It might surprise you

Let me first tell you what’s it not. It’s not revenue or cost of goods, stock price or even new customer sales.
The most important business indicator to measure is the amount of joy which people have in their work. When people enjoy their work, are included and respected at work along with being paid a competitive salary, they thrive. When this occurs there is no need for reward and punishment, micro-management or silly internal competitions and contests at work. The best reward can be to enable them to continue to do more of what they enjoy.

What is a business?

A business is focused on producing a product or service which others will value and hopefully buy or use. A public company by charter is focused on generating revenue and profit to serve its shareholders.

Typical measurements of a business

A business typically focuses on standard business metrics such as cost of goods, stock price, earnings per share, customer acquisition cost, revenue, expenses, customer buying trends and so on. The human element is usually measured by metrics such as compensation as a percentage of revenue, turnover, productivity and staffing levels.

The most and forgotten indicator to measure and why

Think about work which you did which you really enjoyed? Did time go by fast? Did you feel a sense of excitement and energy about your work? Did you require any supervision? Most important did you feel happy about this work? Was your productivity high? How about your sense of responsibility, discipline and dedication towards this work?
Did you think more about reward and punishment or just about how to do more of this work which you enjoy?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then it should be obvious what the benefit to the organization was.

Joy at work, what is it?

First of all, it is not something we normally discuss at work. But if you have ever had it you will never forget what it feels like. The feeling of joy is subjective. To understand if someone has joyful work you must ask them. In my research about joyful work over the past twenty two years I have found 5 common qualities that many people have.

  1. A deep sense of focus and concentration about one’s work.
  2. A feeling that work is blissful. That is one can’t tell the difference between work and play, vacation and vocation or Monday or Friday.
  3. There is a sense of urgency about this work. That is one is never quite sure how long this will last so they work hard and productive all the time!
  4. The rest of life improves around the person doing the joyful work. Relationships, happiness, health and even the ability to earn income at what one enjoys increases.
  5. Deep knowledge, creativity and a sense of purpose emerges; one realizes that joyful work is the one which fits the best.

How do you measure joy?

Joy is not something to graph on a slide. It is a subjective experience and must be examined and observed. Joy can be observed through many lenses such as cheerful energized people, higher rates of productivity, better working relationships, improved creativity, decision making and a sense of autonomy in one’s work. The best way to measure joy at work is by asking people about their experience of joyful work. Asking a person, ” do you find joy in your work” and following up with “why or why not” is a great place to start. In my research of joy at work and midlife development people have explained to me that joyful work feels wonderful. They describe higher levels of energy and happiness. They have told me their commitment to their work increased as did their level of concentration. In my interviews with people who found joy in their work people told me that they never again thought of a reason to retire or stop doing what they enjoyed.

What the organizational culture looks like with joyful workers?

Well, this is where business finally intersects with joy. When people enjoy their work all the normal business metrics go up. Customers get better service. Revenue will go up assuming the products or services are valued. Teamwork will get better, relationships at work will improve and people will tend to work long hours and with more concentration and dedication. All the elements which the CEO tells the HR director to make happen for the organization.

What does the organization look like when Joyful work is missing?

Probably the typical organization today; people drag their bodies to work while leaving their hearts and minds at home. People work only for the money and fill little loyalty towards their work. Works feel like , well (I’ll let your imagination wander) you are just renting yourself for a short time to someone else. And only for the exchange of money. The work itself feels lonely and there is this feeling of angst and anxiety about one’s work and future. Leadership can also tell the difference. People hold back their best ideas and in the end show less loyalty to their work and the organization.

How can a leader enable joy at work?

The easiest way is to simply ask people. Once a month leaders should have developmental meetings with their followers. During these sessions the leader should ask the following questions; do you find joy in your work? Why, why not? What do you want to do more of, less of and how can I help? Leaders should enable collaboration at work and eliminate all competition including all elements of ranking and rating people against each other. Leaders should ensure people are paid competitively and then stop rewarding and punishing at work. Treat adults as adults and not as children at work. Leaders should make it a priority to enable joy at work.

Key Learning?

For the organizational system to succeed, people in the system need to thrive. When people find joy in their work, their energy, productivity and motivation is boundless.

Isn’t this what any leader dreams about!

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson


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