What is Employee Engagement and Happiness

Tony Latter | 3rd August 2021

The Happiness Index is the first platform in the world which allows you to measure your employee engagement AND happiness. We think this is really important because it helps you understand how your people think and feel – giving you a holistic view of company culture. 

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what the difference is, or why you should care about both. 

Let’s deep-dive into the definitions and why you should care. 


What is Employee Engagement?

When HR professionals talk about Employee Engagement, sometimes they’re talking about culture and sometimes they’re talking about productivity. What we mean by engagement is how connected people feel to their work. 

There are different drivers of employee engagement. We describe these as neuroscience themes. They are meaning and purpose, role clarity, personal growth, and enablement. Depending on your team and the way they think, feel and behave, these different factors will play different roles and look different. For example, for some people role clarity is key, and they prefer to have clearly defined areas of responsibility, while others like to be able to get involved in different projects. 

In our neuroscience model, there are two brain types which influence employee engagement and they are Reflective and Emotional. 

Why is Employee Engagement Important?

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%. (Gallop)

It’s hard to understate the importance of employee engagement. Engaged employees are not only likely to perform better individually, but they’re also more likely to stay at your organisation. Something that is particularly important as we enter into “The Great Resignation”. 

At The Happiness Index we believe that your biggest asset as an organisation is your people. Attracting and retaining key talent is likely an important part of your people strategy. In 2018 Facebook did a study into their employee engagement data and found that those who stayed found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers. Employee engagement is all about helping ensure your people are enjoying their work. Giving them clarity, purpose and personal growth will create thriving, engaged teams. 


What is Employee Happiness?

Often when we think of happiness we think about mood. In the workplace, this is a little simplistic. This is because mood fluctuates, and nobody’s happy all the time. In fact, being happy all the time is as much a mental health issue as being sad all the time. The sweet doesn’t taste as good without the bitter, right!?

When we think about happiness in the context of work, we think about 4 different neuroscience themes. These are safety, relationships, acknowledgement and freedom. You can put these into a pyramid similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In order to be happy we first need to feel safe. Then we need relationships within the workplace and to feel needed and appreciated. Finally, a sense of freedom is important too. 

These neuroscience themes feed into two brain types. The Happiness brain types are Instinctive and Emotional. 

As a business leader, it can be easy to get caught up in the bigger picture. But, thinking about whether your people feel safe and appreciated can go a long way to making them feel happier in the workplace. Our own global study into workplace happiness backed this up. It concluded that the number-one factor which impacts workplace happiness is “Feeling valued and recognised”.

Why is Employee Happiness important?

Happy employees are 13% more productive. (Oxford University)

Despite how it may seem initially, happiness is not a fluffy metric. In fact, study after study shows that happiness is linked to the bottom line. Not only are happy employees more productive, but organisations with happier employees excel on the stock market even when other factors are controlled for. 

The pandemic has had a big impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Happiness is likely to have been impacted, which will undoubtedly impact on the performance of your people. Collecting quantitative and qualitative data on your employee happiness, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your people. 

Of course, it’s not all monetary. Looking after your people is also ethically the right thing to do!


So far we’ve talked about employee engagement and happiness and the different factors that go into creating a happy and engaged workplace. We believe that all these factors play together to create thriving workplace cultures. Ultimately, this means you’re creating the best possible environment for your team to achieve your goals. 

As you can see below, the different areas, or neuroscience themes, feed into brain types and then into Employee Engagement and Happiness. From here you can build a thriving culture. 

The Thriving Culture pyramid shows neuroscience themes feeding into brain types feeding into happiness and engagement which builds to create thriving culture.


We believe that happiness and engagement are two sides of the same coin. Our brains are evolved to need both

We often talk about employee engagement and happiness as being parts of the same car. Engagement is the Sat Nav and happiness is the fuel. Engagement gives us direction and happiness creates energy. It’s one thing knowing where you want to go, it’s another to have the energy to take you there! 

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