The World happiness report 2017. What creates a happy society.

22 Mar

Happy culture

The World happiness report 2017 has provided a wealth of information that social engineers, economists and Governments can learn from. We now have the ability to share and compare data from 155 countries around the world. Why does one country score higher than another on the happiness index and what can we learn from this


How is this done?

Out of the 155 countries roughly 1,000 participants from each population is asked a series of questions based on life evaluations on subjective wellbeing.The questions can come in different formats.

  • A binary 1 or 0 answer. 1 for true 0 for false
  • A Cantril ladder question ” Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

How do we measure subjective wellbeing

The OECD provided guidelines on measuring Subjective wellbeing in 2013. This definition of subjective well being covers 3 areas.

  1. Life evaluation-a reflective assessment on a person’s life or some specific aspect of it.
  2. Affect-a person’s feelings or emotional states, typically measured with reference to particular point in time.
  3. Eudaimoniaa- a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or good psychological functioning.

The 6 key foundations to a countries happiness.

So in trying to define how we can measure a countries happiness, it was decided that there were six key areas that mattered. Once the data was collected and collated a uniform picture would develop of each countries level of happiness.

  1. GDP per capita
  2. Social support
  3. Healthy life expectancy
  4. Social freedom
  5. Generosity
  6. Absence of corruption

Before we get into the six different foundations of happiness and how they vary internationally. Let us look at some of the discoveries that came from the latest research and reporting on happiness.

There is no happiness set point.

For years researchers believed that everyone had a set point of happiness that rarely moved. You could have a set point happiness score of 5.8 out of 10 and then win the lottery and your score would rise to 7.9 quite quickly but then you would return after a period of time to your original 5.8 set point.

Four independent lines of evidence point towards this. This is especially evident in the migration of populations into new environments and adapting new set points in the new country comparable to the residents of their new rather than old country.

What else matters?

What also was learned was

  • That the existence of positive emotions matters much more than the absence of negative ones. Trying to eliminate the negatives without supplementing your life with positives does not have the same impact on wellbeing.
  • That freedom and generosity have a large impact on positive affect.
  • There is much evidence that those who have happier lives are more likely to “live longer, be most trusting, be more co-operative and be generally better able to meet life demands” this will feedback to improve health,GDP,generosity,corruption and sense of freedom.
  • Average Life evaluation in top 10 countries are twice as high as the bottom 10.
  • The GDP of the top 10 countries is 25 times higher than those in the bottom 10. Who said money does not matter.
  • With scoring out of a possible 10. The gap between the top 10 countries and the bottom 10 was a huge 4 point gap. Norway scored a 7.537 in number one position and Syria scored a 3.462 in 152nd place. The reasoning is quite evident.

Who are the happiest and unhappiest?

  1. Norway  (7.537)                      155. Cen Afri Rep(2.693)
  2. Denmark (7.522)                    154. Burundi (2.905)
  3. Iceland  (7.504)                       153. Tanzania (3.349)
  4. Switzerland (7.494)                152. Syria (3.462)
  5. Finland   (7.469)                      151. Rwanda (3.471)
  6. Netherlands (7.377)               150. Togo (3.495)
  7. Canada    (7.316)                     149. Guinea (3.507)
  8. New Zealand (7.314)              148. Liberia (3.533)
  9. Australia  (7.284)                     147. South Sudan (3.591)
  10. Sweden   (7.284)                      146. Yemen (3.593)

Here are the findings.


Maslows Pyramid of hierarchical needs proves that if people have not had their basic needs met then they cannot concentrate on happiness or self actualisation. Being in poverty allows little time to concentrate on what increases wellbeing and a positive life evaluation. So GDP does matter but on its own will never complete a picture of happiness.

Economic performance is the key foundation to Economic growth. Those countries with higher level of trust can see stronger levels of growth that can permeate positively through society once good governance is present.

Social support


If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?  was the question asked of individuals a binary 1 or 0 was the answer given.

