Glossary of HR Terms

Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.


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Employee Happiness

HR's Blueprint for Boosting Employee Happiness

What Can HR Do to Foster Employee Happiness?

The more the workplace changes, the easier it is to see that employee happiness is much more than a vanity metric. Research shows that employee happiness and business success are linked, since happy employees are up to 12% more productive than their less-happy peers. Creating an environment that encourages and supports employee happiness fosters increased employee engagement and morale, resulting in improved performance and productivity.

By investing in initiatives that promote employee happiness, employers create a positive work culture and an environment that empowers employees to thrive. Learn more about what employee happiness is, how to measure it, and how to increase it within your organization.

Employee Happiness 101

Employee happiness is the state of contentment a person feels in their job or work environment. Factors that influence employee happiness include job satisfaction, work-life balance, healthy connections with peers, positive company culture, recognition, and career development. For example, a manager giving employees awards for a job well done can make them feel appreciated and valued, boosting employee happiness.

Employee happiness refers to a person’s subjective assessment of their overall enjoyment of their job and is characterized by positive emotions and a cheerful demeanor. In this way, happiness differs from its related metric of employee engagement, which measures the behaviors people have based on their interest and investment in their work.

Why Does Employee Happiness Matter?

Higher Employee Engagement

Although most people use the terms interchangeably, employee happiness isn’t the same as employee engagement. Employee engagement is a measure of an employee’s commitment to their work and the organization, while happiness refers to a person’s feelings of contentment and enjoyment with their job, their colleagues, and their work environment.

Employee engagement and happiness share a strong link. Happiness tends to increase employee engagement because happy people are more motivated to work harder and contribute more to their teams. Improved employee satisfaction and happiness motivates the behaviors signaling engagement: showing up for work on time and ready to go, taking initiative, and being proactive in their roles.

By creating an environment that supports and encourages employees to be happy, employers can foster an atmosphere of engagement, loyalty, and increased productivity.

Decreased Employee Turnover

Employee happiness reduces employee turnover by creating a positive work environment and engaging employees in meaningful work. When employees are happy, they’re more likely to stay with their company and remain committed to their roles. This is because they feel valued and appreciated, which can lead to stronger job satisfaction, better job performance, and a longer tenure with their employer.

Furthermore, when employees are happy, they’re more likely to build strong relationships with their peers, which can lead to better customer service and improved customer satisfaction. Those points of connection between people across the company weave a stronger fabric that ties employees together — and to the business.

Better Performance Outcomes

Happy employees are more invested in their work and more likely to go above and beyond when doing it. Happy employees also are always striving to learn and grow, and they want to excel in their roles. That helps them pay greater attention to detail, making them less likely to miss deadlines or make mistakes.

Additionally, happy employees tend to collaborate better and have a better attitude toward their colleagues, which can lead to better team performance. Teams of happy employees working together elevate each other, which creates an even better work environment, drives creativity and innovation, and produces better performance outcomes.

How to Measure Employee Happiness

Since employee happiness is an attitude, it’s best measured by surveys or other forms of employee feedback to help employers identify areas of improvement within the employee experience or work environment. Here’s how to collect data on your workforce’s happiness.

Conduct Regular Employee Surveys

Employers can survey employees to collect anonymous feedback on team members’ overall satisfaction and happiness with their job and work environment. One of the most popular types of employee surveys is the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).

ENPS is a metric that measures employee satisfaction with the company. It’s based on ‌responses to a single question: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” Speaking highly of a company and encouraging others to apply signals an employee’s contentment in that environment.

HR can use ENPS surveys to assess employee happiness by tracking how employees respond to the survey over time. The higher the score, the more satisfied employees are. Additionally, HR can gather qualitative data from employees based on their rating to better understand what affects employee happiness. Get to the bottom of an employee’s response by asking additional questions or leaving space for them to add a response.

Whenever you collect responses in a survey, remember to address privacy concerns. If employees believe you’ll know how they responded, they’re more likely to respond with an answer they think you want to hear, which skews the results. Collect survey responses anonymously and make sure employees know that their responses are protected.

Assess Employee Happiness in One-on-Ones

Surveys measure employee happiness in the aggregate, but you can glean more qualitative responses from transparent one-on-one communication.

Managers can use one-on-one check-ins with team members to assess employee happiness by asking questions about their current workload, job satisfaction, and long-term goals. The manager also can ask questions about job-related stressors and their concerns or ideas for improvement. This can help managers gain a better understanding of how their team members feel and what can be done to improve their situation.

When tracked through HR software and shared with HR, your team can use this information to create strategies and initiatives that help create a more positive work environment and increase employee happiness.

