Archive | November, 2011

Will Coffee and Apples make us happy at work?

30 Nov

I have just read an article from last Fridays Guardian  where journalist Graham Snowdon referred to a study on happiness within the workplace. It made the connection between happiness within the workplace and up to date technology a good desk and access to decent coffee.

According to research commissioned by office developers Goodman, the things that keep us most happy and motivated at work are both conceptually simple and reasonably cost-effective: namely, up to date computers, a desk for keeping personal things on, and access to decent coffee.

The simple things are always the best. Access to these items in themselves are a bonus to any office (some might even say a basic requirement) but discovering why our staff are happy requires that we delve a little deeper into why our staff keep turning up each day and being happy to be there.

Yes we do like shiny new computers and the best Italian coffees but If you want your staff to feel happy in the workplace they need to feel

  • That they have a meaningful contribution to the organization that they work for and have a say in the direction that the company is taking.
  • That the job that they have is engaging and they have a sense of fulfilment in their role.
  • That they are appreciated for what they do. We like to be praised for what we do. Not empty praise or praise for the sake of it. We need to really appreciate the people that work for and with us. When was the last time you let them know they mattered.
  • That enjoying coming to work is ok. Having fun in the workplace breaks up the routine and once again brings out a side of us we all love. Once it doesn’t hurt anyone you can be as wacky as you want to be. Try it some time.
  • That they are growing within your organization. We are creative ,inquisitive beings we like to learn. encourage your employees to take up a course in what ever they want to do. It does not have to be in a subject related to what they work at. It could be artistic, creative or based in logics or mathematics.  If it is what they want to do ir will only benefit you and them in the long run.
  • Trusted. I don’t mean security wise, that should be a given. I mean do you trust your staff to make the right decisions. We all make mistakes so be prepared to see some happen. Learn from it and move forward. As I spoke about in a previous blog. Ricardo Semler saw his company Semco grow once he was prepared to delegate responsibility and trust the decisions that his workers make. Go for it.

Access to Italian espresso and Apple computers are great plusses to any workplace. But if you hate where you work and what you do, no amount of coffee and Apple macs will change that.

Happiness at work comes from being engaged, feeling trusted, feeling appreciated,having control over what you do,enjoying turning up to where you work and apparently staplers!!! as Graham Snowdon says

Another interesting titbit from the Goodman survey concerns the vital importance of staplers on office morale. This is apparently particularly true in London, where one in 10 workers complain there are not enough to go around. In Scotland, curiously, there appears to something of a stapler surplus, with one in five saying they have too many of the things. Have the Scots been quietly stealing them all?

Happy days.

A healthy workforce are also a happy workforce.

26 Nov

I spent the summer working with pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme recently. We have provided them with a fitness and nutrition course. It is a chance for the staff to find a level of fitness that they might not have experienced before and in the process lose or add weight. At the end of the day it is not just about fitness it’s more than that.

When we had finished each evenings session the smiling faces where not just a result of the relief that the hour of exercise was over or the fact that I kept reminding everyone that most people were sitting on the couch watching soaps, while we were staring at the sky doing sit ups and thanking life for being so good to us ( you gotta make it fun). It was the feeling that something difficult had been accomplished and more than that, it was the release of feel good hormones(Endorphins) into our bodies that change our mood to a more positive one than we have had before. This is why exercise is so good for us. It is more than the exercise it is the benefits to our mood and well being. Try it some time when your mood is a little low. Partake in twenty or thirty minutes of good exercise, I mean a vigorous walk,run, workout or a team game. Pause afterwards to gauge the way you feel. You will see a difference!!.

Exercise is great but it is important that you inject some fun into it, even when you set goals. One of the goals we set was to run a 5km  by the end of the programme. There is a 5kmrun called Runamuck(which speaks for itself)  which is basically a very long assault course with over 1,000 participants. Lots of mud, music, people in fancy dress and tons of fun. These are goals we like. If you don’t like cycling then don’t cycle. If you don’t like jogging alone then find a team sport. Just make that exercise fun.