Having someone to count on has a very large impact on our wellbeing even when everything else is taken into account. With this in mind 99% of the Icelandic population reacted positively to this question. The Irish populace did the same. Two countries that only 8 years previously fell into economic collapse. This accompanied by good governance in both countries allowed them to take the number 3 and 15 slot respectively. Positions that would seem should have been lower rankings.

For a country to have 10% more of its population with someone to rely on is the equivalent  to a doubling of its GDP. Increase your social supports and you may as well have doubled GDP. It is hard to feel happy when you have a huge sense of loneliness and no one to turn to.

Healthy life expectancy.

Social support is important as is a wide range of social connections. A Swedish study by Rosengren found that exposure to stressful events sharply increased subsequent mortality among previously healthy men. The risk was almost entirely eliminated for those who felt they had high levels of emotional support.

Those with a broad range of social contacts have a much lower susceptibility to a common cold virus. In an experimental study it was discovered that those with enduring conflicts were more than twice as likely to develop a cold when exposed to a cold virus.

Generosity also plays a big part to play in happiness. Generosity benefits physical health with a variety of studies proving that the health benefits are greater for the giver.

Also global evidence that significant links between social trust and health status. High inequality in income has an effect on health status. Social Support and volunteering also play a major part in a nation’s health.

Social Freedom

The question asked was “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to do with your lives? The Answer again was a binary 1 or 0.Maybe more scope for greater information on people’s freedom is needed here. The variations across countries was large ranging from a lowly 26% to a high of 98%. If a country was able to increase their social freedom score by 10% it would be the equivalent of a growth of 40% in GDP  which is a remarkable return on creating a society with greater living choices. For many countries like Denmark, Norway, Germany, Finland and Sweden where education is free to all. The ability to make life choices on careers and learning that other countries can not provide makes a marked difference to the way the populace view their future and the autonomy they are given to design it.



The question put to participants was “Have you given money to a charitable cause in the past 30 days? In richer societies this is an easier option with greater disposable finances to contribute with. When collating data it was adjusted for income effects so that they can be sure that the effect is not a consequence of higher incomes. By doing this it also increases the estimated effects of per capita incomes.

Generosity also plays a big part to play in happiness. Generosity benefits physical health with a variety of studies proving that the health benefits are greater for the giver. Which could also be born out by policy advisor Simon Anholts research into the countries that do more good for other countries in the world. The top five are….

New Zealand
All top 15 countries. Doing good makes you feel good.

An increase by 10% in populace donations would provide an equivalent boost of 25% GDP. Subjective wellbeing research shows that in all cultures even from early childhood people are drawn to helping others and when they do they are happier.

Corruption,trust and good governance.

Two questions are asked here and they relate to corruption within in business and government in their respective countries. Just like within the workplace trust is important. High trust societies are happier places to live.

Norway has an open and transparent society on the most part everyone’s tax returns and salaries are open for everyone to see online at Skattetaten, even the Royal family.

If you decreased by 10% the number of the population that thought corruption was a problem it would garner an equivalent rise in GDP by 20%.

It is noted that good governance enables countries to sustain or improve happiness. Norway has weathered a downturn in oil prices by extracting oil supplies slowly over a number of years rather than extracting and selling all reserves.Maintaining a purse for all it’s citizens . For while other countries have struck oil and then binged on the revenues, by contrast Norway is continuing to invest its oil and gas money in a giant sovereign wealth fund.
The fund, worth about $800bn (£483bn), owns 1% of the entire world’s stocks, and is big enough to make every citizen a millionaire in the country’s currency, the kroner. In effect, it is a giant savings account.
Allowing them to ride out any storm that oil prices may be causing.

People are more satisfied in countries with greater governance.

In conclusion

The potential benefits from improving the social foundations of wellbeing are enormous. Danish Researchers have calculated that those who are 15 years or more in the same community see decrease in the possibility  of a U-shaped dropped in happiness in mid-life in comparison to those residing in a community for shorter periods.

