Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why the happiest companies are so happy

It’s that time of the year again, about that time when most of us have started counting down the days until our upcoming holiday break. Whether it’s for a few weeks or just a few days, it will pass quickly and that first day back to the office will be a somber one.

But, what if you worked at a company where you looked forward to coming back after vacation? A place where you thought twice about taking a vacation because you enjoyed being in the office so much?

Business coach Gill Corkindale brought up those questions and others regarding happiness at work in an article I recently came across on the Harvard Business blogs. She explains how more companies in the U.S. and U.K. are taking happiness at work very seriously, despite the economic recession.

“As a business coach, I've noticed that more and more managers and leaders are expecting to derive more happiness and satisfaction from their work. They are often young, talented and successful people who view their jobs as routes to self-actualisation. Yet this shift in the purpose of work raises many questions: how much satisfaction are we entitled to derive from work? And should employers be expected to provide meaning and happiness as well as a job and salary?”


Companies are taking happiness into their own hands, and doing so with clear business motives in mind. In the article, Gill points out a research paper from a Wharton finance professor who found that U.S. companies with the happiest employees performed “notably better” financially than lower-ranked companies.

Moreover, happiness has been scientifically proven to extend our life expectancies, keep us healthier and improve productivity at work.

“Employee satisfaction is a very effective motivational tool and a powerful method of retaining key employees.”

One IT training company in the UK, aptly named Happy, has won a number of awards for being one of the most inspired places to work and for its strong focus on employee and customer relations.

Along with the power of play, happiness can help companies become a better and more enjoyable place for leaders, employees and customers to prosper. Here are just some ways Happy gets to be so happy:

  • Create a positive work environment. In most companies, managers spend more time correcting employees on what they’ve done wrong than telling them what they’ve done right. Remember to tell employees ‘thank you’ for doing a great job from time to time.


  • Freedom. It’s much easier to be creative without a manager standing over your shoulder watching your every move. Give employees your trust and the freedom to be creative in their everyday work.


  • Outline clear expectations. Ensure that every employee under your roof knows what is expected of them and how to reach those expectations. Whether you use employee performance reviews or not, make sure employees are working toward clear goals.


  • Feedback. “Feedback is crucial to job ownership,” says Gill. Make sure employees are hearing feedback from internal as well as external sources so they can take ownership in their work. Try using the 5 cent feedback experiment if you’re having trouble.


  • Develop skills with training. Recruit talented people who show a positive attitude and then give them the training to develop their skills within the organization. Training is just one way to improve employee engagement and boost morale.


  • Celebrate mistakes. “Saying 'I got it wrong' is a sign of responsibility and an indication of an honest and open corporate culture,” says Gill. “If people haven't made any mistakes, they probably haven't tried anything new.”


We want to know - What do you do to make your company a more enjoyable place to work? Would you use ‘happy’ to describe your office environment?

1 comment:

Training ice breakers said...

Nice artcile. Let me also add that the best form of motivation is not the one you try to impose (because no one can) but the one that people get from their environment. You you almost exclusively have to focus on the environment the staff operate in to get them motivated. If you look around you see this pattern in all companies that are happy.


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