The what, why and how of hiring a ‘Director of Happiness’

Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill

Recently, I came across the job title Director of Happiness and I was puzzled.

What is that? Is that someone whose job is to improve the happiness levels at companies? Again, I was confused. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Sure, that exact job title may not have been around a few years ago, but there is certainly a need for it now with mental health, employee engagement and retention being top priorities in HR.

And why shouldn’t there be a role dedicated to happiness in the workplace? People spend most of their life working – at least 40 hours of their week if not more; employees should be content in some shape or form. After all, the more effort an organisation makes to keep its employees happy, the happier employees are. Plus, they are far more likely to engage more and stay with the company longer. It’s a win win for both sides really.

So what does a ‘Director of Happiness’ or a ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ (CHO) actually do?

First of all, it is not their job to keep people happy 24/7. Frankly, it is impossible for people to be happy 100% of the time. Their role, that is not necessarily a completely new role is like a HR Manager with additional special features. According to Mallory Bartz, it is the job of a CHO to create work environments where freedom can exist and flourish. This means allowing employees to be themselves and fulfil their personal aspirations.

Kiera Lawlor, Director of Happiness at Social Chain, supports the above points and adds that it is her duty to create a fun and enjoyable workplace for staff. She also enforces celebrating all staff achievements, both personal and professional, no matter how big or small. Other important aspects of her job include organising group activities, arranging classes on valuable life skills and creating welcoming spaces that encourage creativity.

Director of Happiness
Social Chain strive to create happiness in the workplace.

Why is there a need for CHOs?

So if the term CHO didn’t really exist a few years ago, why is it more common now? Social Chain believe the role is essential in retaining the ‘specialness’ of millennial employees. The sensitivities that millennials are often teased about are nurtured as part of their values and they wanted to illustrate this through hiring Kiera. Of course, the CHO is also there to help all employees ease the burdens that come with everyday work.

Naturally, some people are cynical and believe this role is just another fad. However, many reiterate the point that employee contentment should exist at every stage of the recruitment process; from recruitment to offboarding. Failure to do so, results in a failure to motivate, engage and retain. While companies are certainly taking culture more seriously, they need to look beyond simply providing a great looking workplace with fun perks.

How you can achieve a happy culture without a CHO

Naturally, not every company can afford or justify having a CHO. However, with a few simple steps, there is no reason why you or your HR team can’t create a happier workplace. Paula Clapon advises the following tips:

  • Treat every employee as a human being. Sounds basic, but many companies don’t do this and it leads to high turnover rates. Treat your employees in the same way you treat customers.
  • Ensure you have the basics sorted first. Before offering fancy office perks, ensure sorting all employee administration asap. Failure to do so will lead to frustration.
  • Give employees a voice. This means listening to employees’ ideas and taking their views and feelings on board.
  • Make your brand values clear. Values are the foundation of a company and they bind together your brand (external) and culture (internal). It’s not enough to state them, but you need to turn them into actionable behaviours.
  • Offer employees freedom. Let employees manage their time and productivity to some extent, as well as personalise their own workspace and implement their ideas.
  • Support growth. This means supporting promising talent to grow within other areas of the company.
  • Encourage an enjoyable environment. This involves employees doing things they find enjoyable in the office, such as having open conversations with colleagues or learning a new skill.

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