Happy in Financial Times

In: BlogDate: Dec 03, 2014By: Henry Stewart

Happy was featured in the Financial Times on Nov 23rd 2014. The article is reproduced below:

Tips on staff productivity from a happiness evangelist

Emma De Vita

Although there is a proven link between happiness and productivity, boosting staff levels of joy is not top of most managers’ to-do lists. There are some, however, who take employee happiness very seriously indeed. Henry Stewart, founder and chief executive of UK training company Happy, is one such boss.

Employee happiness is not about hula-hooping around the office, he says. “It is about finding out people’s strengths, getting them to do the work they are good at, then trusting them to get on with it.”

In theory, this makes sense, but in practice it can involve ideas that would make many bosses blanch. But Mr Stewart walks the talk, and says he has “begged, borrowed and stolen” practical measures from other companies, including WL Gore, the maker of Gore-Tex fabric.

At Happy, employees are “preapproved”, which means that individuals have the freedom to get on with a task without asking their boss for a thumbs-up, albeit within strict parameters and under a clear performance measurement system.

Happy’s employees are even allowed to choose their own manager. The company’s two track technical and managerial promotion routes mean that – in theory at least – only those who are good at managing people get to be a manager, while techies have their own route to the top.

Continuous feedback is critical, particularly when it comes to finding the right role for someone. Happy’s finance manager joined the business as a cleaner.

Mr Stewart admits most companies are not ready for such a radical culture change but the benefits in employee productivity, recruitment and retention – as well as customer satisfaction – seem worth it to him. Smiles all around?


This article was written by Emma De Vita, originally for the Financial Times on 23rd November 2014. 

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he built a company with a reputation for some of the best customer service in the country and one of the UK’s best places to work, winning multiple awards for its culture and philosophy.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

Outside of work he is a father of three, was Chair of Governors at his local primary and comprehensive in Hackney and a very keen cyclist.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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