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How to Be Happier at Work


Dr. Adam Stoehr, VP, Education and Research, Excellence Canada, Toronto, ON, Canada


Happiness, Excellence, Productivity





This talk will change the way you think about happiness at work. You’ll learn that employee happiness at work is a function of satisfaction, engagement, and morale. We’ll explore how improved employee happiness brings many benefits, including better retention of talent, higher productivity, increased creativity and innovation, improvements in revenue potential, enhanced customer experiences, and positive customer responses and outcomes. This session will shed light on the basic tenets of employee happiness and provide strategies to make the workplace a happier and more productive place.

Participants will learn the definition of employee happiness and how to identify the differences and similarities between happiness, satisfaction, engagement and morale. Participants will also learn how to apply practical and simple ways to improve employee happiness in most environments by dissecting original research on employee happiness and outlining the tangible benefits of having happy people at work. The talk will also focus on current, leading-edge research that discusses the difference between synthesized happiness and natural happiness as well as linking strategic approaches towards excellence with higher levels of employee happiness.

Presentation Abstract

Each day, the sun makes its way across the sky, bringing light and life to the planet. This talk will shed sunlight on the topic of employee happiness. Like sunshine, happiness can help our workplaces be a much more productive place.

This presentation will present the following three major concepts/ideas, along with some practical takeaways for each.

1. What is happiness at work?

2. What are the tangible benefits of having lots of happy employees at work?

3. How to increase happiness at work?

1) What is happiness at work?

Happiness at work is a function of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale. Specifically, happiness at work is when employees are working together with positive satisfaction, engagement, and morale at the personal and collective levels. Participants will benefit from knowing the specific differences between these commonly used (and often misused) terms. Generally, people have the cause and effect of happiness backwards. The myth is that if you are successful you will then be happy. The truth is that you first need to be happy in order to be successful.

In addition we will explore three concepts/consequences if an organization focuses too deeply on individual elements rather than the three combined. These will be shown and referred to as: The Lonely Hero (high engagement, high Satisfaction, low morale) The Falling Leaf (High satisfaction, High Morale, low engagement) and The Hungry Puppy (High morale, high engagement, low satisfaction)

Takeaways: Definitions of commonly used and misused terms of satisfaction, morale, and engagement. Self assessment to diagnose current situation (Happy Employee, Falling Leaf, Hungry Puppy, or Lonely Hero)

2) What are the tangible benefits of having lots of happy employees at work?

This question will be answered referring to academic research on the subject of the benefits of happy employees as defined by high levels of engagement, satisfaction and morale. Our research shows that if employees are happy the following benefits are also present:

  • Better retention of talent
  • More resilient and open to change
  • Higher productivity and quality output
  • Reduces and releases stress
  • Reduces distractions
  • Increases creativity and innovation
  • More revenue
  • Better reputation for the organization
  • Better customer experience
  • Increases customer engagement
  • Positive customer responses and outcome

Happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives including marriage, health, friendship, community Involvement, creativity, jobs, careers, businesses. Highlighting these benefits will show participants the “what’s in it for me” benefits of employee happiness.

Takeaways: Tangible benefits of employee happiness that can be shared back with their workplaces. Participants walk away with the business case for pursuing increased employee happiness.

3) How to increase happiness at work?

This question is the primary takeaway of the entire presentation. After answering the first two questions participants are left craving the recipe for employee happiness. I will spend some time on the three things that are required to increase employee happiness levels at any organization. This happiness recipe is:

a) Shine a light on strength

b) Practice strategic excellence

c) Don’t be a jerk

Implementing strategies for each of these ideas will increase happiness levels at the participants organizations.

a) Shine a light on strength

This strategy highlights academic research that supports the notion of focussing more on strengths as an organization. Our reality is shaped by what you focus on. We are happier if we focus on the positives of a situation. We are happier when we focus on strengths. Our organizations need to realize this and put more focus on what we are good at and what is going well rather than dwelling on what we are weak at and what is going wrong. Since multiple realities exist simultaneously, we actually have the ability to choose and shape our realities.

