A chief happiness officer (CHO) is a relatively new position. However, it can help build a great company culture. Today, a number of Fortune 500 companies have chief happiness officers, from Coca-Cola to TikTok.
From 2020 to 2022, growing emphasis on wellbeing led CHO positions to increase by 65%, notes Deloitte. Similar positions include “vice president of worker success” and “head of worker experience,” they add.
What is a chief happiness officer? In a nutshell, the CHO designs initiatives that improve the employee experience. The CHO typically belongs to the HR department. In some cases, the chief happiness officer belongs to the organization’s C-suite as well. This means participating in high-level meetings with executives.
Is a chief happiness officer really necessary? Controversy persists over whether the CHO should be a designated role. Some advocate for adopting a “chief happiness officer mentality” but not an official position. They argue that all HR staff, leaders, and managers should focus on improving happiness. But others believe having a dedicated CHO position ensures a constant focus on happiness.
It also depends on the size of your company. If you have a bare-bones HR team, you might appoint an existing staff member to handle some CHO duties. If you have a large and growing company, consider creating a designated CHO role.
Let’s examine the main benefits of a chief happiness officer. Then, we’ll look at the responsibilities in more depth, followed by qualifications.
Table of Contents
Benefits of a Chief Happiness Officer
Why is having a chief happiness officer important?
- Heightened productivity
- Improved wellbeing
- Better retention
- Stronger employer brand
- Healthier workplace culture
- Lower burnout
- Decreased absenteeism
- Enhanced collaboration
- Increased psychological safety
- Greater creativity
- Better employee experience
- Increased workforce resilience
Happier employees have increased job satisfaction. In turn, this means higher productivity and lower turnover. A good CHO can play an instrumental role in boosting retention.
What a Chief Happiness Officer Does
What are the main tasks and responsibilities of a chief happiness officer?
A chief happiness officer focuses on improving employee experience. Responsibilities fall within three main areas, as we’ve outlined here:
- Measuring happiness
- Designing plans to increase happiness
- Taking action to increase happiness
We’ll discuss each of them in turn, outlining some responsibilities involved.
To improve happiness, the CHO first has to measure it. The CHO monitors happiness on an ongoing basis.
How do CHOs measure happiness in the workplace?
- Analytical tools
CHOs use analytical tools to study the level of happiness and factors affecting it. For instance, retention and absenteeism can serve as indicators of happiness. The CHO can look for patterns that coincide with changes in happiness within the data.
- Surveys and Conversations
Chief happiness officers spend time listening to workers about their concerns. To understand employees’ feelings, they conduct surveys and interviews. By surveying them regularly, they find out what issues are on their mind.
CHOs can also talk with employees in focus groups or one-on-one to learn more. To find out what will motivate employees to stay with the company, CHOs can hold stay interviews.
Additionally, chief happiness officers can gain input from leaders and managers. Managers may spot trends in employee happiness that CHOs can investigate further.
Using these methods, CHOs look at relationships between happiness and various factors. Here are a few examples:
- Whether workers are taking (and fully benefiting from) their vacation time.
- What types of working arrangements and environment they prefer.
- How much support employees are receiving for career development.
- How appreciated employees feel.
Then, CHOs take action to increase happiness by addressing gaps they detect.
Designing Plans to Increase Happiness
CHOs strategically design initiatives to increase happiness in the workplace. This requires activities such as:
- Developing goals and drafting a strategy for achieving them.
- Discussing plans with other leaders to gain buy-in.
- Making presentations to stakeholders like leaders and boards.
- Soliciting and incorporating feedback from employees and leaders.
- Consulting with leaders on new policies being proposed.
Importantly, CHOs don’t focus on “fluff.” They focus on meaningful changes that shape culture and employee experience. Trendy perks have their place, but they’re not the main drivers of happiness. “Happiness at work comes from doing great work together with great people,” says Sarah Metcalfe, chief happiness officer of Happy Coffee Consulting, in The Guardian. The CHO’s initiatives help make this possible.
Implementing Strategies to Boost Happiness
How do CHOs make their workplace happier?
Their initiatives can span a wide range of categories, as Deloitte points out. Here are some examples of actions CHOs take to improve happiness:
- Developing plans for flexible work arrangements.
- Designing updated approaches to pay and benefits.
- Arranging for career coaching.
- Holding training that promotes inclusivity.
- Setting up personal finance training.
- Sharing strategies for resilience with leaders.
- Setting up workplace retreats and outings.
- Designing reward and incentive programs.
- Launching wellness initiatives.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of tasks. Companies and their CHOs are continuously finding creative new ways to increase happiness.
If adding a new CHO position, make sure it doesn’t duplicate tasks of other roles, notes Deloitte. The description must clearly outline areas where the CHO takes the lead.
Challenges of the Chief Happiness Officer Role
Being responsible for everyone’s happiness can carry a lot of pressure. “Ensuring a whole staff feels good isn’t easy,” writes Callum Borchers in The Wall Street Journal. “And if morale sinks or the retention rate slips, the person with ‘happiness’ in their title is likely to get some of the blame.”
Making things trickier, today’s employees often feel empowered to make tall requests. CHOs may struggle to balance requests for flex time, raises, and wellness benefits, Borchers adds. They must strive to ensure fairness by giving everyone access to the same perks.
Meanwhile, the CHO may also feel obligated to project an aura of happiness at all times. And, of course, everyone has times when they’re just not feeling that way inside.
Successful CHOs have tactics for overcoming these challenges, though, Borchers notes. Some use affirmations and practice remembering what they’re grateful for. They may also have confidants they can turn to when they need to vent about something themselves. Such practices help CHOs project a positive attitude. (Just don’t expect your CHO to be perfect—they’re human too!)
How to Become a Chief Happiness Officer
What are the qualifications of a chief happiness officer? Let’s review the necessary background, attributes, and certifications.
There’s no one-size-fits-all description of chief happiness officer qualifications. Granted, many CHOs have a human resources or management background. However, experience in psychology or the social sciences could well prepare someone for the role. Such knowledge can add a new dimension to HR.
A CHO should also have a strong understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This awareness will help them sensitively address everyone’s needs in a balanced manner.
A chief happiness officer needs certain personal strengths as well. Soft skills required for the position include the following:
- Emotional intelligence
- Communication skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Organizational skills
- Strategic thinking abilities
- Stress-management skills
A sense of humour doesn’t hurt, either.
Many (though not all) CHOs have earned qualifications specific to the role as well. Here are a few popular chief happiness officer certifications:
- The World Happiness Summit (WOHASU) is offering a completely virtual training program from February 3 to 5, 2023.
- The Happiness Business School offers on-demand certification courses and an MBA in organizational happiness.
- The Happiness Research Institute is developing a training program. Qualifications will include a bachelor’s degree and 4–5 years of management experience.
Such certifications can help budding CHOs to fully understand the role. They’ll likely pick up new skills and knowledge from such courses as well.
Tools for a Chief Happiness Officer
A chief happiness officer can make use of analytical tools to assess and improve happiness. Performance management software can reveal patterns in engagement and satisfaction, for example. Has engagement risen since introducing collaborative work sessions? Does that extra week of vacation time lower stress levels? Such tools can answer those questions.
Analytics can also help monitor the ROI on investments in employee happiness. When implementing a new idea, the CHO can establish a baseline and track the results over time. Then, the chief happiness officer can clearly share the results with other leaders.
Today, organizations are more aware of the importance of job satisfaction than ever. Chief happiness officers can help ensure that employees love their jobs and enjoy coming to work. Through cultural changes and catering to employees’ needs, they’ll create a happy and thriving workplace.
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