Since what we measure matters a lot for performance, it is important to measure what really matters. Though happiness is the ultimate goal of life and research shows a positive impact of happiness on performance, there is a lack of the inclusion of happiness in the performance measurement systems. It is time to include happiness in the performance management systems and to start happiness accounting.
Search for Happiness: We are in search of happiness for a long time. Democritus, a philosopher from Ancient Greece, was the first philosopher in the western world to examine the nature of happiness (Kesebir & Diener, 2008). In India, happiness has its origins, most probably in the Vedic age (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE), much before Buddha (Pillania, 2020). From the vast treasure of literature on happiness available in India, here is a derived sutra based on India's Puranic Wisdom.
Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu,
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
Translation: May everyone be happy, May everyone be free from all diseases, May everyone sees goodness and auspiciousness in everything, May none be unhappy or distressed Om peace, peace, peace!
Happiness as Goal of Life: Centuries ago, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle put it rightly “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” This is right in even today’s context as other aims or purposes ultimately point towards happiness. For example, it is common knowledge people will say they want to have a good education and get a good job to be happy and enjoy life or get a good job and get married to be happy and enjoy life and so on. Or other way around, they will be happy when they have a good education and a good job or when they get a good job and a good promotion, and so on.
Measuring Happiness in Economics: This realization is happening in the disciple of economics, the mother science of business management. Instead of just Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measurement of happiness is also taking place. It started with the concept of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972 when he declared, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” Inspired by the Bhutanese resolution tabled at the UN General Assembly in June 2011, recommending that governments make happiness and well-being a focus of public policy, the United Nations has since declared March 20th to be World Happiness Day, now marked each year by a fresh edition of the World Happiness Report starting from 2012 (Ura, 2020). In India, also India Happiness Report started in 2020.
Impact of Happiness on Performance: There is a lot of research happening on the various impacts of happiness. Research in happiness shows the positive impact of happiness on employee productivity and other benefits. It is a scientifically proven fact that happiness matters for performance. We don’t even need to look at the research. It is common sense; it is what we also observe in our life often that we perform better when we are happy.
Time to include Happiness in What We Measure: Though happiness is one of the goals of life, the measurement of happiness at national levels has started, and research shows the positive impact on performance; we have not yet included happiness in what we measure in the corporate sector. The current accounting system in use was developed centuries ago and is still rooted in the old mindset. It doesn’t include happiness in its measurement. Other measures of performance such as the Balanced Scorecard also don't include happiness as a measure of performance. What we measure matters a lot. People are guided by performance on the parameters that are measured. It is high time we start adding happiness to what we measure in the corporate sector. It’s time we start Happiness Accounting (Pillania,2021).
Take away for HR professionals and time for action: The take away from this article is happiness matters for performance and include happiness in performance measurement systems. Knowing is not enough. What matters is acting on what we know. It is time for action. The right action is to start doing it, start including happiness in the measurement system. And the right time is NOW!
- Kesebir, P., & Diener, E. (2009). In pursuit of happiness: Empirical answers to philosophical questions. In The science of well-being (pp. 59-74). Springer, Dordrecht.
- Pillania, R. K. (2020). India Happiness Report 2020. Gurugram.
- Ura, D. K. (2020). Experience Sharing from Gross National Happiness Bhutan, in Pillania, R. K. (2020). India Happiness Report 2020. Gurugram.
- Pillania, R. K. (2021). Happiness Accounting: It’s Time to Add Happiness to What We Measure, Indian Journal of Finance.