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Apr 11, 2012

The Tao of workplace happiness

Job satisfaction fuelled through the power of connection, community and creative expression

By Claudine Kapel

What does your organization seek to achieve through its total rewards strategy?

Many companies have similar total rewards objectives, such as attracting and retaining desired talent, driving performance and achieving higher levels of employee engagement.

But where does employee happiness fit into the equation?

At first glance, the arena of total rewards seems far removed from the notion of happy workers. We want employees to work diligently, contribute to the success of the enterprise, and deliver results. But we don’t want to give away the farm to achieve this.

Accordingly, organizations often shy away from examining what might inspire employees or make them happier because they worry such explorations will just drive up costs, without delivering any real return on investment. After all, who wouldn’t be happier with more pay, richer benefits or additional vacation days? And what organization can afford that?

But the reality is the Tao of workplace happiness isn’t really about total spend. To really achieve a high-performing work force, an organization needs to address the essence of what fuels job satisfaction, through opportunities for connection, community and creative expression.

Organizations that focus on employee engagement do so to forge a stronger connection between an enterprise and its workers. When employees understand and support an organization and its vision for the future, they are more likely to channel their efforts – individual and collectively – towards achieving business objectives.

We often hear organizations speak about the need to engage hearts and minds. In fact, many organizations are already doing a great job of engaging employee minds. They set performance objectives and incentive plan targets, along with a wide range of business, department and individual metrics that are used to define expectations and measure progress.

We don’t, however, hear as much about what organizations are doing to engage employee hearts. And this may represent a significant opportunity for companies seeking to distinguish themselves as employers.

If you want to create a more powerful employment proposition, consider looking for ways to make the work experience more meaningful and satisfying. This can include:

  • Connecting employees with the organizational mission, vision and values, so they can believe in and be a part of something larger than themselves.
  • Fostering an organizational culture that emphasizes mutual respect, collaboration and creative expression so employees have opportunities to share and make a difference.
  • Enabling employees to put forward and champion new ideas or better ways of working, so they have opportunities to share and make a difference.
  • Developing strong leaders so they can help employees achieve their full potential while building cohesive teams and a productive work environment.
  • Supporting employees to get involved in the local community or other worthwhile causes.

The transactional elements of a total rewards offering, such as pay and benefits, are a vital part of any employment deal. But if you want your organization to inspire hearts as well as minds, then attention must also be paid to the work environment itself, including how employees connect with one another and the enterprise itself, and how they play a role in shaping the organization’s future.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit
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