Social support does matter to overall wellbeing and health. Provide greater opportunities for this and see happiness rise within communities. An equivalent doubling of GDP.

Provide people with free education provides greater sense  of social freedom. Denmark , Germany, Finland , Norway and Sweden provide all this. While many of the unhappier countries are poorer and can not or do not provide any education or third level options for life choices.

In the top 10 countries life evaluations average 7.4 on the 1-10 scale. While the bottom 10 average is 3.4 such a large differential generally scoring low on all 6 areas.With GDP Life expectancy through health and lack of social support being the greatest contributors to unhappiness. Target these and happiness will slowly increase. Also it was noted that changing the focus from income to happiness greatly increases ways of improving the lives of the unhappy.

Improve social support, generosity and a trustworthy environment  like many of the northern European countries and Canada experience and everybody wins.





Happiness at work 2017- Do we even want to work.

21 Mar

Today is the World happiness report was published. A report that was first published in 2012. The happiest country in the world this year is Norway just piping Denmark to the top spot. Denmark have had the crown more times than any other country but second place this year is still a great achievement.

Within the report Jan-Emmanuel De Neve( Oxford University) and George Ward(LSE) produced a comprehensive world report on happiness at work.  I have outlined below a few of the main points that they have discovered from their research.

Unemployment has a wider affect than expected.

We all know that being unemployed has a detrimental effect on our ability to provide for ourselves and our family but also in providing a sense of purpose to our existence.

The research completed by Jan-Emmanuel and George showed that high unemployment affects everyone negatively. Including

  • That individuals who are unemployed report approximately 30 per cent more negative affective experiences as opposed to those in employment.
  • People do not adapt much if at all to being unemployed.
  • Returning to work after a period of unemployment leaves scarring and can lead to lower happiness than those who have not lost employment at any stage.
  • Employment matters greatly for the wellbeing of individuals.
  • High unemployment in a society can have an indirect effect on those with jobs as this creates anxiety and heightens fear about job security.
  • Unemployed people are less affected by higher unemployment as the social stigma may be lessened and it is also easier to find social contacts.
  • High national unemployment contributes negatively to national happiness.

Are Self employed Happier than full time employees?


This is interesting

  • Self employment in Latin America the Caribbean and Sub Saharan Africa reported lower life evaluations.
  • In comparison those that were self-employed in Europe, North America, Australia New Zealand, Commonwealth states and East Asia associated Self employment with a higher life evaluation and a positive affect. Greater Autonomy and social safety nets in these structures might have a part to play in these differences.
  • Being self-employed has also higher levels of negative emotions such as stress and worry.


Blue or White Collar who is happier?

Well the report noticed that there is a difference between jobs that required physical exertion and manual  labour and those that worked in professional environments.

  • Construction workers, manufacturing, Forestry and fisheries workers, Transport and  Mining workers all experienced lower levels of happiness than their counterparts.
  • Professionals, Managers, Executives and officials scored themselves a little over 6 out of 10  when evaluating the quality of their lives in comparison to 4.5 out of 10 on average for those working in farming Fisheries and forestry.
  • But the interesting comparison is that farming, forestry and fishing in North America, Australia and New Zealand reported equal if not higher life evaluations to their professional counterparts.
  • Where you live and what support you have matters.

Satisfaction and Engagement at work

sleep well

Here are some facts that we already knew but are interesting all the same.

  • By this Gallup poll it was a bleak picture that was painted when we looked at employee engagement. Less than 20% of workers were  actively engaged at work. Only 10% in Western Europe and even less in East Asia.If We round that off to 85% internationally for disengaged workers. The Figures are staggering.
  • A reference was made to The Bryson and Mckerron report that had individuals through an App relay what they were feeling and what they were doing at random times during the day as their smart phone pinged them. Out of the 39 activities that individuals could report engaging in work was rated lower than any of the other 39 activities with the sole exception of being sick in bed as worse. That says a lot.People would rather be doing any of the other 37 activities than working.
  • Senior professionals recorded a higher job satisfaction rating than any other job type.This may equate to pay and conditions and benefits available.

