What’s Your Company’s Gross National Happiness?

Bhutan is a small country that measures its progress through happiness. Here's what your business can learn from them.
Author, Profit First
April 02, 2012

Nearly every day you hear reports on our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Stocks soar or collapse depending on the media—after all, if our country isn’t making and selling stuff (stagnant or depleting GDP), we are in real trouble...times are going to be tough. Conversely, if we crank up our productivity (growing GDP), and make and sell more stuff, times will be great. Right? Wrong.

Bhutan, a little country east of India, just may be the smartest country in the world. They measure their country’s progress based upon “Gross National Happiness.” In other words, they measure progress not by how productive their people are, but instead by how happy they are. In 1972, the Bhutan government started to develop a system for measuring the happiness of their people. The basic elements they measure in individuals are: economic wellness, environmental wellness, physical health, mental health, job satisfaction, social happiness and political wellness.

This is what every country should be after for its people: balance, health and happiness. Unfortunately, not only do most countries just focus on the bottom line (GDP), most companies do too. I suspect yours is included. Instead of just measuring your people (and company) by revenue and profit, try adding these “Bhutanian” measurements:

  • Economic strength. How do your employees' salaries compare to the competition? Are you below the average or above?
  • Environmental wellness. How healthy is your space? Cramped in dark, cubicles or open, with natural light and comfortable?
  • Physical health. How much sick time do employees take? Can you offer in office benefits like massages or a relaxation room?
  • Mental health. How much stress does your team experience? Can you dump your worst (nagging) clients? Maybe that relaxation room will have another benefit!
  • Job satisfaction. You think this would be an easy one, yet many business leaders feel that if someone has a job, they should be satisfied. How can you adjust the job so your employees love what they do?
  • Social happiness. Do your people like and respect the other people they work with? Do they like and respect you?
  • Political wellness. Does your team feel like they are listened to when you consider business decisions? Do they feel that you have the companies best interest in mind, or just your own wallet?

I am not saying you need to ignore the bottom line. Cash is the lifeblood of your business, and without it you are certainly dead. But don’t forget, it happens to be your people who bring in all that money. Instead of measuring just your GDP, start measuring your GNH, too!