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Measuring happiness and engagement in a global context

Tony Latter | 2nd September 2021

One of the challenges we speak to people about time and time again is ‘measuring employee experience across different locations’. Frequently this includes those with multiple locations such as a head office, warehouses and public facing locations, such as shops, pubs or restaurants. Creating meaningful insights across very different locations and working environments can be hard. This may be amplified when considering multiple locations across different countries, time zones or even continents. 

A Language Barrier

We’ve talked before about why you should measure employee engagement AND happiness. However, when we think in a global context, it is particularly important. This is because although all languages have a word for happiness, it’s not equally easy to translate the concept of employee engagement. 

When we’ve been working to make our platform available in French and Spanish, for example, there hasn’t been one widely used phrase which can be slotted in for employee engagement. This means we have to define and give context to the concept. 

Happiness is a deeply human emotion. Everyone is familiar with it, regardless of their mother tongue. This means it’s a great way of ascertaining how your people are feeling regardless of their location, language or culture.

Cultural differences

Although we work in many areas where the business language is English (for example in India) – culture both inside and outside of work varies a great deal. This is important when it comes to segmenting and analysing your data. But also in terms of understanding differences between locations or individuals. 

A good example of this is the difference between UK and US work norms. While both countries share the same native language, their work cultures vary. An obvious difference is the amount of holiday or vacation time that might be expected. There’s also the case of when people might be expected to be reachable by phone or email. 

By looking at happiness AND engagement, you can start to think more globally about how people are thinking, feeling and behaving within your work force. 

Location, Location, Location

We find that many of the organisations we speak to find it challenging to measure across locations, because the working environment can vary significantly. Sometimes this might not only be due to physical location, but also the type of location. 

For example, it’s often easier to collect data from people in head office. This may be because they tend to work at their computers and so are able to connect to their email via a computer which allows them easy access. The only way to combat this is to ensure that everyone can give feedback whenever and wherever they like. This means allowing people to give feedback 24/7, but also ensuring that feedback can be given on any device. 

We also recommend using signage, QR codes or simple URLs to ensure that people are able to give feedback even if they do not have computer-based jobs. 

People first data

When collecting data for your people strategy in a global context, it’s important to think about what data you’re collecting, and how you’re collecting it. However, another key element to consider is how you’re processing the data afterwards. 

You may need to segment your data to understand the impact that cultural, language and location differences are having. This allows you to understand the data within the real human context.  

However, this can often mean that your people are left uncertain about how anonymous data will be. Within our product we counteract this by only releasing data when there are at least 5 data points within a segment, to help ensure anonymity. 

Global is personal

If there’s one thing we learnt from 2020, it’s that global issues affect all of us, albeit in different ways. Events like George Floyd’s murder, the US presidential campaign and environmental disasters sent shockwaves around the entire world. Everyone was affected by these issues, showing that the workforce truly is global. 

The biggest and most widely studied is the global pandemic. Studies like the Global Happiness Report show that the impact of the pandemic on mental health is global: world-wide there has been a 10% increase in people feeling sad or worried the previous day. However, as the report also highlights, this experience isn’t universal. 

As the popular internet meme explains, the pandemic sent us all into the same storm but in different boats. By way of an example, the report’s authors draw attention to the case of Asia Pacific, where governments in countries like Australia and New Zealand were able to make use of non-medical interventions to reduce cases dramatically compared to other nations. Where there were more lockdowns, like in the UK, there was a bigger impact on mental health. 

Making the global local

We are moving to a more global workforce. Organisations are recruiting top talent from around the world. Cultural diversity is not just a buzzword at the moment – it’s a vital way to ensure that your business is working for your team and for your bottom line. A diverse workforce is more likely to be happy and engaged, as well as more creative and productive. 

Even if you don’t currently have international offices, it’s very likely that many of your people won’t speak English as their first language. This means having a people strategy that works regardless of cultural context or language. It’s also important that your people strategy can grow as you do – to ensure your organisation is future-proofed.

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