Joy in the workplace transcends the mundane and contributes to improved productivity, job satisfaction and customer retention. Joy comes from the "inside out and the outside in." People express joy through their behaviour and action; and, their inner joy affects others and others have a reciprocal affect on them. It goes without saying that joy comes from people and not from machines. However, people do enjoy using technological devices such as tablets and computers for a variety of tasks. These do contribute to feelings of satisfaction but they don't emit any joy. These devices are innate objects - sterile, empty and joyless.
Businesses and other organizations can also be innate and lifeless, especially if they are just a numbered company. What makes companies come alive are the people within them and how they relate to each other. A joyful organization is one where its leaders promote and give room for joy to flourish.
Recently Richard Sheridan wrote about his company, Menlo Innovations, which has joy as a core principle. Sharidan's book, "Joy, Inc." explains why he thinks joy is so important in today's workplace and how it has led his company to heights beyond his expectations. Dennis Bakke the co-founder and CEO of AES Corporation, a highly successful energy company during his time at the helm, developed a workplace culture around the notion of joy and social responsibility. His book, "Joy at Work" tells his story of how the value of joy transformed his workplace while achieving a high level of profitability and customer satisfaction."Joy at Work" is written from a Christian businessman's perspective, but there are many gems in it for every leader regardless of religious or non-religious persuasion.
I have had the pleasure of working with many local business leaders who encourage a sense of fun and joy within their organization. They may not have a specific "joy principle" as those mentioned above but the way they carry out their day-to-day business suggests they use joy and a pleasant work environment as motivational drivers.
Supreme Basics Products, a family owned office furniture and products business founded in 1974 with a handful of employees and grown to over 300 employees today, has found a way to bring joy and fun to their workplace through active inter-team participation. Various functional teams throughout the organization use their imagination and creativity to celebrate key company milestones, express gratitude to customers and enjoy special occasions. The VP of Human Resources, Judy Bidyk, shared with me presentations and contest entries such as: Easter Egg and Halloween Pumpkin making contests, 'Meet Our Team' presentations and 'Customer Service Appreciation' awards. "It's a go big or go home mentality," she said, "and the bar is getting higher each time we do something like this! People just have fun with creating, competing, participating in good natured smack-talk and congratulating each other's efforts It's a joy to be part of it all. And you know, as they design and build their exhibits teamwork and engagement is naturally strengthened. Yes they're competitive, but competitive in a good way!"
Warner Industries, a trucking dealership and transportation company, promotes the motto "Fun Friendly People" as a way to convey a message of what people inside and outside the company can expect. Graham Warner, the owner along with his wife Dionne, a cancer fighter and eight time survivor, has found a way to take the motto a step further by bringing laughter and humour to those suffering from cancer. They bring joy and hope to those undergoing the rigours of cancer treatment. ( Read their story of hope:"Never Leave Your Wingman")
How do businesses encourage joy in the workplace? It's simple: they pay attention to what's important to people. I have found several common themes that emerge from their approach including:
Do something different: Businesses and organizations that encourage joy have leaders who dare to do something different. In many businesses it is the owner or CEO who sets the stage for joy to percolate throughout the organizational culture. They have given their leadership team space to promote fun and joy by making them central elements of their business philosophy. They know if people are happy in their work, productivity improves.
Lived values: Those businesses where people have smiles on their faces and show a sense of satisfaction have leadership teams that promote and live transcendent values such as commitment, trust, integrity, service, compassion, and social responsibility. The leadership teams lead by example and nurture the organizational values in as many ways as possible: one company develops "Wellness and Quiet Rooms", where people can go for physical or mental breaks; another engages their workforce in volunteering services to their local community; and, another takes selected employees on trips to developing countries for weeks at a time to work on improving social and health conditions. These leaders don't just hang the value statements on the wall; they find ways to make them come alive.
Change and renewal: Leaders who encourage joy are also not afraid to make changes by involving employees in the process. They find ways to continually renew and up-date policy and processes. Something akin to an annual "spring cleaning." They recognize that it's the employees that make the organization productive and are the most likely ones to experience what works and what doesn't. Progressive leaders know that employees who are engaged in identifying and removing obstacles which limit and frustrate productive work, have a greater degree of job satisfaction and express that satisfaction (and may I say, joy) among themselves and with customers.
Delight customers: At the heart of businesses that express joy is the principle that all employees have the responsibility to delight customers. They understand that everyone is a customer; and whether their employees serve someone coming through their doors or serve a colleague, the approach to delighting the customer is paramount. They also understand that it is difficult to delight a customer if employees themselves don't have a sense of delightfulness, and so they invest in programs that strengthen self-awareness, customer service practices, communication skills and team building. To delight others means to bring them joy.
There are many other strategies that business leaders embed in their companies which contribute to employee satisfaction and hence a joyful place to work, such as:
Lessons Learned: Business and organizations that promote a fun-filled and joyful atmosphere are successful. I don't want to give the impression that they are overly idyllic or problem-free. Their leaders will readily admit that their organizations still have issues and that there is more to do to make their places of work come "fully alive." They also point out this will only happen with the participation of all employees. The joy that individuals feel relates to how they perceive joy and interpret it for themselves. Business can contribute to establishing the conditions for joy to enter into the workplace, but unless the individual accepts and internalizes what is offered, joy may elude them. In the end though I find that companies that develop approaches to delight customers, treat their employees well, search for a greater purpose, remove barriers to achievement, celebrate events and encourage just plain and simple fun, are companies that are a joy to work in and with.
From: From the files of Fontanie Learning Solutions; image from www.freedigitalphotos.net