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Happiness, meaning and the joy dividend

How joy and the values of employees directly relate to productivity and profit…

As part of the Davos World Economic Forum 2021, which is being held digitally this year rather than taking place at its usual spot in Davos, Switzerland, experts from around the world are exploring ‘Healthy Futures’ as one of the event’s major themes whether that relates to mental or physical ailments. Speaking on 25 January panellists discussed “Pursuing happiness and meaning in the post-COVID world’, reflecting on the importance of agency and happiness across both personal and professional pursuits.

“Even before 2020 and the crazy events of last year, we were able to observe a joy gap,” comments Alex Liu, managing partner and chairman of Kearney Inc. “If you look at research across various demographics, there is an epidemic of mental health issues, stigmatisation and people feeling isolated in a technological world. This, however, has been accelerated over the last year, but going forward it still represents structural opportunity.”

Liu outlines how both he and the scientific community have witnessed a generational shift towards meaning, joy and values in the workplace. The values that a company espouses are of growing importance to potential employees, especially to those that belong to the Millenials, Gen Z and Gen X. The human case, however, and the business case go hand in hand. The joy gap, to which Liu refers, is the notion that while the vast majority of individuals expect to feel joy at work, comparatively few do. Thus, in order to improve business performance, the joy gap must be filled.

“If you can unlock the productivity and latent energy, then that is an incredibly powerful tool. That means employees are satisfied and they choose to stay with the company. It means that you will have better advocates for your products and services, and so you have better customer relationships. It is a win-win if we can get the cultural aspects [of a business] right, supported by the right leadership and values,” continues Liu.

The notion of joy in business has become what is now known as the ‘joy dividend’. Simply put, employees that are happy in their work are better equipped to help the businesses generate income.

While by no means focussed on the superyacht or maritime markets specifically, Liu’s advice is sage no matter the sector. For years now the superyacht market has discussed the issue of high crew turnover and, when crew have spoken about their decisions to leave various boats, cultural issues and mental well being are often cited as their reasons for leaving. Indeed, successful charter operations will often cite happy and engaged crew, with legitimate opportunities for career progression, as being the key to their success.

Crew turnover serves as a relatively crude example of Liu’s findings, however, there is perhaps a more profound and positive note to take from the general development of the superyacht market. Increasingly, it has become clear that the environmental agenda is no longer just a talking point as more and more owners take an interest in developing greener superyacht projects, not to mention how engaged various superyacht businesses are in their own environmental projects.

When you combine the desire to be green with the global uptake in ESG goals, the possibility for individuals to work within superyacht businesses that echo their values further increases, whether that be working on board the yachts themselves, within shipyards or equally within other sectors of the market. It seems that the superyacht market is moving in a direction where the joy gap should feasibly be closing and in doing so employees, no matter the business, will be becoming better ambassadors for the industry as a whole. There is, however, much work still to be done.

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Happiness, meaning and the joy dividend

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