Takeaways: The differences between synthesized happiness and natural happiness. Participants may be surprised to realize that synthetic happiness has the same effect on our brains that natural happiness does. Our brains therefore become the architect of our reality and create our own happiness.

b) Practice strategic excellence

Our research shows that if an organization focuses on principles of excellence, then it has higher levels of satisfaction, morale and engagement.

Implementing the following strategic excellence principles, has a demonstrated positive impact on happiness measures.

  • Leadership involvement
  • A primary focus on the customer experience
  • Co-operation, teamwork, and continuous learning
  • A focus on excellence, innovation and wellness
  • A focus on continual improvement
  • Commitment to fact-based decision making through the use of data and measurement
  • Commitment to corporate social responsibility
  • Commitment to good governance, including enterprise risk management, and financial controls.

I will also highlight research that shows how strategic excellence becomes a happiness attitude equalizer regardless of tenure, position, sector, company, employment status. The assumption regarding demographic attributes is that given that the workforce of any organization is not demographically homogeneous, one expects employee attitudes of satisfaction to differ across sub-groups. This tends to be the case with any employee attitude construct. The results are very different when considering Canada award for excellence recipients in isolation. The organizations with a strategic approach to quality (award recipients) had very different results in that people in different groups were not significantly different (tenure, position, sector, company, employment status). People who work at organizations with a strategic approach to quality were similarly positive and consistent regardless of tenure, position, sector, company, and employment status. The results indicate that a strategic approach to quality becomes an attitude equalizer when it comes to employee happiness. Levels of satisfaction, engagement, and morale were all similarly high across the various demographics.

Takeaways: Proof that the principles of excellence can be a roadmap to higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and morale at your organization regardless of tenure, position, sector, company, employment status.

c) Don’t be a jerk

Using the reference to jerk in a “tongue in cheek” fashion, I will share three practical academically referenced ways to reduce your “jerk-ness” at work. These will be shared as: Be kind, Be active, Be present. Deliberate and conscious acts of kindness decrease stress and contribute to enhanced mental health. Simple examples that can be applied by participants immediately include praising good work, sending an encouraging email, or bringing snacks to the office for everyone on your team. The more we are kind the happier we are at work and the happier the people around us will be. Physical activity has a similar impact on employee happiness. Easily achievable fitness goals like a 20-minute walk not only boosts positive mood, but broadens thinking and improves working memory. Exercise releases endorphins and improves our mood. Thirdly, presence is also important. We are often lost in the past or worried about the future. Happiness Lives in the present. I will encourage participants to stay in here and now.

Takeaways: Easy ideas to be kinder, more active and more present in your day.

Participating Organizations at the ISO 9000 World Conference

Government Agencies

Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Energy
Department of Health & Human Svcs.
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Justice
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Transportation
Department of Veterans Affairs

Environmental Protection Agency
Naval Surface Warfare Center
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Navy
U.S. Veterans Affairs
United States Army Corps of Engineers


Bank of America Corp
BASF Corporation
Bayer Corporation
The Boeing Company
Bose Corporation
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Campbell Soup Company
Cardinal Health
Chrysler Corporation
Cisco Systems
Daimler Chrysler
Dow Chemical

Dr Pepper 
Eastman Kodak
Exxon Mobil
Ford Motor
General Electric 
General Motors
Goodyear Tire
wlett Packard
Johnson & Johnson
Lockheed Martin

Maytag Appliances
Mobil Chemical
Northrop Grumman
Philip Morris International
PNC Financial Services Group
Pratt & Whitney
Procter & Gamble
Rolls Royce Allison

Schindler Elevator Corporation
Schneider Electric
Southwest Airlines
Tiffany & Co.
Underwriter Laboratories
UnitedHealth Group
United Technologies
Union Pacific
Wells Fargo


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