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Measuring Employee Happiness In 2020 And Beyond with Nic Marks

If you’re wondering how your team’s happiness is, or how you can support employee wellbeing and sustain team morale, then you don’t want to miss Nic Marks, CEO and Founder of Friday Pulse, Dom’s employee engagement, employee happiness, employee measurement tool of choice. 

“When I ask how engaged you are, people don’t know. You know, it’s like, if you ask people, how meaningful is your work? It sounds great. But people don’t know what the top of that scale is. Do they have to be Mother Teresa? Do they have to be Nelson Mandela?”

Nic’s been on the show before (link below), and in that episode, he talked about the work he did previously, and the TED Talk he’s done. But today, we’re digging into, (again, link below) a chart that Nic and his team have put together, which looks at the weekly employee experience for 2019-2020. It’s as clear as day to see how it fell off a cliff in March. So we talk about that and we also talk about why it’s come back up. Where are we now? What are the thoughts and hopes for 2021? 

“The evidence suggests that Homo Sapiens defeated Neanderthals because they out-teamed them. And I think if you bring human beings together, physically together, you get a team that you just don’t get, when you’re on Zoom.”

As usual we discuss book recommendations, and Nic shares fond memories that he has for Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, who passed away recently. This is another great chat with Nic, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

On today’s podcast:

  • Measuring employee experience and happiness at work
  • Why Gallup can’t measure engagement (but Friday Pulse can)
  • Unhappiness at work is a signal to move
  • Which jobs are suffering more than others
  • Tony Hsieh CEO Zappos

Links:

How Happy Are Your Employees?

Nic Marks is the CEO and founder of Friday Pulse, the business he set up to track employee happiness, something which a lot of us have been struggling with of late. 

Nic’s data revealed that last March (2020), employee happiness tanked. It literally nose dived off a cliff. And he wanted to explore this further. It’s of course come back up, but it’s not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. 

Friday Pulse

But first, what is Friday Pulse?

“So, Friday Pulse measures and improves employee experience, great employee happiness, team morale, but that’s what we do. I’m a statistician by trade. And I’ve got exceptionally interested over my whole career [looking at] how you better measure people’s well being, quality of life, happiness, experience of life.”

The reason he chose this path? Because others were doing it so badly (his words). 

He took the time to work out the best way of measuring employees’ experience of work, because it has to be scientifically robust. 

“But it’s also got to be useful, to be practical, so people can use it. I mean, it’s no good just measuring stuff and watching it decay or rise, you’ve got to help people have an intervention.”

The reason for this – because if you want data to help people change, it has to be very real time, it has to be very responsive to what is happening, what’s going on, so that people can have confidence in it, to be able to act on it quickly. And then they want to see whether their action turns up in the subsequent numbers or not. 

“[There] is nothing more depressing than doing a big intervention and then no numbers change. And of course, you don’t want to just change for the sake of changing, but what you really want to know is, are you impacting people?”

How are they determining this? By asking people, each week, how was their week? They measure every week, they ask ‘how have you felt at work this week’, recording their response from very unhappy to very happy, and their response becomes a trend for leaders to watch. 

“When teams and organisations have setbacks, and you see how quickly they recover from them, the speed they recover from them is resilience. We’re all gonna have bad weeks, organisations are all gonna have setbacks, that’s part of the world. It’s how quickly you bounce back from them.”

Measuring culture and resilience

So is resilience a measure of culture? The problem, says Nic, is that culture isn’t something you can easily define and measure with regular tools. Nic prefers to measure quantifiable things, like their experience. 

“When I ask how engaged you are, people don’t know. You know, it’s like, if you ask people, how meaningful is your work? It sounds great. But people don’t know what the top of that scale is. Do they have to be Mother Teresa? Do they have to be Nelson Mandela?”

When you ask people how they felt that week, were they happy that week. Were they unhappy that week. It’s a felt experience.

So when it comes to measuring resilience, what does that tell Nic about the team? Everybody, the whole world suffered a setback in March 2020, it’s in Nic’s data, clear as day, there was a huge dip in the data. Of course some clients will have been better at responding to the data than others, but it’s also about the internal resilience of the teams. 

“In the teams that were able to be agile, were able to talk to each other and collaborate, they have done much better than those that didn’t.”

Friday Pulse data

Nic likens Friday Pulse to a zero accounting package for an organisation. They provide the data, they just can’t give you the strategy with what to do with the data. They can tell you how you might do it, but they don’t know specifically the ins and outs of why people have responded the way they have. 

“As a statistician, what I’ve tended to do is basically use the stats to capture whether it’s going well or not, and then delegate the responsibility, the understanding, to the team leader, to the organisation themselves.”

So essentially what Friday Pulse does is enable a feedback loop that allows the organisation and the team leader to learn as they go along. And it’s up to them to respond to the data. 

Going back to culture then, culture, says Nic, is the sum of those teams, and having the data at team level is vital. 

Happiness and turnover

When people get unhappy, they start looking for a new job pretty quickly.

“We measure happiness and employee experience every week, but if we put together a quarter’s data, and we say, this is the average happiness of this person, this team, in that quarter, and then we look at the next quarter, whether people have left or not, then people and teams that are unhappy, are twice as likely to leave and have twice as high staff turnover as the ones that are happier.”

March 2020

Nic’s data revealed that in March 2020, employee experience and happiness nose dived off a cliff. But is it normalising now, the longer we live with the pandemic? Does the data show real recovery?

That depends, says Nic, on the organisation. It’s still lower, across the board, for every one of Nic’s clients, but he says the impact of the unhappiness is revealing. 

“If you start translating that into things like staff turnover and lost productivity and loss of creativity, it’s a huge impact. I valued it recently as basically the loss of about £1000 per employee in that five point drop per year. It’s a big difference as we go into 2021, from where we were in 2020. It’s probably costing you a few £100s a month per person in lost productivity.”

The fact that it’s improving though, is a sign of human resilience and our ability to move ourselves out of unhappiness. 

What does the data predict about the future? That’s easy, says Nic, people are inherently social, keeping people isolated, interacting only over Zoom is contributing to lost productivity. 

“The evidence suggests that Homo Sapiens defeated Neanderthals because they out-teamed them. And I think if you bring human beings together, physically together, you get a team that you just don’t get, when you’re on Zoom.”

Book recommendations

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