Many companies make this mistake, and it is understandable to how it may happen, but it needs to come to a halt.

Employee happiness and engagement are two different things.

As an employee, you could be happy at work, but if you do not receive enough recognition, feedback, or have any opportunities for personal growth, you will never be engaged.

Many companies are using misleading data to define how good their culture is. If they only ask their employees to rate their happiness on a scale from 1-10, they are leaving a lot of missed opportunities on the table.

What about questions regarding training? A person’s relationships with their coworkers? There are so many other things you need to ask about to get a full picture of engagement.

Jim Clifton

What companies will inevitably find is that the only way to make a person happy is to give them a job that matches well to their strengths, a boss who cares about their development, and a mission that gives them feelings of purposeJim Clifton, Gallup CEO

The definition of employee engagement is the emotional commitment they have towards the company, the company’s values and their mission, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.

If an employee is happy, does it necessarily mean they will use discretionary effort?

According to a report from Deloitte1, 88% of employees do not have passion for their work and never contribute their full potential.

Their report also found that only around 20% of senior management is passionate about what they do, which is an even bigger problem.

Free lunch and beer on Fridays can only take you so far when it comes to engagement.

Drivers Of Engagement

In Officevibe, our pulse surveys measure ten different drivers of engagement, happiness being one of them.

This is a significant difference between us and our competitors.

Without mentioning any names, many of our competitors will measure employee happiness, leading companies to believe that the situation at their company is better than it is. That’s very dangerous.

Here are the 10 metrics that are proven to have the biggest impact on employee engagement:

  1. Happiness

    How happy are employees at work and at home?

  2. Wellness

    How much energy do employees have at work?

  3. Feedback

    Are employees getting feedback frequently enough?

  4. Recognition

    Are employees being recognized for their hard work?

  5. Career Satisfaction

    Are employees satisfied with their work environment?

  6. Relationships with Managers

    Do employees and their managers get along well?

  7. Relationships with Colleagues

    Do the employees get along with each other?

  8. Company Alignment

    Do employees’ values align with the company values?

  9. Ambassadorship

    Are employees proud of where they work?

  10. Personal Growth

    Do employees have opportunities for career growth?

Research from Deloitte has shown that companies that integrate recognition deeply into their culture have on average 31% lower voluntary turnover.

Millennials want frequent feedback, so being able to measure how this is going is important.

Employee wellness (energy levels, sleeping habits) has a direct effect on productivity, so it is important for employers to be monitoring this.

Research from Gallup has shown that managers account for 70% of the variance in engagement. Gallup’s research has also found that companies more often than not fail to make the right person a manager.

Personal growth is the most important metric of them all to be measuring and optimizing.

Even from an employee’s point of view, opportunities for personal growth, and having a manager invest in an employee, is a successful driver of engagement.

Not only does happiness not equal engagement, but we become happy from finding purpose in our work.

The Psychology of Motivation

We’ve written extensively on Intrinsic motivators, and many of you reading may be familiar with the concept.

In many different psychology experiments, they prove that focusing on intrinsic values (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) creates success.

When managers focus on these intrinsic motivators, workers will be engaged.

These have very little to do with employee happiness.

When managers invest in their employees and help them get better at what they do, they’ll be much more likely to be engaged.

Measuring an employee’s sense of autonomy, their level of mastery, and their connection to the purpose is how you can make sure employees are engaged.

Another example is called Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory.

The theory says that “motivation” factors, like recognition, growth, autonomy, and enjoying the work itself are what lead to job satisfaction.

On the other hand, job dissatisfaction comes from “hygiene” factors, like the physical work environment, salary, and job security.

What the theory says, is that being recognized and having that autonomy won’t offset being paid poorly or not enjoying your work environment.

Also, paying someone a higher salary won’t lead to job satisfaction. The perks and bonuses do not mean anything if we have no autonomy, recognition, or growth at work.

Don’t Just Focus On Perks

Companies often make the mistake of focusing on employee perks like free beer and free lunches, when that is not what drives engagement.

Imagine this was your company’s dashboard, would you invest your resources to give more praise (recognition) or feedback? Or again, would you invest in a “Happiness at work day” or consider free lunches or a sponsored gym membership?

Officevibe dashboard

All those are examples of perks that can blindly be added to an employee package without really looking at what’s the best way to improve the culture from a data-driven way.

Understanding that happiness does not always lead to having engaged employees will also help you put the right perks in place.

If you are confusing engagement with happiness, maybe you’re investing in bonuses, free lunches, or a game room, when you could offer perks such as 20% time, flexible hours, or mentoring.

What The Experts Think

One of my favorite video interviews is with the legendary employee engagement expert, and author of Employee Engagement 2.0, Kevin Kruse.

During our chat, we talk about this at one point. Here is a short clip where he explains why engagement is not happiness:

Do You Think Engagement Is The Same As Happiness?

We are interested in hearing from you. Let us know your thoughts below.

  1. Research from Deloitte found some scary statistics about how little passion there is at work. Source: