Want Business Impact? Just Balance Employee Happiness and Performance

Photo by Dreamstime
Photo by Dreamstime

Last week I shared insight from Eventbrite Co-Founder and President Julia Hartz on the importance of helping employees understand how they personally and individually contribute to achieving the company vision.

In the same interview, Ms. Hartz also tackled a subject I’ve seen more and more in the last few months – should happy employees be our goal? Shouldn’t we, as a business, be focused on performance and results?

I like how Eventbrite arrived at the answer.

In Ms. Hartz’s words:

We’ve discovered that the common denominator of performance and happiness is impact and so that’s what we’re going to focus on. I realized this was the question that had been plaguing me. I wondered if I had sacrificed productivity at the expense of happiness. I then went back to the drawing board and thought about how you elegantly, subtly and thoughtfully introduce this notion of performance into a culture where people are happy and really enjoy their day-to-day. Granted it wasn’t that we weren’t performing as a whole. Rather it was how do we think about the future and setting the bar even higher? How do we think about velocity, quality and happiness?

The entire last year we’ve kind of germinated through this notion of performance. We’ve discovered that the common denominator of performance and happiness is impact – and so that’s what we’re going to focus on. That’s where we’re going to put our cards and how we’re going to drive the team.”

This is driving to the balance of recognizing the “what” as well as the “how” – understanding that achieving results isn’t enough. We must balance that with the manner in which those results were achieved. In the case of Eventbrite, it’s balancing performance and happiness to arrive at impact.

Impact, to me, is another way of expressing engagement. Employees need to know their daily efforts are contributing to achieving a greater objective or purpose – they are having an impact. This is foundational to employee engagement – understanding what I do has value and, therefore, choosing to give more discretionary effort to achieve desired goals.

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You can have a slew of happy employees but no relevant business results. You can also have tremendous results, but nothing but miserable employees.

Both models are clearly unsustainable. Find the balance, achieve engagement, and see results soar.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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2 Comments on “Want Business Impact? Just Balance Employee Happiness and Performance

  1. Hi derek! Performance & engagement are needed for sustainable results. This is our business value proposition in peoplerise (peoplerise.net) and i do really agree with you: it’s the constant attention to both axys that drives success

  2. I remember being told by a friend that I was successful in my management position because I knew how to make my employees happy. I confessed to him that I had never considered my employees happiness, but instead wanted them to be challenged, fulfilled, and to know that what they did was important. If that made them happy, then so be it.

    When I consulted to a furniture factory some of the shop floor workers would complain about just making furniture. I described for them a really bad day at work, driving home through a terrible rainstorm, getting home late, and finding that “chair” in the living room where we finally relax. Tell me that’s not important! Furniture is what makes a house a “home”. There was a renewed sense of value on the shop floor after that.

    I cannot understand how we have lost the connection between the importance of our work, and the importance of our workers. American industry (in a large part) does not get that the most important people are the people who make the most important product which is the one our customers buy!

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