Happiness and work are two terms that, when put together, some might say form an oxymoron. In our company, we do all we can to ensure that these two words are synonyms for every one of our employees. Employee well-being is important to us, as reflected in our first core value: admire people. But we’ve also found it impacts the success of our company overall.
While the idea of happiness and engagement at work are discussed frequently, the problem for many entrepreneurs is, how exactly do you measure happiness? And once you do, then what? We’ve devised a system that can easily be adapted for your business needs. Here’s how it works.
Check in on Each Employee With the Traffic Light Survey
If your company wants to increase profit, they can compare the current period’s profit amount with those of previous periods. Increasing company happiness is no different. You must be aware of current happiness levels to be sure in the future the levels are, in fact, increasing.
To do this, we ask three simple questions each day through an online form that includes a comment section. For the first two questions, employees can choose between options “super green,” “green,” “yellow” and “red.”
- What mood did you arrive in today?
- What mood are you leaving in today?
- On a scale of one to four, how much did you like the tasks you did today?
Our traffic light survey takes less than a minute to complete and encourages employees to be more self-aware and frank. We use a Google Doc that sends the results to a central location where we analyze the outcome averages and outliers and compare them to previous periods. But there are many other ways to collect and analyze this data, including a device by Celpax.
We also ask employees to fill out a more extensive survey once a month through an online form that includes various topics such as the work-life balance, remuneration, employee relations, ability to express opinions, opportunities for professional growth, alignment of company goals and personal goals, etc.
Hold an Open Discussion
The next step is crucial: discussing the results and brainstorming solutions. Our team meets every Monday for 45 minutes. We discuss many things, but the survey is always on the agenda.
One person reads the results, stating averages and any good or bad comments. “Green” or “super green” has essentially the same meaning as it does on the road: keep going. A yellow response signifies that we need to slow down and leave it to the person to decide if there is an issue or if it has since been resolved. A red response signifies that we need to stop and address the issue. Importantly, employees are always welcome to speak privately with anyone in our no-doors office if they prefer.
Our team also meets once a month for a longer period of time, where we discuss opportunities for growth and go over the statistics of the more extensive survey, comparing it to the previous month’s results. We discuss ways to improve results for the upcoming months.
We have found that this open discussion structure builds trust. Your “boss” isn’t analyzing your results and giving you feedback; this isn’t a pass/fail exam. This is an exercise with the pure intention of, as a team, being more aware of our happiness and taking actions to increase it. It’s also a great example of our second core value: always find a better way. If what someone is doing causes them stress or unhappiness, we must find a better way.
Three years ago, we went through a period that resulted in a lot of red answers to the traffic light survey. We were able to identify a pattern. The workload had increased exponentially due to the addition of a new, half million-dollar client that needed some very technical deadline-driven work. It required a big commitment, and the stress was overwhelming the team. Many employees stayed at work late, some worked during the weekends and others simply felt overwhelmed. All, at some point, answered the survey negatively.
After we established this pattern, we knew we had to do something. We were still trying to stay afloat, and the client provided a safety cushion — but they were also causing unhappiness. As a team, we made the difficult decision to let the client go. It was a risk for our company, but we knew it was the right thing to do to remain aligned and true to our core values.
The results we saw in the health of our company were surprising. In 2012, our EBITDA margin was 6 percent. In 2013, the year following the client’s departure, we realized an increase in this margin to 10.5 percent. In 2014, it rose to 15 percent. I believe the increase of the EBITDA is the result of our team’s motivation to put in their best work and treat each client with the absolute best customer service. Our focus on happiness has also contributed to our high employee retention rate. Only one employee has left in the past three years due to personal reasons.
If you want to improve productivity, increase motivation and enhance the flow of positivity and creative solutions at your company, you have to start somewhere. Regularly surveying your team for both day-to-day happiness and longer-term satisfaction gives you with tangible, analyzable results. Just as with anything else that needs improvement, you need a benchmark. An organized system for surveying and acting on feedback gives you that for relatively little time and money, and in my experience, give you the best return on investment yet.