Money matters

The report found that higher wages are predictive of greater wellbeing. Those in higher paying jobs are more satisfied with their lives than those in the lower paid roles. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is being met here and not for others. There is also higher levels  of self actualization available in certain roles.

What is important beyond income?

What was discovered was that there are six areas after money was no longer an issue that mattered.

  1. Variety within a role  and the ability to learn new things leads to more satisfied workers who experience more positive emotions day-to-day.
  2.  Social capital or support from co workers a feeling that your boss or others are looking out for you.Also having a say in regards to policy decisions made by the organization.
  3. Autonomy- The ability to control their working day and make decisions that matter to what they do.
  4. A balance between work and life. Those that have a job that leave them too tired to enjoy the non work elements of their lives report lower levels of positive affect. Less time with family and having to bring their job home also contributes to lower levels of subjective wellbeing.
  5. A role with good opportunities for advancement and opportunity leads to greater satisfaction.
  6. The competence of bosses has been shown to be a strong indicator of job satisfaction.

Consequently those with Jobs that involved risks for health and safety scored worse on measures for subjective wellbeing.

With such low levels of employee engagement(less than 20%) there is still a lot to be done to make work feel relevant to many people. Simply put if people were financially stable and working for money was no longer an issue people would most likely spend their day quite differently.

So money does matter but so does control over the working day. A balance between work and non work experiences. An opportunity to experience self actualization in work through advancement and learning and a feeling that someone in your workplace is looking out for you.

Get some of these right and we might slowly move the desire by many of the worlds workers to be anywhere but work.

The Happy Workplace Programme

17 Feb


Dates: March 23rd and 24th, May 4th and 5th

A happy workplace leads to greater productivity and tangible business results. This programme is about placing people at the heart of what your managers do.

What You Will Learn

Based upon our own practical experience at Happy, and learning from some of the world’s great workplaces (like Google and WL Gore) this programme will enable you to become a leader that people would choose to be led by. It will give you the personal insight and practical leadership and management skills to create a high performing team.

Key Outcomes

Credible leaders and managers that inspire trust
An agile and responsive organisation working within clear values and principles
Greater trust and autonomy for your people
High performing teams working to their strengths and to a common goal
A more engaged and motivated team
High levels of accountability within the team, enabling them to deliver high quality on time
Greater innovation and greater productivity
Detailed programme outline

Day OnePersonal Leadership The core of an effective culture
Understand when people work at their best
Who you are as a leader: play to your strengths
Build trust and credibility
Identify your communication style
Develop your emotional intelligence
You will be excited about your leadership role, with a clear understanding of how to improve your personal effectiveness.

Day TwoPowerful Coaching and CommunicationEffective 1 to 1’s
The core of great management: effective coaching
Empower your people to solve their own challenges
Active listening, the basis of effective communication
How to give positive and constructive feedback
Communication at team level
You will develop key coaching skills and develop strong communication to maximise the effectiveness of the team.

Day Three Create the Right CultureEnable trust and autonomy, within clear guidelines
Create true job ownership
Delegating responsibility
More information equals more accountability
Working to your strengths
Successful recruitment and induction
Discover the structure and practicalities of how to create a truly great workplace.

Day FourPerformance Management in Practice.Create a culture for innovation
Workshop to support real situations faced by participants
Deal with difficult behaviour
Deal with poor performance
Groups will coach each other using the skillslearnt to look for positive steps forward
Personal action plan beyond the programme
This workshop-style day will be based on solving the practical issues you face in your company or organisation

Course dates and pricing:

The dates are 23rd and 24th of Mar and the 4th and 5th of May in Dublin.
The cost is €1,500.
For Happy workplace 2016 attendees we have an Early bird price of €950 for the 4 days
The course will run from 10am until 4.30pm with lunch provided on each day 1pm-1.45pm
Attendees Feedback

“Really well designed and delivered course. Management training/leadership for grown-ups at grown-up organisations.”

Remi Gberbo, General Dental Council

Happy demonstrates how the method for attaining a happy and high achieving workplace is within the grasp of any organisation – provided managers are prepared to be inventive and let go of past certainties.”

Brendan O’Keefe, Managing Director, Epic Ltd

These ideas have energised me and my business to make changes that have increased our bottom line and made people more successful and fulfilled at work”

Simon Perriton, Chief Executive, Just-IT

“If a four day programme on Leadership, coaching and creating a happier workplace is what your organisation needs then sign up below”

The Happy Workplaces 4 Day Programme -sign up here

I look forward to hearing from you. Have a happy week ahead.

Stephen 0874150077

Is there such a thing as Worklife balance?

19 Aug

If you think that your life only happens outside of work and everything within work has nothing to do with Life.. well that’s F@#*ed.

When Stevie Wonder wrote and recorded Songs in the Key of Life at the Crystal sound studios in Hollywood, as he sat in his studio he wasn’t tempted to substitute  the word life for work because he had clocked into work to record the album. To him recording that album was life too. It’s all life. Can’t imagine Stevie clocked in each day either.

Yet we separate Life and work constantly because Life is seen as the good stuff and work represents the drudge and banality of our existence so we can merely have more of the good stuff(Life). We are guilty of separating the two as if neither had any connection to the other. You don’t hand over the keys to life experiences at the door of your workplace when you enter each day and pick them up again as you leave. While sitting at your desk, driving your truck or designing a skyscraper you are wrapped up in all the emotions and reality of your life,neither are separate. If you can cry or laugh while you are work …that is living.

The words we associate with both words also define how we think of them. Work hard, sacrifice, workplace stress, work rate, overwork. There is even a word for death by overwork in Japanese called “karoshi” and in China its called “guolaosi”

Life is affirming, beautiful and wonderful and very much connected with the now.

Yet we use language that connects work to experiences that we would rather avoid.

Work hard- Play hard.. what bullshit. Who thought of connecting the word play with hard. How many schools and nurseries are littered with instructions for younger versions of us to play hard when break time comes around. If play was hard it’s unlikely any four-year old  would ever bother with it.


“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution


Play is fun and as outlined in the Sawyer effect when work becomes play the magic happens. It is when we separate Life and work and play becomes work that our motivators in life are lost and this is when we are most likely to want to treat work as an external to our lives


“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
― Alan W. Watts


On a daily basis we get asked “How is work?” but we rarely if never get asked “How is Life? as if one is easier to answer than the other. Yet both are one. If your life experiences while at work are effecting your relationships and health. Then you may be in the wrong job or with the wrong company. The more you separate the two the greater the resentment for the one you like least appears. The solutions to this will come in another post but the truth is that…..

There is no work life balance, there is only Life. It’s all Life.

Our Happy Workplaces Ireland 2016 conference is announced.

25 Jul

We are delighted to have Kate Gaynor from Advanced coatings on board as one of our speakers at this years event. See what a small company with a big heart can do.

Happy workplaces Ireland 2016

Have a great Monday ahead.



The Sawyer effect

5 Jul

When it comes to work we are either motivated to do the task in hand or not. An orchestra conductor lost in the Beethoven’s 5th is transfixed in the music and the melody of the moment and unless very strapped for cash is not thinking of the financial reward for directing the strings and brass musicians. Neither is the artist lost in the flow of colours, mood and imagination with his easel and paint at hand.

Anyone sitting on the end of a production line repeating the same task throughout their 8 hour shift  rarely experience this. They will only realise this intrinsic motivation when they spend their weekends hiking through a mountain landscape or flying model airplanes at their local club on a Sunday morning.

