Category Archives: Happy companies

Watch this incredibly inspiring speech by Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump

I recently wrote about New York based company Next Jump and the world-leading things they’ve done to create a very happy workplace.

Here’s a fantastic speech from their founder and CEO Charlie Kim where he talks about the principles behind Next Jump:

Watching it, I was constantly entertained, enlightened and inspired. Two of my favorite points are Kim’s assertion that corporate values are meaningless (or possibly even harmful) and his passionate advice to get comfortable with failure. It’s great, great stuff.

It’s an hour long and I highly recommend watching the whole thing.

Fighting cancer with happiness

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The staff of Delete Blood Cancer with their brand new copies of Happy Hour is 9 to 5. WOOHOO!

I recently spoke about happiness at work in New York and after the event, one attendee sent me this email:

Thanks for coming to speak to the group in New York last month. Glad I got the chance to finally meet you after reading your blog for so many years.

When I got back to work the next day, I told my department about your talk and showed them some of the videos on your site. My boss, inspired by the overall message of Arbejdsglaede and amused by the hand-drawn video, bought a copy of your book for everyone in our group. Here is a photo of us with our crisp new copies!

Most of us are quite new, as our company is growing fast. We’re hoping to build a happy, productive workplace and will be using your book as one of the prime resources. Hopefully, we’ll soon develop a reputation as a great place to work, in addition to being known for the word we do [matching bone marrow donors to Leukemia patients in need].

Thanks for all you do, keep up the good work.

And right back at ya, Prescott!

I recently did an interview about happiness at work in non-profits. Sadly I’ve found that while the work people do there is often very rewarding and meaningful, they are not always very happy workplaces.

You can read more about Delete Blood Cancer and the amazing work they do here. I highly urge you to check it out and to register as a donor today. You could save someone’s life.

Happiness at work at Next Jump

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On my speaking tour of New York and Boston last week I had a chance to visit Next Jump and talk to their CEO and founder Charlie Kim and what I saw and heard there just blew me away.

What they’re doing to create a happy workplace is world-leading. Some of what they’re doing is great, some of it is insanely great and one thing they do is almost unheard of and completely revolutionary. Read on to find out what that is.

Next Jump’s business is employee rewards programs. Companies who sign up with them can offer their employees discounts at over 30,000 merchants on everything from groceries, diapers and pet food to cell phones, computers, car rentals and travel bookings. 70% of the Fortune 1000 companies use Next Jump and they cover over 100mm+ users globally.

Their HQ is on 5th avenue in New York and they also have offices in Boston, San Franscisco and London. They have around 200 employees, 75% of whom are highly skilled engineers.

They have a great culture and great results have followed: 90% of Next Jump’s employees say they love their jobs. Not like – love! Employee turnover is essentially 0, which is almost unheard of, since so many of the employees are highly sought after engineers from MIT and other top US east coast universities. They are also profitable AND growing like crazy.

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Dance battle. That’s the CEO on the right boogying down.

But why are they so successful and happy? There are many things the company does right. Here’s a small sample:

  • There’s a gym where employees can work out. Many companies do and in most cases those gyms lie empty. To actually get people to use the gym, each Next Jump employee belongs to a team, each workout counts towards your team’s weekly score and the winning team earns points. At first only 5% of the employees worked out regularly, in the past 3 years over 80% of the employees have worked out a minimum of twice a week.
  • Subsidised vacations means the company will cover half your family’s vacation expenses (up to $5,000). They want you to take your vacations!
  • Free food – and they really want you to eat well. the first free meal was breakfast. A healthy lunch was then added as an incentive to those who attend a lunchtime fitness class. Healthy dinners are all around building community through eating together.
  • Next Jump is massively into mentorships and coaching and every employee is constantly being encouraged and pushed to grow and develop both professionally and personally.
  • Once a year they fly all employees in for a company party. Main feature: The dance-off. And everyone must dance. There’s more here.
  • They encourage charitable giving. For instance, after hurricane Sandy, many low-salaried new yorkers couldn’t work and therefore lost out on important salaries. Next Jumpers gave 10% of their paychecks to these “Forgotten Ones” and started handing out envelopes of cash with a note explaining where this money came from. People then reported back with pictures and stories which you can see here.

