The best part about speaking at Lego is the engaged, fun and passionate people you meet. The second best part is the presents they can give you :)
The best part about speaking at Lego is the engaged, fun and passionate people you meet. The second best part is the presents they can give you :)
Last year I spoke at the Happy Startup Summer Camp – an awesome event for startups who want to do things differently.
I also did a workshop on happiness at work at the camp (happiness being the foundation of success for any startup) but in my main speech I focused on how to be a startup rebel.
Because let’s face it: Starting your own company requires you to take risks, ignore any-sayers and not be afraid to be yourself. You can see the whole speech above.
We’ve already sold 200 tickets to our 7th annual conference about happiness at work in Copenhagen – and no wonder with that amazing lineup of speakers.
If you’re in town, you should absolutely come. Just note that most of the speeches will be in Danish.
You can see videos from the previous events here.
Happiness at work starts from the top. This is one of the fundamental truths of happy workplaces.
In any organization where people consistently love to work, you will find a CEO and executive leadership team that places employee happiness among their top strategic priorities and act accordingly.
One of our favorite examples of a CEO who truly gets this is Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines (since retired), who put it like this:
When I started out, business school professors liked to pose a conundrum: Which do you put first, your employees, your customers, or your shareholders? As if that were an unanswerable question.
My answer was very easy: You put your employees first. If you truly treat your employees that way, they will treat your customers well, your customers will come back, and that’s what makes your shareholders happy.
So there is no constituency at war with any other constituency. Ultimately, it’s shareholder value that you’re producing.
If, on the other hand, you have top brass who don’t give a damn about anything but the bottom line and their own bonuses and stock options, I can flat-out guarantee that you will create an organization with very little happiness but with a lot of fear, stress and frustration. And, ironically, with poor bottom line results.
So top executives MUST make employee happiness one of their most important goal. Both because it’s the right thing to do for the sake of their people, but also because it will actually make the company more successful. Studies consistently show that happy workplaces make more money.
But how does a CEO or top executive practice this on a daily basis? What can they do to make their organization happier?
Here are 10 great real-life examples that we’ve seen work really well in workplaces around the world.
During a speech in Istanbul, I met an executive of a huge Turkish organization who has had a monthly lunch with 10 randomly picked employees for years now. Every month 10 employees get a chance to have a nice lunch and over the course of a couple of hours get to ask any question they want and air any concerns or complaints.
They also get a chance to meet him in an informal setting and get a sense of who he is as a person.
Some CEOs enjoy doing little random things to surprise and delight their staff. Here’s an example from Medis, one of our clients in Iceland, where the CEO decided to make fresh pancakes and waffles for anyone passing by.
He even had a great time himself:
I thoroughly enjoyed it – the biggest joy I actually got out of observing the reaction of the colleagues !
FYI we did not announce anything but simply showed up in the corridor without notice and took people pleasantly by surprise.
The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority is a government agency whose 200 employees work to enforce consumer regulations and keep markets competitive.
Every month they have a breakfast meeting where important information is shared with all employees. At this meeting, the director Agnete always shares 2-3 successes that the organization has had since the last meeting. She’ll highlight how they’ve completed a big project or won a court case and make sure that the people who worked on that are recognized and celebrated.
One CEO we know had a strong desire to receive all bad news as soon as possible. He knew bad things happened (they do in all workplaces) but he also knew that some employees were to afraid of reprisals to come out and directly say that they might miss a deadline or have to disappoint a client.
So he has trained himself and his managers to always receive bad news with a smile and a phrase like “Thank you for telling me that.” This took some practice.
That way bad news come out early and can be dealt with before it turns into a disaster.
One fast-growing company of ours has a tradition where the CEO hosts a monthly afternoon tea at his home for all new hires that month.
It’s a completely informal gathering that serves two functions: He gets to meet all the new people and get a sense of who they are and he takes some time to talk about the company’s history and vision which is a powerful way to show the new hires the values and purpose of the organization.
South African social media agency Quirk has a process in place that encourages employees to bring about any problems they see to the attention of the executive team. The process gives all employees a voice and guarantees action from the executives in two weeks at the most.
The former CEO of a big global logistics company had annual road shows where he went around the world to present their annual strategy to the company’s locations.