Merck are doing the right thing by their staff by promoting a healthy active lifestyle but they are also contributing to their positive mental health without setting out to do this. More companies should do this. We at Wake Up! have put together programmes that can make your staff feel better about themselves not just physically but also mentally. A happy workforce is not only productive but also more creative, less prone to take sick leave,and more likely to stay committed to your organization, resulting in lower staff turnover levels. Not a bad result!!.

If you are an employer, think what have you done lately that has made your employees feel happier and better about themselves. Think of how your employees would feel if they understood that you cared about how they felt. The activity can be small but the results will be much bigger than you expected.

Happy Friday

25 Nov

Ricardo Semler scares other companies

22 Nov

Studying management years ago I remembering coming across a Ricardo Semler in his book “Maverick”. I was putting together an assignment for college and what I read about Ricardo and subsequently have learnt from him puts him up there as my favourite CEO (if you could even call him that).

Ricardo’s father initially ran Semco in Sao Paolo in Brazil. At the age of 21 joined the company and began to instil a radically different way of thinking compared to the old style of management his father had worked with. He immediately sacked 65% of the middle managers and over the next twenty years began to turn what most people believed to be the way to run a business on its head. Here are a few of Ricardo’s achievements within Semco.

  • Workers can set their own salary
  • All staff are welcome to attend any meeting high or low level within Semco.
  • Workers decide on who their boss will be. They interview candidates and choose the best fit for them.
  • Employees can decide on which of the Semco offices across Sao Paolo they wish to work in.
  • If you fancy working a 4 day week. No problem you can give that fifth day back once a week when you retire.

Semco now employs almost 5,000 staff in comparison to the 100 people that worked at Semco when he took over. He runs quite a democratic ship which is something we rarely if never see within business. Providing his staff with the responsibility and trust to make the right decisions. I think Ricardo is better at explaining how he thinks. Here he explains his thoughts on trust.

Companies tell their employees they are all part of one big, happy family. How can they rationalize such sanctimonious sentiments when they frisk their workers on the way home? Or deduct vacation time when someone arrives 10 minutes late. OR audit petty cash account of someone who has been with the company for two decades. Or put padlocks on the storerooms to prevent the entry of “unauthorized personnel.” What family searches its members for silverware as they leave the dinner table?

On an average, maybe 2-3% of any work force will take advantage of an employer’s trust. But is this a valid reason to subject 97% to a daily ritual of humiliation? It’s a cost of doing business. I would rather have a few thefts once in a while than condemn everyone to a system based on mistrust.

Have thefts and time cards cheating increased or decreased? I don’t care and I don’t know. It is not worth it to me to have a company at which you don’t trust the people with whom you work.

But every responsible adult knows how to dress correctly for these occasions. We hoped eliminating the dress code would help create a company in which office doors would seldom be closed and it would be common for people to walk in, sit on a colleague’s desk, and eavesdrop on a meeting that had nothing to do with him. You cannot break down the walls until you actually break down the walls.

What if, before painting the walls, you actually took a survey of the workers to see what color they preferred?

Job security is always a concern. Committee members did not feel they could sit across the table from their bosses and speak freely if they could be fired for what they said. That seemed reasonable, so we guaranteed that they would not be sacked while they served on a committee and for one year forward.

The dismissal of any employee who had been with the company for more than 3 years or was over fifty had to be specifically approved by a long list of people.

Everyone on the committee gets ONE vote, including the president.

Why are we consistently attracted to ways of thinking that make no sense? Ricardo argues why do we still struggle to parallel park a car after 100 years of design? In all this time we have not come up with a parking model that allows us to simply drive with ease into a parking space without the need for reversing. It is his ability to questions what we take for granted as norms and ask why can it not be different. His follow up book in 2003  ” The seven day weekend ” asks us to question why we can’t play golf on a Monday morning if we take home work with us on a Friday night.

Many employers can learn from how thinking differently in business can benefit the way we   survive and grow in business.

Delivering Wow!

21 Nov

One of the companies that I love to talk about when I present workshops is I love companies that turn the nature of business as we know it on its head. One of the tenets we go by at Wake Up! is that “Nothing has to be the way you think it is” and Zappos do this very well. They are run by CEO Tony Hseih and he has an interesting outlook to the way Zappos is run and to the employees that are employed as part of the organization.

First of all what do Zappos do? They sell shoes and sneakers online throughout the United States. They have recently included clothing as part of their online sales stock.  Nothing too out of the world about that you might say. Lots of companies sell products online, including clothing. Where Zappos began to stand out was at the formative stages of their company structure when they had decided that values were going to be an integral part of the way the approached their market. I teach students the importance of values within not only our personal lives but also within business. Companies who have a clear identity of what their values are have a greater idea of where they are going. Values are our moral compass they can also be seen as our company’s compass too. Within Zappos they are clearly defined.

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

I particularly like “Delivering Wow through Customer service” which they do with unscripted conversations at their call centre. All delivery through the United States is free which is no mean feat when you are talking 3,994 km from their warehouse in Kentucky to Seattle. If you do not like the sneakers that you purchased you have a 365 days to return them(once they are in the same state you received them) no quibble. I recently read of a customer who had contacted Zappos about returning a pair of shoes she had purchased from them. Customer service had noticed that they had still not received the shoes a few weeks after they had been contacted by the customer. When they decided to make contact with the customer they discovered that the customers mother had passed away and returning shoes was the last thing on her mind. Zappos said that they would take care of the shoes and duly sent UPS around next day to pick up the shoes. The woman was also surprised to discover that she had received a bouquet of flowers the following week with condolences from Zappos. That is customer service!!

The interview stage at Zappos has potential employees being asked “On a scale of 1-10 how weird are you?’ I am not sure about you but I might be weird, I might even be very weird but am I going to impart this information at an interview. I don’t think so. Unless it is Zappos that I am looking to be employed by. They want people who grade themselves high on the weird scale and are willing to admit it. The weirder the better. Workers can wear what they want to work and can decide to decorate their workplace in whatever manner they want. No better way to brighten up dull offices or dull souls.

Training lasts for 4 weeks where a salary is paid. On the Friday of your first week training with Zappos you will probably be asked how you enjoyed your first week with Zappos and then you will be offered $3000 to leave the company. If you don’t take up the offer this week you can avail of the offer the following week as it will be a choice you will be given each Friday of your training. Why? you ask. It makes sense to have you leave the organization at this stage rather than discovering that you are a poor fit for the company 6 months down the road when the company has invested more time and money into you. It also instills a great sense of belonging to the workers that are left, knowing that they have  all turned down the $3000 to be there.

Watch any of the videos of Zappos staff on to see a happy engaged workforce that are excited about coming to work. In a world of substandard customer service that leaves us waiting on the end of phone lines for answers to queries that make us feel maybe we where the problem in the first place, Zappos is a welcome breath of fresh air. With a turnover of over $1billion a year, a committed workforce and customers who keep happily returning. We can learn a lot from thinking different.

Waking up the workforce

20 Nov

This is Wake Up!s Blog which is designed to inform companies and benefits of creating a work environment that your staff and you will be happy to turn up to each day. We have moved from the 1970’s and 80’s style of workplace(I hope) yet funnily enough I still come across them more frequently than I expect. Some offices are like walking back int a 70’s sitcom others can look very modern but are limited by an bygone way of thinking.

At the lollipop effect we look at companies that have done more than break the mould but have pushed our thinking within the workplace beyond Maslow and Mcgregor. We are here to let you know that “Your workplace does not have to remain the way it always has been” simple changes can affect your staffs motivation, their thinking and your bottom line.

We strive for democracy the world over. We celebrate our ability to vote in local and national elections. Some countries throughout the Middle East have experienced revolutions expressing the will to end dictatorships and embrace democracy. Yet we rarely work within a workplaces that mirrors the society we live in.

Here we can discuss the merits for providing a workplace that we are happy to turn up to each day.

Happy days



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