This is how you improve happiness AND productivity at the same time

Yesterday I spoke to 200 people at Umbraco Codegarden 2010, an annual IT developer conference for web developers who use the open source CMS system Umbraco.

Niels Hartvig, the founder of Umbraco, has a clear vision that focuses on both a good platform (so that the actual product is great) but equally on creating a great community, so that people want to be actively engaged in sharing knowledge, developing code and helping each other.

I kicked the conference off with a high-energy presentation on happiness at work and how these 250 coders, consultants and evangelists can create a happy community and it was very well received.

Then Niels gave his keynote in which he also celebrated the people who have gone above and beyond in their work on Umbraco.

Before I went on, Niels told me that here was one person in particular, that they wanted to celebrate for his excellent work and energy. So this is what they gave him:

They bough him a really fancy espresso machine and had his name and award engraved on it. Not only did it make him happy, it will also keep him caffeinated and highly productive :o) The only problem is that the damn thing weights 18 kilos (35 pounds) and Shannon will have to lug it home to Australia.

This is an excellent way to celebrate a person in front of 250 of his peers because it’s fun, personalized, quirky and relevant – all the hallmarks of a good reward.

Have you ever been rewarded in a similar way? How does your organization reward people who go the extra mile? Please write a comment – I’d love to know your take.

12 thoughts on “This is how you improve happiness AND productivity at the same time”

  1. …the other cool thing is that every morning when he makes his espresso, he will see his name and the award, and thus start his day off with a very positive memory.

  2. I was at CodeGarden and just thought I would say you did an excellent job of whipping everything into a fun and friendly atmosphere! Very funny.. Could I also ask for you to link to that chap rapping on the plane? I wanted to show someone it. Oh an by the way YOU ROCK ;)

  3. Great idea, but as you point out, the person now has to lug it home to Australia. I hope he can expense the luggage overage fees. Also, is he a coffee drinker? I once heard a very similar story where an espresso machine was given to the highest performing sales rep. Unfortunately, the rep was a Mormon (a religion that forbids the consumption of caffeine). So now the expensive gift of recognition was not only wasted, but also insulting to the recipient. Better to let the recipient choose what is most desired by himself in his own country/culture.

  4. @Derek: Of course we paid the shipping costs and made sure that he actually wanted an item like that. That’s the whole point. It was more an object of love than an object of coffee. Take a look at this photo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/percipientstudios/4731315802/) of Shannon when he was handed the machine. That’s the expression of someone who knows how much he’s appreciated.

    Sometimes you got to take a risk. We all need a little adventure. That’s where the magic happens. It’s not better to let the recipient choose. That’s only necessary when you don’t take the time to know people. And if that’s the case, how could you ever appreciate them nor even respect them.

    (Niels – the founder of Umbraco who personally carried the coffee machine back/forward between several places to make sure that it was engraved. My back still hurts but it was all worth it).

  5. Niels, apologies. I should have known anything Alexander would praise on this sight would be fully thought out and well executed. Yes, as you describe, very well executed and much care taken to truly know the employee. I’m pleased indeed to hear such a success story. Far more often I hear the stories like the one I already related, or employees paying to get “rewards” out of customs warehouses and other such silliness.

    Sincere kudos to you as a company head and founder who truly understands the importance and power of appreciation and recognition.

  6. Hey Alex,
    I was at CodeGarden10 and I thought you gave a great opening talk and set the rest of the attendess on a high for a great conference.

    The “high five, you rock” phrase has become popular in the Umbraco community now and even has it’s own twitter hash tag #h5yr to give a virtual high five to other users in the Umbraco community.

    One attendee, Morten Christensen from CPH has decided to invest his own money and get a designer I know to help he design a “High Five, we rock” tshirt made for the community.
    http://blog.sitereactor.dk/2010/07/09/umbraco-community-project/

    Some of us think you would love this, so just get in touch with myself or Morten Christensen on his blog and I am sure we can sort something out.

    Warren :)

  7. My boss once gave me a Pleo (robot), because he knows I can’t resist fun gadgets. We kept him as an office-robot, until he was petted to death.

    It was nice while it lasted :)

  8. Alexander, your excellent post points out the connection between happiness at work and productivity beautifully. You are absolutely right that these two things go hand-in-hand. Customer service, and ultimately a companys success, also fit into this picture. I read an article not too long ago that spells out how companies can change their culture from the inside out (http://www.upyourservice.com/learning-library/customer-service-vision/four-steps-to-a-better-service-culture). If more companies would take steps like these, Id bet employees and customers would both be a lot happier!

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