Now, all of these practices are great and definitely contribute to happiness at work. But wait, there’s more…

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Don’t forget the massive slip’n’slide at the summer party.

Here are my 4 favorite things that they do at Next Jump to keep their employees happy.

4: Code for a cause

While giving money to charity is great, Next Jump encourages employees to also give something even more valuable: Their skills. Employees can team up to develop much-needed IT solutions for charities who can’t otherwise afford to pay to have these systems done.

Employees get a true feeling of satisfaction from helping a worthy cause and from directly seeing how their work helps others. Read more about code for a cause here.

3: MV-21

While Next Jump of course has a CEO and a board of directors, it also has something very different. Every year the entire company votes to select a team of 21 leaders called MV-21. For the next year, this group has two responsibilities:

  1. They are responsible for growing Next Jump’s core business results.
  2. The group is responsible for leading and developing the company’s culture.

The key thing here is that this group is voted on by the whole company and not hand-picked by the management team. This means that the company is led by people others want to follow.

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The MV-21 leadership team.

If you’re wondering, the “MV” stands for Martha’s Vineyard (a vacation island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts), where one of Next Jump’s investors owns a compound that the company has been using annually for a leadership offsite. The house sleeps 21 and, hence, the tradition of choosing 21 key employees each year was born.

2: Recognise those who help others

Many companies recognise and reward those who do well and top performers are showered with accolades and bonuses. While Next Jump does reward performance, they also reward those who help others do a great job.

Check out this sign which I saw in their reception area:
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So “Project Awesome” is not to reward those who are awesome, but those who help others be awesome. Many companies completely ignore those people – at Next Jump they are the heroes.

1: The No Fire Policy

This is the insane one and the reason I heard about Next Jump in the first place.

Charlie Kim, the CEO, had long been a proponent of the “hire slowly, fire quickly” approach but had a change of mind and made the radical decision.

You can read a great interview with Kim about this policy over at David Marquet’s blog but the gist of it is this: Once Next Jump hires you, they will not fire you.

Their commitment to you is total and they will go to any length to make sure that you are happy and productive. This is not soft in any way – there is a lot of tough love at Next Jump and people are constantly pushed to go beyond their limits and learn new things.

There’s only one exception to this rule: If you cheat, lie or behave unethically they will fire you.

You may think that’s a weird idea, but consider these two things. First of all, this works! Next Jump’s staff surveys have shown a direct impact on both employee turnover and happiness. And secondly, this is only possible because of the other processes they have in place, including some very intentional hiring and a massive focus on developing people.

Again, read David Marquet’s excellent blog post for more details on this revolutionary policy.

The upshot

I left the meeting with Charlie Kim completely fired up about meeting a company with such an unwavering commitment to creating a great culture AND with the balls of steel it takes to try so many innovative or even radical ideas.

Your take

What do you think – does Next Jump sound like a good workplace? Is there anything they’re doing, that you’d like to see your workplace adopt? Is there something your workplace does that makes you happy? Write a comment, I’d love to know what you think.

Related articles

How Google became such a great workplace – it’s all in the data

We’ve all seen how Google keeps coming out on top of the lists of the best US workplaces. I went to the Googleplex in Mountainview myself in 2011 to see if they really were that happy and they most certainly were.

But why is that? This fascinating article in Slate give us part of the answer. From the article:

A few years ago, Google’s human resources department noticed a problem: A lot of women were leaving the company… Google monitors its employees’ well-being to a degree that can seem absurd to those who work outside Mountain View. The attrition rate among women suggested there might be something amiss in the company’s happiness machine. And if there’s any sign that joy among Googlers is on the wane, it’s the Google HR department’s mission to figure out why and how to fix it.

Google calls its HR department People Operations, though most people in the firm shorten it to POPS.

Every company has an HR department who would be tasked with solving problems like this. Here’s where Google is different:

…when POPS looked into Google’s woman problem, it found it was really a new mother problem: Women who had recently given birth were leaving at twice Google’s average departure rate. At the time, Google offered an industry-standard maternity leave plan. After a woman gave birth, she got 12 weeks of paid time off.

So in 2007, they changed the plan. New mothers would now get five months off at full pay and full benefits, and they were allowed to split up that time however they wished, including taking some of that time off just before their due date.

And it worked:

POPS rigorously monitors a slew of data about how employees respond to benefits, and it rarely throws money away. The five-month maternity leave plan, for instance, was a winner for the company. After it went into place, Google’s attrition rate for new mothers dropped down to the average rate for the rest of the firm. “A 50 percent reduction—it was enormous!” Bock says. What’s more, happiness—as measured by Googlegeist, a lengthy annual survey of employees—rose as well.

What’s radically different at Google is the data-driven approach they employ. Instead of making HR decisions by gut feel, they gather the data they need to find the right decision:

At the heart of POPS is a sophisticated employee-data tracking program, an effort to gain empirical certainty about every aspect of Google’s workers’ lives—not just the right level of pay and benefits but also such trivial-sounding details as the optimal size and shape of the cafeteria tables and the length of the lunch lines.

Read the whole article – there are many other great points in it.

Here’s just one more way they’ve done it:

Another major POPS finding concerned how to give an employee more money. In 2010, then-CEO Eric Schmidt decided to give all Googlers a raise. It was the job of POPS to determine the best way to offer that increase. The group ran a “conjoint survey” in which it asked employees to choose the best among many competing pay options. For instance, would you rather have $1,000 more in salary or $2,000 as a bonus?

“What we found was that they valued base pay above all. When we offered a bonus of X, they valued that at what it costs us. But if you give someone a dollar in base pay, they value it at more than a dollar because of the long-term certainty.” In the fall of 2010, Schmidt announced that all Google employees would get a 10 percent salary increase. Googlers were overjoyed—many people cite that announcement as their single happiest moment at the firm, and Googlegeist numbers that year went through the roof. Attrition to competing companies also declined.

Wells Fargo: “We believe shareholders come last.”

Someone sent me a link to this Forbes article about The Gospel According to Wells Fargo

There’s some good stuff in it, but my favorite has to be this:

We believe shareholders come last. If we do what’s right for our team members, customers and communities, then—and only then—will our shareholders see us as a great investment.

More and more companies subscribe to the same philosophy and have realized that they make more money and serve their investors better by putting investors last.

Happy at work at… Happy

Yes, there is a company in the UK called Happy. Yes, they’re happy :o)

We went to London last week and had a chance to visit the Happy HQ and meet with their managing director Cathy Busani to hear more about what makes them a great workplace.

Here’s a short video with Cathy:

And there’s much more. At Happy, employees can also choose their own bosses, they help make all major decisions, all bonuses are divided equally – just to give you some examples.

Cathy will talk much more about thisat our conference about happiness at work in Copenhagen in May. Read all about it here.

Happiness at work at Perrigo

Health care company Perrigo is looking for more employees and this is how they try to attract them:

Where many companies present themselves seriously and factually, Perrigo present themselves as a fun, lively, social place.

I don’t know about you – but it kinda makes me want to work there :o)

Here are the top three four reasons why Perrigo’s “casting call” is a great way to attract great people.

1: It speaks to your emotions
Disney World does the same thing. I’ve seen the video they use to present themselves to potential new employees and it contained exactly NO facts. Instead it was all about all the cool stuff Disney does – from Monday Night Football to Pirates of the Caribbean to their Cruises.

I saw this video with a group of highly paid consultants and leaders as part of a seminar at Disney University and after that 6-minute presentation, several of the group declared themselves ready to quit their careers and go work for Disney World :o)

That is the power of speaking to people’s emotions!

Where most companies try to speak to your logical, rational side, Perrigo’s video speaks directly to your emotions, which is more effective. Many studies in decision-making show that we make our decisions with our emotions and only then do we find the rational arguments to support our emotions.

2: It’s fun
Why does recruiting always have to be such a deadly serious process? In fact, studies show that we make better decisions when we’re happy and relaxed. Let’s make it fun!

3: This video will instantly repel a ton of potential hires
While many people will be attracted to Perrigo, many others will see this video and think “I will never work for a company that silly.” And that’s a great thing because those people would obviously not fit in at an organization that is happy and fun-loving. It’s much easier to let these people self-select early in the process than to have to read their applications and interview them (and possibly even hire them) only to find later that they’re a bad fit for the company culture.

4: Employees were involved in making it (Update)
After I posted this, it struck me that this is especially cool because current employees could get in on the fun of making the video.

Your take

What’s your take on this? Does this video make you want to work for Perrigo or run away screaming? Have you seen other companies present themselves in fun, untraditional ways? Write a comment, I’d love to hear your take.

Related posts

Happiness at work at Atlassian

This is how Australian software company Atlassian present their values on their web site’s about page:

Open company, no bullshit

Atlassian embraces transparency wherever at all practical, and sometimes where impractical. All information, both internal and external, is public by default. We are not afraid of being honest with ourselves, our staff and our customers.

Build with heart and balance

Everyday we try to build products that are useful and that people lust after. Building with heart means really caring about what we’re making and doing — it’s a mission, not just a job. When we build with balance we take into account how initiatives and decisions will affect our colleagues, our customers and our stakeholders.

 

Don’t #@!% the customer

When we make internal decisions we ask ourselves “how will this affect our customers?” If the answer is that it would ‘screw’ them, or make life more difficult, then we need to find a better way. We want the customer to respect us in the morning.

Play, as a team

We want all Atlassians to feel like they work with Atlassian, not for Atlassian. We think it’s important to have fun with your workmates while working and contributing to the Atlassian team.

 

Be the change you seek

We think Gandhi had it pretty right when he said “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world”.
At Atlassian we encourage everyone to create positive change — we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our company, our products and our environment.

Not only are these some good values to have, they’re also presented in a way that is fun, irreverent and different. I love that number one is “No bullshit” and I love the little icons that support the message.

Your take

What do you think of Atlassian’s values? Does your company have values? Do you know’em? Does anyone? Do you live by them? Do they inspire you in any way? Write a comment, I’d like to know

Happiness at work at Zappos

I’ve been inspired by Zappos for quite a while now. Not only are they insanely successful, it’s also a genuinely happy workplace, judging from all I’ve read about them.

Here’s a nice little piece from abc news that shows just how happy this company is:

MAN, that’s good to see :o)

Here are my top three reasons to love zappos.

1: They have a culture that promotes happiness at work

Zappos is committed to defining and living a positive, happy culture. Their values are:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

That’s your recipe for happiness right there.

2: They pay new employees to quit

At the end of your training as a new Zappos employee, the company offers you $2000 if you quit right away. This means that the people who stay are committed to the company and the culture.

Here’s an interview where Bill Taylor (formerly of Fast Company) talks about it.

3: They behave like human beings. Great human beings

The fact that people are happy at work (yes, even the ones answering the phone) means that they give incredibly good customer service.

And often that service goes above and beyond. I dare you to read this story and not shed a tear.

The upshot

Zappos gets it, as do more and more companies. When a business puts its people first (not the customer and not the investors, but the people) you increase happiness, creativity, productivity and profits.

This is not rocket science – and companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, SAS Insititute, Disney, Pixar and many many others will testify to the fact that it works.

So how does your company prioiritize? Are employees at the top of the list – or is that spot taken by profits, growth, customers, or..?