Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News How to Measure and Analyze Happiness

How to Measure and Analyze Happiness

This item in japanese


Companies have reported that focusing on employee happiness can give benefits. But do we know what the things are that make people happy? Bernard Marr, business author and enterprise performance expert, suggests that to know them, we should measure happiness. As he states in his blog post the data geek's guide to happiness in 2013:

When it comes to happiness, why don't we do what we do best as data geeks, collect data on it, analyze it and monitor it! My argument is that this will make you more happy in 2013.

If a company decides to set a goal for happiness, then they should manage their performance towards it by measuring happiness:

(…) unless [companies] measure, analyse and monitor whether they are achieving their goals, these goals just stay fluffy dreams. (…) So, the idea is that by measuring it we are more likely to achieve it. As the old adage goes “You get what you measure!"

According to Bernard, you do not need to create indicators for happiness. Instead you can monitor employee happiness by giving attention to it:

(…) it would be good to start appreciating and being more aware of the different elements that make you happy. It might be a good idea to simply check, maybe once a week, how you are doing.

Companies are interested in measuring happiness, as Laszlo Szalvay, VP of Scrum at CollabNet, states in his blog post happiness metrics:

Happiness Metrics were all the rage (no pun intended) in 2012.  While it sounds really ‘squishy’ and non-empirical, I see this metric coming up again and again with customers I am visiting.

In the blog post happiness metric - the wave of the future, Jeff Sutherland states the benefits they got from measuring happiness:

ScrumInc used the happiness metric to help increase velocity over 500% in 2011. Net revenue doubled.

Why is employee happiness so important? Jeff gives several reasons:

Managers and consultants are telling me that people are getting fed up with being unhappy at work. Younger people in particular are refusing to work in command and control environments based on punishment and blame. (…) The Harvard Business Review devoted a recent issue to Happiness because happy employees lead to happy customers and better business.

Henrik Kniberg explained in 2010 in what is Crisp how happiness is measured, and how they analyzed it and took action when needed:

Now a days one our primary metric is “Nöjd Crispare Index” (in English: “Happy Crisper Index” or “Crisp happiness index”). Scale is 1-5. We measure this continuously through a live Google Spreadsheet. People update it approximately once per month.

Whenever the average changes significantly we talk about why, and what we can do to make everybody happier. If we see a 1 or 2 on any row, that acts as an effective call for help. People go out of their way to find out how they can help that person, which often results in some kind of process improvement in the company.

In the blog post an experiment with delivering happiness, Agile Coach Jason Little describes how he did a session with his team to review what makes them happy, and what not. The team members prepared themselves by filling in a survey which generated a “happiness landscape”. Then they analyzed their data:

[The option selected by the team was:] write down on sticky notes your highlights (purple stickies) where your score was 9 and higher and your lowlights (yellow stickies) where your score was less than 2.

Once we wrote out all the stickies, we clumped them together to look for patterns.  Some of the highlight/lowlight labels are “motivation”, “creativity”, “work-life balance”, “job security” etc so it was easy to do this and patterns jumped out right away.

Next we compared differences where some team members had highlights (score of 9 or 10) and others had the same result listed as a lowlight (score at or below 2).   That helped generated discussions about that topic from different perspectives.

The team decided which actions to take, and the actions were assigned. The lesson learned from this experiment of measuring happiness were: 

This is a powerful tool that generates deep discussions.  I think having such an exercise in a low-trust team wouldn’t be as successful as it was for us.  I also learned many of the same things make all of us happy.

Jessica Piikkila, a Product Owner and Scrum Master, shares the results of a company wide happy survey experience that she did in 2012, in the blog post  SevenTablets first happy meter results:

We (…) ended up with an overall score of  4.4 out of a perfect 5.0  with an accuracy level of about 86% confidence.  In addition to the ratings, about 80% of the members that did participate in the survey results provided suggestions on what we should either ‘stop doing’ or ‘start doing’ in order to benefit the team and/or company overall.

A survey of 7 questions was sent out to all employees. On average it took 3 minutes to complete it. The comments from the employees were reviewed and prioritized by the management team, shared with all employees, and discussed with them.

In her blog she gives a list of the lessons learned from measuring happiness. Some of these lessons are:

Trust: an environment where employees feel safe to speak freely is almost required in order for this survey to really have an impact

Buy-in: if management or leadership is not going to support the quest to happiness, then the best you can do is maintain this culture at a group/team buy-in level

Repeat: we must perform this survey again after we have tried to make improvements to the workplace

Do you measure happiness? Which benefits did it bring your company, and what did you learn from doing it?


Rate this Article