He wanted to show the attendees that they could ask him anything, so he introduced an award for “most critical question.” The award was a little cow statue to show that the company had no “holy cows” – any question was fair, no matter how critical.
Carsten and Karsten, two sales managers at Danish company Solar, wanted to do something nice for their employees.
Early one Monday morning, they stood at the entrance and greeted every employee with a cheerful “good morning” and a breakfast they could take to their desks.
In one company, the CEO was told by a trembling employee, that the company website was down. This was a big deal – this company made most of its sales online, and downtime cost them thousands of dollars an hour.
The CEO asked what had happened, and was told that John in IT had bungled a system backup, and caused the problem. “Well, then,” says the CEO “Let’s go see John!”
When the CEO walked into the IT department everyone went quiet. They had a pretty good idea what wass coming, and were sure it wouldn’t be pretty.
The CEO walks up to John’s desk and asks “You John?”
“Yes” he says meekly.
“John, ” says the CEO, “I want to thank you for finding this weakness in our system. Thanks to your actions, we can now learn from this, and fix the system, so something like this can’t happen in the future. Good work!”
Then he left a visibly baffled John and an astounded IT department. That particular mistake never happened again.
In many workplaces, employees who do good work are rarely recognized but anyone who makes a mistake is immediately and harshly punished. This is dumb.
When we can openly admit to screwing up without fear of reprisals, we’re more likely to fess up and learn from our mistakes. And that’s why top executives should help employees celebrate mistakes.
As an example, IT company Menlo Innovations in Michigan has this banner hanging in their office:
The execs wrapped up at 6 in the evening and Ingvar then took a stroll through the entire store as if this was the most natural thing in the world, kindly greeting each and every employee. He encountered two female employees talking to each other and approached them with a smile and the words: “And what are you two lovely ladies talking about?” – following up with big hugs for both of them.
I love this because it shows a genuine interest in the employees and because Kamprad is clearly happy himself and not afraid to show it.
We know from psychological studies that emotions are contagious and top leaders can spread a lot of happiness simply by being happy themselves.
This list is by no means exhaustive and it’s definitely not meant to be prescriptive. We’re not saying all executives should do these things.
What we are saying is that top executives play a huge role in creating happy workplaces. They do this in the big stuff – by making sure that the strategies, plans, goals and values they set for the organization are defined with the employees’ well-being in mind.
But they also do it in small, daily, interpersonal ways where they can show that they genuinely care about their people, can build relationships with employees and can let employees see them as real human beings.
However, this can only work under a few conditions:
Understanding this and acting on it gives the executives in a workplace huge leverage to make their employees feel valued professionally and personally – thus increasing happiness, engagement and motivation as well as productivity.
Not doing this – and let’s face facts, most executives don’t – means failing your employees, your customers and your investors.
Do you think executives should care about the happiness of their employees? Do the executives in your workplace honestly care about their people? How do they show it / not show it?
International Quit Your Crappy Job Day was yesterday – March 31.
The day is our attempt to convince more people who hate their jobs that quitting IS an option – and often the best option.
But of course we realize that quitting is not for everyone. Maybe you’re not that miserable at work or maybe you’re simply not currently in a position to quit for financial or other reasons.
So if you are unhappy at work but not ready to quit, the important thing is that you do something to become happier at work.
And to the effect we have gathered a list of resources here. These are some of our best tips on becoming happier in the job you already have. We share them in the hope that they can help more people become happy at work.
This announcement from Pernille Hagild, Ikea’s HR Manager in the UK and Ireland, is beyond awesome:
We will adopt the Living Wage (as defined by the Living Wage Foundation) from the 1 April 2016. This means all our co-workers across the UK will receive a minimum of £7.85 per hour and £9.15 per hour within London. The Living Wage is a hot topic in the press at the moment so we feel it’s important to explain why we have made this decision.
Ikea has seen that the UK minimum wage of GBP 6.75 is too low to allow many of their employees to live well and have therefore decided to voluntarily raise salaries to follow the recommendations of the Living Wage Foundation.
Why? Because Ikea’s values are not only about doing good for the customer but also extend to the employees. Pernille puts it like this:
Ikea is a values-driven company. We are guided by a vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people” and this vision includes our co-workers as much as our customers and the communities touched by our business. Providing a meaningful wage to all of our co-workers, that supports their cost of living, is an important part of our values which are fundamental to who we are.
Of course this is not cheap:
The initial £7.5million investment is a big one for us and will benefit over half of our co-workers here in the UK. We have been discussing this for the past year and the thought behind our decision is pretty simple: it is the core of our values to treat people equally and decently. We believe in paying a fair wage for all co-workers regardless of how old they are and that also takes into account where they live.
It does however raise the question of whether this will make employees happier. Do salaries matter?
Here’s what we think: Wages have the power to make us unhappy if we perceive them to be unfair or if they are so low that we spend a lot of time and energy worrying about our finances.
Once salaries reach the point where they are fair and allow us to live comfortably, further raises do not increase happiness.
This move specifically addresses those issues and can take away much potential unhappiness for many of Ikea’s employees.
That being said, it’s also noteworthy that Ikea UK does this voluntarily and out of a genuine desire to improve their employees’ lives. This means that the move might have an actual positive effect beyond just reducing financial unhappiness because it strengthens the relationship between employees and employer, by showing that the company cares about them.
It’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out.
I love everything about this. I strongly believe that if your business can’t afford to pay the employees a living wage, then you don’t deserve to be in business.
The fact that Ikea is a long-term client of ours and that Pernille Hagild is a friend of mine who helped introduce a similar move in Ikea Denmark years ago only makes it MORE awesome :)
Are you unhappy at work? Have you been wondering for a while if maybe it’s time to quit?
You’re in luck: Today is International Quit Your Crappy job Day. This is your chance to get away from a terrible boss, meaningless job, toxic workplace culture, boring tasks or whatever is dragging you down.
Because no one should stay in a job they hate. It hurts your career, your health and private life.
At the web site www.internationalquityourcrappyjobday.com you can:
For anyone who is unhappy at work, the site may help you consider the options and get some clarity in how to proceed.
So we wish everyone a happy and productive International Quit Your Crappy Job Day 2016 :)
This is so far just a small study of employees at one company, but the results are interesting. Researchers Ravi S. Gajendran and Deepak Somaya summarize their study as follows in HBR:
We began our study by surveying over 700 employees at a large multinational IT firm. We asked them to assess their manager’s leadership quality…
Eighteen months later, we went through the list of survey responders to see who had left the company… and… interviewed these former employees, 128 in total, to find out why they left the firm, how their new job was different from their previous one, and — most importantly — if their perceptions of their prior employer had changed.
These were the results:
What we discovered was surprising. Good leadership doesn’t reduce employee turnover precisely because of good leadership.
Supportive managers empower employees to take on challenging assignments with greater responsibilities, which sets employees up to be strong external job candidates.
So employees quit for better opportunities elsewhere — better pay, more responsibility, and so on.
I can already hear the lousy managers out there saying “See – I told you there was no reason to treat my people well.” :)
But that is precisely the wrong lesson to draw here. Though the researchers themselves conclude that “Leadership does not beget retention,” I don’t think that’s warranted yet. That is too broad a conclusion to draw based on a study of one workplace.
I’m sure there’s something to the idea, that if you lead your employees well, they’re more likely to grow and develop to the point where they are able to find work elsewhere or start their own businesses. It reminds of the old quote:
What happens if we develop our employees and they leave?
What happens if we don’t, and they stay?
Other studies have shown that the quality of the leadership strongly affects absenteeism, motivation, creativity and productivity, so even if we accept that good leadership has no effect on retention, it still improves business results.
The study also did not take into account whether employees ever came back to their old workplace with new skills and experience.
Finally, as I have often said, even if good leadership did not have a single proven positive effect on business outcomes it would still be the right thing to strive for, because we know that bad leadership hurts an employee’s career, health and private life.
If you are not happy at work, we have a simple test you can take to see if it might be time to quit.
So far 5,000 people have taken the test and you can see the results above.
Please note that we can make no inferences about how happy or unhappy people are at work in general based on these results, because the people who take this test are clearly not a representative sample – they will skew strongly towards the unhappy.
And remember: March 31 is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day.
From the video description on youtube:
This is how this Subway employee greeted every single customer who said “How are you?”