How do we get excited about tasks that give us little or no internal reward for completing them? The last thing Tom Sawyer wants to do is spend his day whitewashing Aunt Polly’s  800 sq ft fence. Ben arrives and teases Tom about his lack of freedom and having to work. Tom seeing an opportunity to turn the tables and lighten his load tells Ben that not just anyone can do this job. “Aunt Polly is awful particular about the outside” Ben’s desire to whitewash the fence spikes and he offers Tom the rest of his apple and a brass door knob. Tom accepts, and gets rewarded and once Ben gets a chance to paint that fence an internal satisfaction sets in. Soon all Toms friends arrive and before long they are all painting the fence for no other reason than Tom Sawyer instilled the desire to do so. This is the Sawyer effect in action. Turning work into play. Outlined very well in Daniel H Pinks recommended book Drive

The opposite can happen as Mark Leper and David Greene discovered in an experiment the mid 1970’s when they split up three groups of preschool kids who enjoyed spending their free play time, drawing.

Group One was offered a “Good player” certificate with a blue  ribbon and their name on it. They then asked the child if they wanted to draw to receive the reward. The second group were asked if they wanted to draw and if they did they received an unexpected reward of the Good player certificate, this was unexpected. Group Three were simply asked if they wanted to play and received no reward for drawing.

Two weeks later during free play time. The teachers left out markers, pens and paper for students to draw. Group number two and three the unexpected and no reward group drew as much during the free time as they had done previously. But group one who had learnt to expect a reward spent less time drawing during free time. The Sawyer affect had reversed and turned play into work resulting in a drop in desire for what was previously an enjoyable task.

We can harness the positives of the Sawyer effect if we provide workplaces were people feel they have a sense of autonomy over what happens in work. They control the environment and it’s outcomes as much as they can.

  • Are your staff given the tools to do what they are best and play to their strengths each day?
  • Is your workplace a place where people are treated well and fairly and allowed to feel good about themselves?.
  • Do you encourage fun at work and allow people to express their ideas?

Work is work but when we  harness the playful and fun side to it we ultimately change the meaning of work for us.

22 Jun

Jørn Utzon the Danish Architect designed and built the Sydney opera house. Design started in 1957 and building started in 1959 and for Utzon it finished in 1966 with a falling out with the newly elected Liberal government.Davis Hughes the minister for works had little time for the creative arts. He questioned the building, the cost and  withheld payments for work leading to Jørn Utzon’s resignation the project and departure from Australia.

No one had seen a building like this before it pushed the boundaries of design and peoples understanding of modern architecture. It finally opened in 1973.

It was in 1961 that Utzon overcame a design problem while peeling an orange and had his eureka moment. The 14 shells of the opera house would come formed from a perfect sphere, just like a peeled orange.  Jørn changed his design many times before settling on the 14 shells to become the iconic piece of Architecture that was granted UNESCO Heritage status in 2007.


Jørn Utzon’s name was never mentioned at the opening ceremony in 1973 .It was 1999 before Sydney Opera house and Jørn collaborated once again.Utzon never visited in person the finished Opera house.He died in 2008 at the age of 90. His incredible design is a lasting mirror of his creative vision

You might not think the work you are doing today  will resonate with the rest of the world as Sydney Opera house has, but I  imagine neither did Jørn Utzon. Don’t underestimate the impact of your work on others even if you never get to see the results of what you have created.And for those moments of creative stagnation remember that “Oranges are not the only fruit”.

Are financial rewards killing your company? .

15 Jun


In 1949 when Harry Harlow tested his pin hook puzzles on caged monkeys he never expected the result that transpired. Quite quickly the monkeys began finding out how to solve the puzzles and within the space of two weeks became quite adept at it. Here’s the rub, Harlow had not offered the monkeys any incentive or reward for executing the puzzle. Nothing at all , no food or water or the chance to play in a larger cage with other primates. Something else drove the monkeys to complete the puzzle and it couldn’t have been an external factor. Something had stirred inside and led the Monkeys to want to complete the task for no other reason than it felt satisfying. Really!

