental health days off, when needed.

Freedom to make life choices: Are there opportunities for career development and advancement at your company? Do people feel their ideas are supported and they can take control of their future? Do they have work-life balance? If so, you’re in good shape. If not, it’s time to reassess. No one wants to feel stuck at a dead-end job. What’s more, no one wants to feel constrained to a career trajectory that doesn’t fulfill them or one that overtakes their entire life.

Generosity: What does giving back have to do with employee happiness? More than you probably think. Corporate giving improves company culture and employee engagement. Make generosity a core value and offer opportunities for employees to participate in giving through match programs and group volunteer events. According to an O.C. Tanner survey, 57 percent of people believed the charitable events made for happier teams.

Perception of corruption: Do employees perceive the company and leadership as honorable, honest and working in the best interest of the organization as a whole? Keep in mind, corruption concerns don’t always play out in the form of a scandal. Mistrust can start small and build tremendously fast. If employees feel lied to, cheated or simply not valued, their perception will change and they’ll be looking for new jobs quickly.