May 15, 2008

Happiness, Human Capital and Enterprise Architecture

As those of you who are regular readers of this blog know, I am a proponent for a human capital perspective for the Federal Enterprise Architecture.

The human capital perspective would provide the people focus, while the business perspective provides the process focus, and the services, technology, and security provide the technology focus.

This would round out the established view of people—process—technology that fields like organizational development and enterprise architecture look to address.

From a human capital perspective, one critical item that organizations would of course look to baseline, target, and transition plan for is money—essentially, how we financially compensate our employees and motivate them with dollars and cents.

However, employees are not only motivated by money. People want to get up in the morning and not dread going to the office. So the human capital perspective can also look at other factors that make people happy, such as employee recognition, professional growth, challenging work, ongoing training, and so on. Making for a happy workforce, improves productivity, attendance, retention, and more.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 2 April 2008, reports that there are three primary factors for making people happy:

  1. Disposition—“whether you are, by nature, a happy person or not—there isn’t a whole lot you can do about this.”
  2. Circumstance—“your age, health, marital status, and income.” Here the organization can impact income, but “this stuff isn’t nearly as important as folks often imagine. If your income doubled, you would initially be delighted. But research suggests, you would quickly get used to all that extra money.”
  3. Activity—“how you spend your time.” Of course, there are “’engaging leisure and spiritual activities,’ things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church [or synagogue], listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafĂ©, or going to a party.” I would add that the organization can also help here by providing employees with challenging but achievable, meaningful, growth-oriented activities. Both the spiritual/leisure activities and the appropriate work activities can all help people to be “happy, engrossed, and not especially stressed.”

The WSJ calls watching something like television “neutral downtime” It’s “low-stress and moderately enjoyable. But people aren’t mentally engaged.” So the benefits are not great. In this case, I would argue that a productive day in the office is more enjoyable than sitting home and vegging in front of the tube (although that occasionally can be therapeutic as well).

The key here is people need to feel engaged, productive, challenged, that they’re going somewhere and that it all has some meaning. Yes, we all need money to pay our bills, but there are other factors in work and at leisure that make for happiness. This is one area where the human capital perspective can play a role.


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