How happy is your PR team?

“Even if you are not a naturally empathetic person, the rational, business argument for creating happiness in your company is overwhelming,” says Kevin Murray, chairman of PR firm Good Relations. “There is a huge amount of data that shows that employers with the most engaged workforce get better results, so it is critical for business reasons to check that staff are happy and engaged. You can do this by talking to your people and surveying them, while making sure you are sophisticated in the way that you do this.”

One problem with measuring happiness, as Lizzie Barrett associate director, employee engagement at agency Ogilvy Public Relations, points out, is that happiness is relative: “You’re unlikely to get an entire team completely happy all at the same time, and that’s fine. It’s about ensuring your teams are happy enough to go the extra mile and want to stay. In an industry that has around a 20 per cent turnover rate on average, keeping talented junior staff especially is hard.”

Monitoring happiness at work isn’t just about using complicated research techniques, it also means using common sense. Rachael van Oudheusden, head of PR at bcs Agency, says body language is a good indicator of happiness: “Sloped shoulders and disinterested stares can be early signs, but everybody is different – some compassionate people management may help unearth what makes individuals tick.”

Creating happiness at work
In terms of helping make sure the workplace is a happier, Ogilvy’s Barrett claims most people want to see the following in their place of work:

  • Clear career progression with a commitment to learning and development.
  • Recognition for a job well done – which is more important than a reward for most people.Visible leadership who listen to employees when making a decision that affects them.
  • A belief in the company’s purpose and a clear way to contribute to it.
  • A healthy relationship with their line manager.

bcs’s van Oudheusden adds her tips for making people happy: “Boost morale and encourage happy campers with interesting accounts, staff bonuses and career development opportunities, plus a beer trolley or work socials help lighten the mood.”

Robin Campbell-Burt, director at PR agency Spreckley, thinks that when it comes to making people happier, it is more important to think about their fulfilment, rather than offering transitory rewards: “It is important to give employees a clear sense of purpose and that they are all working together towards a shared objective – something that they all have a stake in and can believe in. People enjoy working a lot more when they know what they are working for and feel part of a wider outfit.”

Good Relations’ Murray also has advice for boosting morale at work, but concludes the most important thing is to have strong managers: “Employees need to feel they are respected and cared for and that they have a voice. They need to believe that their leaders are visible and ethical. Most of all they need engaging managers. It is your direct boss that has most impact on whether you are happy. Leaders of businesses need to spend a lot more time making sure their managers are more engaging, and that they know what they have to do to make employees more inspired.”

Case studies

Measuring up
Helen Wells, talent director at comms agency Teamspirit Group, describes how the firm measures happiness:

“For us, happiness is about ensuring people are able to play to their strengths; develop their skills; know why their work is important to the success of the business; and are recognised and praised. So we ask everyone about these areas and more in our annual survey.

“We also use something called a “Net Promoter Score” a powerful question which allows us to calculate our colleague’s advocacy which is closely linked to how happy they are about working with us. Our current collective score across the company is 8.9 out of 10.
“The most powerful indicator of the happiness of our people is the happiness of our clients. It’s an indicator of how much our clients value our people’s creativity, insight, strategic advice and counsel. In the last six months profits have increased significantly which is testament to the brilliant people we work with doing brilliant things every day.”

Creating happiness
Scott Dylan, managing director at digital agency We are AD, describes how the company builds happiness at work:

“As a people business, we invest a huge amount of energy in making sure our agency is a place that the team feel happy and inspired to work in. From providing a full complimentary breakfast bar to give people the best start to their day, encouraging office dogs and Friday fun at 4pm, where the whole agency comes together to do something outside of their normal remit (so far this has included cheese and wine nights, rounders in the park, cocktail classes and board-game evenings) through to a culture-based recruitment strategy, we're all about getting the right people on board.

“As of late 2014, we've conducted staff research and rebranded as a result – we've also introduced a comprehensive personal development programme and have put the entire agency through agile training. At the end of every week we ask the team to let us know what has been their high points, making sure that we share and celebrate our successes. By working in a very collaborative environment we aim to support each other towards common end goals.”