Recognise This! – Balancing employee happiness and performance is critical to long-term, sustainable employee engagement and impact.

Earlier this week, I shared insight from Eventbrite Co-Founder and President Julia Hartz on the importance of helping employees understand how they personally and individually contribute to achieving the company vision. In the same interview, Ms. Hartz also tackled a subject I’ve seen more and more in the last few months – should happy employees be our goal? Shouldn’t we, as a business, be focussed on performance and results?

I like how Eventbrite arrived at the answer. In Ms. Hartz’s words:

“We’ve discovered that the common denominator of performance and happiness is impact and so that’s what we’re going to focus on. I realised this was the question that had been plaguing me. I wondered if I had sacrificed productivity at the expense of happiness. I then went back to the drawing board and thought about how you elegantly, subtly and thoughtfully introduce this notion of performance into a culture where people are happy and really enjoy their day-to-day. Granted it wasn’t that we weren’t performing as a whole. Rather it was how do we think about the future and setting the bar even higher? How do we think about velocity, quality and happiness?

“The entire last year we’ve kind of germinated through this notion of performance. We’ve discovered that the common denominator of performance and happiness is impact – and so that’s what we’re going to focus on. That’s where we’re going to put our cards and how we’re going to drive the team.”

This is driving to the balance of recognising the “what” as well as the “how” – understanding that achieving results isn’t enough. We must balance that with the manner in which those results were achieved. In the case of Eventbrite, it’s balancing performance and happiness to arrive at impact.

Impact, to me, is another way of expressing engagement. Employees need to know their daily efforts are contributing to achieving a greater objective or purpose – they are having an impact. This is foundational to employee engagement – understanding what I do has value and, therefore, choosing to give more discretionary effort to achieve desired goals.

You can have a slew of happy employees but no relevant business results. You can also have tremendous results, but nothing but miserable employees. Both models are clearly unsustainable. Find the balance, achieve engagement, and see results sore.

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