How to Improve Employee Happiness

From finding employees’ purpose to providing the benefits they need, these tips will help you build a workplace everyone can enjoy.

Help People Find Their Purpose

People who feel like they do something meaningful and important are more likely to be happy in their jobs. And when employees are happy with where they work and what they do, they’re more likely to stick around and continue doing great work. As the people with the closest relationships with individuals, managers carry a lot of responsibility for helping people find their purpose — so be sure that managers have the resources and support they need to make that happen.

Encourage team members to think about what they’re passionate about. What gets them excited? What makes them feel fulfilled? When people feel like they’re using their talents and doing what they love, they’re more likely to be happy in their work. Nudge managers with conversation prompts to help open this discussion with their teams.

Help team members see how their work makes a difference. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind and lose sight of the bigger picture. But when employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s success, they’re more likely to feel proud and motivated. Train managers to help connect the dots between an employee’s daily tasks and the company’s larger goals.

Ask team members what they want to achieve in their careers. What kind of impact do they want to make? What kind of legacy do they want to leave? When people have a clear idea of where they want to go — and the resources they need to get there — they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. Here, too, managers play an important role in helping their teams not only understand their options for growth within the company but also find the right resources to help them take the next steps.

Foster an Inclusive Company Culture

If you want to improve employee happiness at your organization, one of the best things you can do is foster an inclusive company culture. An inclusive culture is one in which everyone feels welcome, respected, and valued for who they are and what they bring to the table. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can be themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination.

At the company level, organize events and initiatives that celebrate the diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives of your employees. These activities foster a sense of belonging through shared respect for the differences that make us unique, and provide opportunities for employees to connect with and learn from people who are different from themselves. Employee resource groups can connect people with communities they care about within the workplace, which supports greater inclusion.

Consider how your policies could affect inclusion, too. Flexible working arrangements, for example, let employees better balance their work and personal lives — which can be especially important for working parents or people who don’t have access to steady transportation. Adjusting your policies and practices to help people work better creates a more inclusive, respectful culture.

Culture often shows up most strongly in day-to-day interactions among employees. Support company culture by connecting people across the organization, creating a community of people who share the same values and learn from each other’s behaviors.

To foster an inclusive culture, make sure team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas. Encourage debate and constructive feedback. Train managers to set a good example by asking everyone for input during team meetings and considering the ideas employees bring up. Bring people together, through an all-hands meeting, a focus group, or another forum, to generate dialogue around cultural norms and expectations, so that employees can feel a sense of ownership over the company culture, too.

Recognize and Celebrate Achievements

To achieve workplace happiness, it’s important to recognize and celebrate each employee’s achievements. Recognition helps employees feel more appreciated (which supports employee happiness) and also drives motivation and engagement in the work.

Employers can recognize and celebrate employee achievements in a few ways, including through a public recognition system, such as an “employee of the month” award. This is a great way to show your employees that you notice and appreciate their hard work. Another way to recognize achievements is through more informal means, such as by verbally acknowledging someone for a job well done or sending them a handwritten note.

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to be genuine in your recognition and make sure that you give it in a timely manner. Employees should feel like their efforts are being noticed and appreciated in real time, rather than being forgotten about or taken for granted.

Encourage Open Communication

A happy company culture relies on effective communication between employees and management. To encourage open communication, employers should create an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions and suggestions. This can be done by establishing an open-door policy, encouraging feedback through surveys and focus groups, and holding regular town hall meetings.

It’s also important to listen to employees’ concerns and act on them in a timely manner. This shows that you value their input and are committed to creating a positive work environment. If employees feel like their voices are being heard, they’re more likely to be happy and engaged in their work.

Provide Benefits People Need

An important part of employee happiness is feeling like the company they work for cares about them as a whole person, not just an employee. One way to show employees you care is to provide benefits that meet their needs.

Common benefits employees want are health insurance, paid time off, and retirement savings plans. However, employers can offer many other important benefits, such as expanded mental health benefits, child care assistance, student loan repayment assistance, pet insurance, and health and wellness subsidies.

It’s important to survey employees regularly to find out what benefits they’d most appreciate. This can be done through an anonymous online survey or by holding focus groups. Once you know what benefits your employees want, make sure to communicate the details of the benefit clearly and make it easy for them to enroll.

By providing benefits that meet the needs of your employees, you can show them that you care about their well-being and improve employee happiness.

Investing in Employee Happiness Makes Everyone Happy

When employees feel happy with their jobs, they’re more likely to be successful and productive — and that’s great for both your people and your business. Take steps today to foster employee happiness and set the stage for a bright future.