Twenty years later, in 1969 Edward Deci of Carnegie Mellon took this experiment up a level. Well to the human level. Deci split a number of people into two groups. Lets say Group 1 and Group 2. Deci introduced  the group to Soma puzzles. They are Tetris/Rubiks cube like puzzles. Deci asked them to complete three puzzles. After puzzle two was completed Deci said he was introducing a fourth puzzle, between puzzle two and the start of puzzle three Deci said he had to leave the room and input the data from the results of  first two puzzles into a mainframe computer and would be back shortly. In the room with the participants was a number of magazines the group could read in the downtime if they wished.

Deci left the room and had no intention of inputting results into a computer. He spent the next eight minutes exactly observing the group through a two-way mirror. He discovers that both groups spent on average 3.5 minutes of the eight minutes working with the puzzle pieces trying to work them out.

On day two he mixed it up a little. He told Group 1 that he was providing a reward of $1 (about €7 in today’s money) for each puzzle correctly solved. Group 2 unaware of this,were to complete the puzzles once again with no reward. Again after puzzle two was completed Deci left the room once again for exactly eight minutes on the pretence of  inputting data into the mainframe.  The results were a little predictable but exciting too. Group 1 who had been rewarded monetarily for completing the puzzles had spent more time during that eight minute gap working out how the puzzles aligned. Group 2 were similar as the day before spending roughly 3.5 minutes on average working on the task in the downtime.Here we had the evidence, pay people an extrinsic reward and they will become more interested in the task and ultimately perform better. Money as a motivator works.

On Day three Deci told Group 1( the group that had received the financial reward the day before) that the money had dried up and that there was no financial reward for solving the puzzles today. Group 2 once again were to complete the task as given with no mention of a reward.

Group 1 with their dollars from Yesterday tucked away in their wallets started the task as usual but something changed. In their eight minutes downtime Group 1 spent significantly less time working on the puzzles than the day before. Finding more interest in the magazines provided than the puzzles in front of them. The motivation hadn’t lasted. Take away the financial reward and why would you do something for free.

But it doesn’t end there… Group 2, who had never received a financial incentive over the three days had suddenly by the third day spent longer during the eight minutes downtime than any other day working on the puzzle. Group 2 had now become the group with greater motivation and group 1 had become unmotivated. Lack of financial rewards had demotivated Group 1. But what had motivated Group 2? Was there a link to the Harlow experiments in 1949. Had something internally driven the monkeys to complete the pin and lock tasks and likewise had something internal motivated Group 2 on day three to spend more time working out how to solve a task.

Hang on though! We had witnessed the financial incentive working so maybe we just need to toy around with that. Maybe we need to offer financial rewards consistently and motivation will increase.

tennis balls

Dan Ariely decide to look at this India in 2008. He took 87 participants and spit them into three groups. They then had to perform a series of tasks ,like placing metal puzzle pieces into a plastic frame,throwing tennis balls at a target, a numerical memory game and other cognitive tasks. The participants in their three groups were all provide with various financial rewards for completing the tasks. Group 1 receiving 1 days pay. Group 2 received the equivalent of two weeks pay( nice money in any man’s language). Group 3 received a whopping five months pay on completion of the tasks. The results were astounding. Group 1 and 2’s results were similar but Group 3 who were offered an incredible five months pay as a reward for completing the task performed the worst!! What!!

What had happened here. Would the prospect of receiving a large monetary reward not spur you on to perform better. Apparently not. A few year later Ariely took a similar experiment to M.I.T in Boston and used some  grad students. This experiment involved two tasks. One was a cognitive skill ( adding numbers)that required the use of the brain the other was a simple mechanical tapping skill( an algorithmic task) that required tapping a button as fast as possible.  The students were offered rewards of $60-$600 depending on performance of the tasks.

