The ROI of Happiness: Spreading the News across Germany

Dr. Nico Rose - Handelsblatt CFO KongressI am super-happy today. Just came back from back-to-back talks on Positive Psychology / Positive Organizational Scholarship in Frankfurt and Munich. On Tuesday evening in Frankfurt, I spoke to a group of about 50 CFOs at a convention hosted by Handelsblatt, one of Germany´s premier financial news outlets. I was a bit nervous since, a) it was a dinner speech and I am not that experienced in giving speeches without a PowerPoint presentation; and b)  I am obviously not a CFO myself – all participants were much older and more advanced in their careers than I am right now. Nevertheless, people were listening attentively and I received a lot of positive feedback. These were my ten main points to convince the financial leaders that investing in their employees´ happiness will bring them a solid financial return:

  1. Compensation: Happy employees are more intrinsically motivated and therefore need less extrinsic motivation. In turn, a happy workforce helps to keep personnel costs at a reasonable level over time.
  2. Health: Happy employees are sick less often, and if they are, return to work after fewer days. This helps to keep healthcare costs in check.
  3. Retention: Happy employees stay with companies for a longer time and create positive word-of-mouth. This helps to keep save costs concerning the functions of employer branding, recruiting, and training.
  4. Cooperation: Happy employees typically display more positive self-regard and therefore are better at handling conflict and situations that entail negotiation.Dr. Nico Rose - Handelsblatt CFO Forum
  5. Engagement: Happy employees display more organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and therefore are willing to take on responsibility over and beyond their role descriptions and department boundaries.
  6. Innovation: Happy employees are more creative on average. This may foster innovation processes.
  7. Problem-solving: Additionally, they will find solutions to existing problems faster and more frequently.
  8. Meaning: Happy employees experience more meaning at work – which is one of the strongest drivers of motivation and engagement.
  9. Contagion: Happy employees will make other employees happy (at least: happier) by way of emotional contagion, potentially creating an upward-spiral of emotional well-being in the workplace.
  10. Customer Satisfaction: Happy employees will make your customers happy – via their motivation, exceptional engagement, and emotional contagion as well.

Since I was talking to CFOs, I closed my speech by referring to an article from the Journal of Financial Economics. In a paper titled “Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices”, Wharton´s Alex Edmans was able to show that a fictional stock portfolio build out of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America’’ (as a proxy for companies whose employees are highly satisfied) has significantly outperformed carefully selected benchmarks on a yearly basis between 1984 and 2009. Ain´t that nice? They day after in Munich in a very stylish old movie theater, I spoke about Positive Psychology in general to 160 people working for the German branch of the Bonnier Group, a Scandinavian publishing house. Hopefully, this gave them tons of ideas for new books on Positive Psychology here in Germany. 🙂 Since this was my wife´s birthday and I couldn´t be home that day until dinner, I asked my audience to sing “Happy Birthday” for her – and they did. Thank you, kind people at Bonnier…

Foto credits: Euroforum / Handelsblatt

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