No, the Chief Happiness Officer is not the Pizza Guy!

Smiling PizzaAs Positive Psychology has been entering mainstream media outlets over the past years, there have been people advocating for the implementation of ”Chief Happiness Officer” (CHO) role (sometimes also: Chief Wellbeing Officer) in organizations, typically as part of the wider HR/People Operations department. And while I fully endorse the idea in general (as there is a very distinct connection between employee happiness/wellbeing and organizational success, please see this article for an overview) I get really frustrated when reading what this role supposedly is all about. Here´s a selection of what I´ve read in several news outlets and blogs over the past weeks:

  • ordering pizza, ice-cream, massages and the like;
  • organizing office parties;
  • organizing trainings;
  • helping with relocation;
  • helping to individualize workplace furniture and design;

Excuse me – but are you f…..g kidding me? This is the description of a team or human resources assistant. We don´t need a CHO to achieve these things…

The Chief Happiness Officer is not the Pizza Guy!

A CHO that really deserves the C in her title would be a strategic role out and out, someone who reports directly to an organization´s CHRO or even CEO, as employee wellbeing has been shown to impact the bottom line in a pretty direct way. A CHO, the way I see it, should have a least 10 to 15 years of experience in different HR functions (e.g., leadership instruments, employer branding, payroll etc.) and should also have gained some experience in more operational roles to know about the “pain points” of the employees she´s responsible for. She would have (at least) a master´s degree in a field like organizational/occupational/positive psychology, or even an MBA with a specialization in one of those areas – and several years of experience in a leadership role. Increasingly, expertise in predictive data modelling could also be helpful, but I guess this could be delegated to a specialist. The role should be responsible for or at least significantly involved in the following processes and functions:

  1. strategy and mission development;
  2. leadership culture, development and instruments;
  3. training initiatives, especially on leadership;
  4. development of career tracks and work-time models,
  5. performance management including compensation & benefits;
  6. employee surveys, predictive analytics and other (big) data initiatives;
  7. employer branding, recruiting, and retention management;
  8. corporate health initiatives;
  9. workplace design;
  10. internal communications.

Only, if the CHO role is able to significantly influence all these tasks and processes in a concerted approach and is part of (or has regular access to) the company´s top management, it would be possible to leverage the valuable insights that Positive Psychology and especially Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) have generated over the last 20 years. Image Source

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