Researchers have long been investigating the relationship between employee happiness and their performance at work. Different studies suggest that happiness indeed makes people more productive. The direct relationship between morale and productivity prompts employers to try to measure their own team’s level of happiness.
It’s not surprising, as there’s a lot on the line here, business-wise. Whether we’re talking about the financial benefits of happiness or the costs of unhappiness, the bottom line remains the same: you need to keep track of your team’s morale.
The question is, how to measure things as emotions and feelings? Fortunately, the employees themselves can often tell you accurately how they feel. Before they do, however, there are other signals you shouldn’t ignore. Let’s take a closer look at these.
Indicators of workplace unhappiness
Some signs of employee unhappiness aren’t difficult to spot. When they occur, however, it’s usually very late to counteract. I’m talking about an increasing turnover rate: when you see that more people than usual leave your team, it may very well be a sign of a workplace dissatisfaction.
Other signs that should raise a red flag are absenteeism and lower productivity among your team. Are they plaguig your team? It’s time to gauge your team’s morale and, if the results indicate so, make some improvements.
Fortunately, there are also early signs pointing to potential unhappiness. If you’re using resource management software, go through your team’s schedule and timesheets. Two patterns that should attract your attention are:
- Overutilization – whether it’s in the form of logged overtime or planned tight schedule.
- Underutilization – which can be as dangerous for your team as being overworked.
Employees who are over- or underutilized are prone to burnout, which leads to higher turnover rates. Keeping an eye on your team’s current and future workload, allows your to act before team morale declines.
How to keep track of your team’s morale?
Measuring and tracking your team’s happiness level requires you to initiate an honest conversation with your team. While you’re able to run anonymous surveys (see the section below for examples of tools you can use), it all starts with explaining why you’re gathering this kind of data in the first place. Being transparent with your team will pay off: you’ll be rewarded with valuable feedback.
You should also emphasize the importance of providing candid assessments of one’s happiness level. People may feel that indicating their negative mood might be frowned upon or that being all smiles will be rewarded somehow. Finally, some could also feel that talking about their moods is “childish” or even unprofessional. Make sure to address any doubts or concerns before you launch the process.
How to gather happiness-related information from your team? On a project level, you can make use of team meetings (e.g. retrospective sessions) to run a quick survey. Team management experts from Scrum Inc. have outlined the following questions you can use:
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you with your role?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you with your team?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you with the company?
- What could we do next sprint that would make you happier?
(Source: Scrum Inc.)
Running a survey in a meeting setting facilitates a further discussion. This is especially valuable if you want your team members to have actual impact on their workplace. Aggregated quantitative data obtained via rating-based questions can be later compared with the next survey. This way, you can see the trends and evaluate the direction your team’s health is heading in.
Another way to track team happiness is to install a mood tracker in your team’s room/your office. A niko-niko calendar is an example of such a tracker used by many agile teams. The basic premise is very simple: you create a space for your employees to record their mood each day. They could draw emoticons or use colored post-it notes. Over time, you will see how the general level of happiness in your team changed (or stayed the same).
If you want to obtain in-depth insights about the emotional state of individual team members, you can organize 1-on-1 meetings with them. Monthly meetings with team leaders provide ample opportunity to discuss the current mood of each employee. Ask about things that could make that person happier, take notes and establish goals for the next 1-on-1.
Apps for measuring team happiness
There is a wide selection of web apps, browser extensions or Slack bots that can support your happiness tracking process. Here’s a sample collection of tools you can choose from:
- Officevibe sends out anonymous surveys via Slack. As a manager, you can see your team’s dashboard and analyze the team health scores. Additionally, you’re able to follow up on your team member’s feedback through the app, so that they remain anonymous.
- Friday could be a great companion to your happiness-related team meetings. The app sends out surveys, the anonymized results of which are available to everyone on the team. This in turn provides a basis for your next all-hands discussion about the team morale.
- HappyMeter asks employees questions via email. You can see the scores on a team-wide dashboard. On top of that, managers get an in-depth view of the results, including alerts for when someone has an especially rough day.
- Happy Index collects anonymous responses to happiness-related questions. Team members have access to their own dashboards, so they can see how their mood changed over time. Managers get an overview of their whole team’s happiness.
Track team happiness: a real-life example
Let’s hear from Joanna Ignaczak the HR Manager at Apptension (the company that brought Teamdeck to life):
We carry out a biannual workplace happiness survey among our employees. The Net Promoter Score shows us whether our team members are becoming more or less likely to recommend Apptension as a good workplace. Apart from that, we ask about different engagement factors: do people appreciated? Do they feel like they can grow professionally here? These aspects affect team happiness much more than, say, employee benefits. Different perks are nice but they don’t make people come to work eagerly each day.
We try to track team happiness as early as during the onboarding stage. We want new people to feel great at their new workplace: the sooner we learn about any potential improvement areas in that regard, the better.
Workplace happiness cannot be ignored if you want to have a healthy, productive team. Tracking the mood of your team members is easier when you make transparency a crucial part of your team culture. Teammates who are encouraged to share their point of view openly will likely tell you about their feelings sooner.
A systematic team happiness measuring process rooted in the company culture will help you better understand your team and, as a result, manage them more effectively.