Summer Reflection: Does HR Contribute to Happiness?

Jul 31, 2015
Blog - Summer Reflection

I believe that contributing to happiness is at the core of the mission of HR. In this post I will sketch out how HR contributes to happiness, and also discuss possible objections.

A. How HR contributes to happiness

HR strategy aims to ensure that HR supports overall business strategy. Whatever a business offers its clients, one factor that will drive higher productivity is the degree of motivation, enthusiasm, teamwork and happiness among employees.

Main steps of the HR life cycle include sourcing and recruiting new employees, supporting the process of giving them clear objectives, evaluating them, providing feedback, supporting employees in their development and rewarding them through compensation. All these functions, when bringing together the right people, rallying them around common objectives, supporting them in learning and personal growth and thereby in achieving their goals, and rewarding them, contribute to people leading fulfilling professional lives.

Beyond looking at the individual steps of the HR life cycle the mission of, for example, an HR Business Partner is also to help line management foster a culture that will bring out the best in team members, to be a coach to employees and to be a trusted sparring partner who can alleviate worries, provide encouragement and mediate conflicts.

B. Possible objections

The following is a short list of possible objections and counterarguments or comments.

‘Business is about money, not happiness’ – while happiness is a worthwhile objective in itself, it also contributes to productivity and therefore to profitability; it is also true that happiness in this context should not be driven only by satisfaction, but also by a positive sense of challenge.

‘HR contributing to happiness may be true in an ideal world, but not in the real world’ – indeed it is not intended to say that the above is realized in a flawless way in the real world, however that does not mean it is not realized at all, or not a thing to strive for.

‘HR is involved in hard decisions, such as letting people go’ – indeed, and in these situations HR can only help mitigate human disappointment and suffering caused by unfortunate circumstances; outplacement programs are among HR instruments that are used.

One might also say that happiness is a difficult to measure state that may mean something different to each of us. Nevertheless such things as a shared purpose and shared achievements, recognition and rewards are considered desirable by many.

Being engaged in a profession that contributes to more happiness makes me happy and is one reason why helping build successful, great-to-work-at organizations is my vocation.