Happy is Proud to be a Freedom-Centered Workplace

In: BlogDate: Apr 27, 2017By: Henry Stewart

I am proud to announce that Happy has qualified as a WorldBlu certified Freedom-Centred Workplace for the fourth time. We are one of only three UK companies to make the list this year and are honoured to be there alongside John Lewis.

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The annual awards, organised by WorldBlu, include some of the most innovative companies from across the globe who have found exciting ways to bring freedom and democracy into the core of their workplace.

"Happy is one of the most progressive and freedom minded companies we have ever had in our community," said Traci Fenton, CEO of WorldBlu.

Decisions at healthcare company DaVita are decentralised to their 70,000 staff. "Teammates are given the autonomy to make decisions since they are the ones who most understand how those decisions will directly affect colleagues and patients."

At John Lewis the first principle in the constitution, written in 1927, puts the happiness of staff at the heart of the business: "the Partnership’s ultimate purpose is the happiness of all members through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business."

For Zappos, the online shoe retailer bought by Amazon for a billion dollars, the focus is on trust: "When customers call us, instead of giving our employees scripts to read, we believe that trusting our employees and giving them the freedom to do whatever it takes to make our customers happy ultimately will result in happier customers," said Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

At Malaysian company MindValley the aim is to make every member of staff feel valued and working in a way that aligns with their personal vision. One example is "love week", where every member of staff gets a secret 'angel' to make them feel loved.

I have now asked thousands of people to think about the times when they have worked at their best and when they are really proud of the results they produced. Almost always this was a time when they were trusted and given freedom to use their judgement and pursue their own solutions.

That is why companies that follow the WorldBlu Freedom at Work principles achieve significantly higher growth than comparable organisations.

At Happy we use the concept of pre-approval. The idea here is, instead of bringing a new idea back for approval, that you agree on aims and guidelines and then approve the solution before they have come up with it. Whatever they decide to do, as long as it’s within the guidelines, they can go ahead and do. Here is how it worked on our website.

One recent example was our tender writing, which until recently had still been one of my tasks. And I’d been good at it, achieving a 40% success rate. When passing it on to Rachael, we agreed on the key principles and worked together on the first couple. But now I leave it to her and don’t seek to edit or improve, or even see, what she produces (though she may choose to check it with a colleague). She now achieves a 60% success rate. If I were to check and edit to “improve” her bids, it might slip back towards my 40%.

A key factor for all employees is the manager. One CMI survey found that 49% of the population would take a pay cut to be able to change their manager. At Happy we have a simple solution, we believe people should be able to choose their manager. Read more about this here or watch the speech I gave at the 2016 WorldBlu conference.

Does your organisation practice freedom at work? What ideas could you introduce to be more transparent and give people more freedom, more trust and more responsibility?

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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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