The happiest job on earth: What is a Chief Happiness Officer?

The happiest job on earth: What is a Chief Happiness Officer?
This job is slowly creating a buzz but is also often subject to ridicule and raises many questions, such as "Is this really a job?" or even "What does it involve? Organising fun activities and parties?" In part, yes, but this job isn't only about having fun. Originating from the United States, the Chief Happiness Officer, or CHO, is gaining momentum and is popping up in more and more European companies, playing an increasingly important role in the work place.

1/ What is a Chief Happiness Officer?

The Chief Happiness Officer's main role is to ensure the happiness of employees in the workplace. This is done by organising fun activities, training sessions, parties, etc...Basically, an HR director with a bit more spunk and personality. The role is rumoured to have originated at Google when an engineer, Chade-Meng Tan, shifted towards the "People Development Team" in the early 2000s. It is then that he came up with the role of "Jolly Good Fellow", or CHO, which was consequently adopted by several other large companies and created a new trend. chief_happiness_officer-resized-600

2/ CHO qualities

So what qualities do you need to be a good CHO? Alexander Kjerulf, founder of Woohoo Inc. in Denmark and specialist in the domain of happiness in the work place, explains to The Guardian that you have to be "someone who can inspire happiness in others by their nature, and someone who is fun, likeable and has a lot of energy." You should also be someone who generally cares for the well-being of others. However, Kjerulf states that you should be careful. Many people may think you are a bit strange, and so you have to really believe in yourself and in the message you are conveying.

3/ Why have a CHO?

Today, the idea of employee happiness has become more important, particularly in tech companies. On one hand, this helps increase productivity and improve the atmosphere of the company, and on the other hand it helps attract and retain the best talent in a competitive labour market. Alexander Kjerulf thinks that happy employees "make better decisions, excel at managing their time, and possess other crucial leadership skills." At Google, for example, the initiatives put in place for the well-being of their employees resulted in an increase of employee satisfaction of 37%!

There are many academic studies, mostly in North America, that have shown that there was a positive correlation between the proportion of happy employees and performance. These studies were conducted by prestigious universities like MIT or Harvard ... For example, did you know that a happy employee is on average half as sick? That he is six times less absent? Or nine times more loyal. - Laurence Vanhée, CHO at Happyformance

In addition to improving performance and productivity, which is always a plus for the company, happy workers are more likely to stay longer at the company. As a result, companies will therefore save money on recruitment and training new employees who would otherwise be hired to replace the unhappy leavers.

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The duties of a CHO also help create a certain company culture that is always highly valuable, and helps improve employee relations and team work. A CHO is thus as much of an asset for the well-being of the people as it is for the well-being for the company itself. In the end, everybody wins!

4/ How do you make employees happy?

It all depends on the company and the needs of the employees. You have to be capable of identifying the problems faced by the employees and be willing to listen to them in order to find appropriate solutions. Perhaps employees are stressed out, or the company is going through a difficult crisis. You therefore have to organise activities accordingly in order to cheer them up and improve their moods, as well as to inspire creativity. Laurence Vanhée, a CHO in Belgium, explains that what makes an employee happy is very personal:

Nothing is more personal, subjective. Hence the importance of giving everyone the freedom to organize themselves according to what matters to them.

happy sheep So, are you inspired yet to pursue at job as a CHO?