All students performed well and were rewarded well for the tapping task  the higher the pay the better the performance but once again when money was on the table with the cognitive task just like in India and in Decis 1969 Soma puzzle test it led to a poorer performance.

Money as a motivator does not work as we expected. As in Decis Soma puzzle experiment and in Arielys series of experiment it indicates that finacial rewards lead to lower motivation and poorer performance. It can provide greater incentives in short bursts for jobs that require little cognitive skills like a factory production line or a garment factory worker.

With the rise of automation and outsourcing the jobs that our grandparents would have been employed in are no longer as evident in our societies. Look around your workplace and work out how many jobs involve the need for cognitive attachment rather than the linear robotic jobs of yesteryear and you will realise that the way we work is changing and as we can see from above the way we need to be incentivized is too.

We have spent the last 70 years trying to work out why those monkeys wanted to solve Harlow’s pin lock puzzle and we know its not from an external promise or “If-Then” reward. If it’s not external then the only driver we have left is internal. We have now entered the age of the internal or intrinsic reward and it changes completely, how we view work and what motivates us while we are there..


8 Jun

Gallup have just produced a report on Millennials in the workplace and it has thrown up some very interesting insights into the way that future of work is changing.

Millennial are those born between 1980 and 2000 what are presently in the workplace or are just entering it now. They see the world differently. They are more informed due to their constant connection to information on smartphones and social media. 71% of them get news about national or international issues from the internet and only 3% access newspapers for the same information. This is comparison with 51% of  Generation X’ers relying on the internet for their source of information. Baby boomers drop down to 30% for internet referencing ,mainly relying on television as their source of news with a 50% participation level in this form of media compared to Millennials 15% use of TV for a news source. The way we access information is changing and it is affecting the way we view the world.

Millennials are wrapped in the immediacy of modern life. Emails take too long. Text messages need a quick reply. They live in a world of engagement so they want a workplace that responds to this. So you either tailor the workplace to them or keep the rules that some Baby boomer or Gen Xer thought was only way to keep people in line and ultimately die in the modern world of business.

Here is how the millennial sees the new workplace for them.

Past                                              Future

My Paycheque                                        My Purpose

My Satisfaction                                     My Development

My Boss                                                   My Coach

My Annual review                                My ongoing conversations

My Weaknesses                                    My Strengths

My Job                                                      My Life

Here are the top five factors Millennials look for when applying for a job.

  1. Opportunity to learn and grow
  2. Quality of Management
  3. Quality of Manager
  4. Interest in types of work.
  5. Opportunities for advancement.

With this in mind 50% of Millennials reckon they don’t see a future in the company that they presently work for. When it comes to engagement 55% are not feeling the love at work. So 36% of those Millennials report that they will look for a job with a different organisation within the next 12 months.

The difference in how we see work is evident from the new needs of the workers within and entering our workplaces as outlined above. It is imperative that we cater as organisations to these new needs of a more informed, ambitious and better educated member of the workforce who realises there is no work life balance …it’s all the one.

Just as you have a grasp on how the Millennials are transforming the way we work, think and act….you see Generation Z coming over the hill and realise that sitting still for very long is a thing of the past.


Five Questions to a happier workforce

1 Jun


I will keep this short. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman have a great book “First break all the rules’ Both Marcus and Curt have worked for Gallup in numerous roles . Gallup has for more than 60 years  led as world leaders in the measurement and analysis of human attitudes, opinions and behaviour.

Keeping it brief and without explanation here are 5 questions that every employee within an organisation should be able to answer yes to. If not there is work to be done in reaching that goal of workplace satisfaction and more. Here they are.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment to do my work right?
  3. At work do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

Get five Yes’s from your employees and its Happy days. If not.. talk to your employers and  find out what you need to do to change the result. The answers will give you clearer idea on what you need to do to achieve this. Simple

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