Interview with Laurence Vanhée, Chief Happiness Officer

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Laurence Vanhée, Chief Happiness Officer (www.happyformance.com)

 

How did you become a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO)?

I used to work as a vice president for a corporate HR company. I left the company because I struggled with a burnout for 11 months. After this period of reflection, I promised myself I would never be unhappy at work anymore.

What does a Chief Happiness Officer do?

To me, a CHO is all about change management, company culture and organization. You put employee happiness at the center of the company, along with performance. A CHO thinks along with the CEO and management about how to combine these two. But in the end, you give employees the freedom to make certain choices regarding tools, time management, offices, devices, etc. You give them the responsibility.

Have you encountered criticism or mockery regarding your title as CHO?

In the beginning, yes. I started out in 2011 and it wasn’t easy. I had to fight off the jokes until’ I started showing them results and KPI’s. That quickly changed their minds (laughs)! Less absenteeism, more retention, a better corporate branding to attract talent, more creativity, … What kind of company would resist these results? Of course, some people find it too hard to change certain habits and don’t want to participate. But we give them an opportunity to be heard and to be seen, and if they don’t want to change, it’s their choice.

What are 3 characteristics of a good CHO?

A CHO is not just a feel good manager!

I see a lot of CHO’s popping up in companies in France. They usually organize activities that focus on fun. To me, a CHO is much more than that. You need to have a strategic mind, you need a lot of courage and you have to be honest. You have to believe that what you’re doing is changing the company for the best. It takes a lot of energy and it isn’t always easy. It’s often a systemic and holistic approach. If you change one shackle in a company, it will have an effect on another shackle. Especially in the managerial world, it’s not easy to change rigid hierarchic structures.

Can you give us an example of how the CHO-philosophy changed something?

I used to work with a very talented woman. She was my right-hand colleague. She had so much potential but she was being left behind in the organization because she did not have the right degree. I did not want to lose her, but I told her to look for a job outside the organization. Today, she’s a manager of a crematory and she and her team have just won an award for best crematory in the world.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of 3 questions: what am I good at? What do I love? And what’s useful for the company?

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Thank you Laurence! Find out more about her work as a CHO on www.happyformance.com

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