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    « When the Roomba Grows Up | Main | Better Job Ad Writing and Selling Snowblowers »

    Measuring Happiness at Work - A Drop in the Bucket?

    This week while in conversation with a colleague about how organizations attempt to quantify and track measures like employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and even employee happiness I was reminded and shared with the group this little story from the Chief Happiness Officer blog about how one organization was taking a check or a read on employee happiness in the simplest way I have ever heard.

    For benefit of those of you who did not follow the link to read the account, it describes a process that a UK Social Media Agency had 'deployed' that was insanely simple. At the end of each day as staff left the office they encountered a display of three large buckets. One bucket was full of tennis balls. The other two buckets were marked 'H' for 'Happy', and 'U' for 'Unhappy', respectively.

    As staff exited for the evening, they grabbed a tennis ball from the full bucket and placed it into either the 'Happy' bucket or the 'Unhappy' bucket. The next morning a member of staff tallied the previous days' results, posted them on the company intranet, and re-set the bucket voting system for the new day.

    The organization tracked the results and trends over time, and were able to take the temperature of the organization to some extent each day. While the tennis ball happiness voting system is a crude and kind of imprecise measurement of what has come to be known as a more complex and nuanced concept, it did provide a near real-time feedback loop for company leaders to get a feel for the mood of the team.

    In a small, self-contained company, this kind of low-tech system can be successful. In larger and more geographically spread organizations it would be a bit more of a challenge. But with the advent of powerful mobile technologies, this kind of happiness voting system could easily be created as a Web App or iPhone App that all staff in the organization could access no matter where they lived and worked.

    What do you think? Does the simple, tennis ball 'Happy or Unhappy' poll provide meaningful information for an organization? Could you see yourself setting up three buckets like this in your office? What do you think the results would be?

    How would you vote today? 

    Have a great weekend!

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    Reader Comments (5)

    I think this is workable for a smallish company. It's anonymous, which probably allows people to be more honest. Using apps and other gadgetry to gauge this is probably the easiest way to go, but that would take the anonymity out of it and perhaps people wouldn't be as forthcoming about how they feel. Then again, the temperature of known individuals would be taken on a daily basis and those who are chronically unhappy could be consulted and hopefully work out their issues.

    December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori Jablons

    Great post Steve. Neat idea for a small company. However it leads to some (tongue in cheek) questions.
    What if an employee was so unhappy (s)he smashes the ball into the U bucket and it bounces out or into the H bucket?
    What if they shot basketball style and missed then didn't bother to get the ball?
    What if someone kicks the buckets over in frustration? I guess that's a pretty decent leading indicator.. :)

    For a geographically dispersed organization, maybe the way to transfer data to one central location each night is to incentivize the last employee to leave the office to take a picture of the bucket at the end of each day and email it to a central repository with the office name or ID, so someone at HQ can gauge the happiness across the organization. The problem is, it doesn't tell you 'why' or 'which' employees are happy or unhappy, just that there are 4 tennis balls in the U bucket out of 12. That doesn't mean a whole lot in terms of actionable steps to improve the happiness of the office but it's a start.

    December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike

    I think this concept is almost more for the employee than employer. Sure, it gives the company a pulse for how people are feeling, but equally as important; it gives more than a solid impression that their company cares and is listening. Depending on how it goes, managers can react by questioning. I think technology based systems could work better for real data, but maybe not. All depends on how accessible it really is for he employee...ignore it in your desktop vs. toss a ball on the way out. Which is really more likely to be used over time? Technology could backfire, to make the employees feel just another unhappy number. This is a great post...I work at home with my kids by my side...I think I'll try this at home on the way out to school.

    December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Sicurella

    @Lori - Good points, and I think you are right. I could see a simple app handling this easily, and maybe if you wanted to get cute, you could add some special features or prizes/badges for 5 days in a row Happy, and that sort of thing.

    @Mike - Good questions all. I think one of stories from the experiment talked about one employee that emptied all the balls into the Unhappy bucket because of a really bad day. But the manager/peers or someone was able to get to the person and talk about what was going on and worked to resolve the issue. At least the balls and buckets gave the employee the chance to vent and then get some help.

    @Stacey - Thanks and I think I agree the aspect of 'we are listening and we care' is the greatest benefit to this. Very interesting idea to try this out with your kids, I'd love to hear how it turns out. Thanks very much for reading.

    December 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterSteve

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    December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMK

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