Happy: One of the World's Most Democratic Workplaces
Happy is today named as one of the most democratic workplaces in the world, in a unique list of companies seeking to run organisations with more freedom and empowerment of their people. Here is the piece I have written for Huffington Post on the subject:
Hi, we are Happy
We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.
How can we help you and your people to find joy in at least 80% of your work?
The 51 “Most Democratic Workplaces” in the world were announced today in the 2013 Worldblu awards. These come from ten different countries, dozens of industries and vary in size from 5 employees to 50,000. This year twelve of those organisations are based in the UK. No less than five are based in Brighton.
We expect to live in democratic societies, where we have a voice in how we are governed. These companies believe active involvement can happen in the workplace too, even with the pressures every organisation faces. Indeed they argue that their democratic practice makes them better able to compete.
“Simply put, democracy just works better”, argues David Diggs, Executive Director of the Washington based charity Beyond Borders. “Empowering everyone on our staff to compete in the arena of ideas brings out the best in our organization by encouraging innovation, creativity and accountability.”
Democracy means different things at different organisations. At Colorado solar energy company Namaste and Malaysian media company Tef’eel Design it means all financial information, including salaries, is transparent and open to all. At London-based consulting firm Future Considerations all employees get to elect, once a year, the leadership team and even the Managing Director.
For others it is about innovative practice. At Brighton based internet company Propellernet everybody writes their dream on a ball. each month one ball is selected at random and that person gets to have their dream come true. At New York food company Sweetriot one of the three key pillars of development is “being a good person”. At Minneapolis media company Frank, employees are trusted to take as much or as little vacation as they want.
Even large multinationals can be democratic. Denver-based healthcare company DaVita has 50,000 staff and $12 billion in sales. Yet staff, known as “DaVita citizens”, are often called upon to vote on important issues. “And democracy rules”, explains CEO Kent Thiry (also known as Mayor of the company). “There have been numerous issues where I’ve disagreed with the outcome of a vote but the vote prevailed.”
At Brighton software company Brandwatch every other Friday is a “Funky Friday”, where the development teams get to choose what they work on. This has been so successful that twenty Funky Friday projects have made it into the Brandwatch platform in the last year.
Tony Hsieh, founder of the billion dollar online retailer Zappos, argues that democracy is crucial to their legendary customer service. “It drives the distribution of power, encourages innovation, and helps attract the best talent. Any employee has the ability to make changes that impact how the organization operates, develops, and grows. We want to see employees at all levels make decisions without having to get a manager or supervisor involved.”
My company, Happy Ltd is included in the list. We encourage staff to decide who their manager is and change them if they feel somebody else could better support them. This isn’t about abstract principles but about making the company more effective. It makes sure everybody gets to choose who is best able to support and challenge them.
Companies applying to be on the list are assessed against Worldblu’s 10 Principles of Organisational Democracy™. Founded in 1997, WorldBlu’s vision is to see one billion people working in freedom-centered workplaces.
Could democracy be the future of business?
- Happy is Proud to be a Freedom-Centered Workplace - Happy has qualified as a WorldBlu certified Freedom-Centred Workplace for the fourth time — one of only three companies in the UK to do so in 2022!
- Happy Recognised as One of the Top 15 Workplaces in Europe — Happy is very proud to have been rated in the top 15 of the Best Workplaces in Europe, in the Small Company category.
- Happy’s 4 Day Week: How is Our Progress? (A 3 Month Update - Happy's 4 Day Initiative began in June 2022 — find out how it has been going in this blog.
- Let's Get Employees to Choose the CEO's Salary — Who sets the CEO's salary in your organisation? This year, Henry decided to let his staff decide his salary increase. Here's what happened.
Keep informed about happy workplaces
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Learn the 10 core principles to create a happy and productive workplace in Henry Stewart's book, The Happy Manifesto.
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Learn More Leadership Skills in These Upcoming Workshops
A happy workplace leads to greater productivity and tangible business results. We have developed a range of leadership programmes focusing on the skills you need to develop a happy workplace, based upon our own practical experience at Happy and learning from some of the world’s great workplaces.
- Credibility in the Workplace — a one-day workshop to give you time to reflect on your current working behaviours and how they impact and influence those around you, wherever you sit in your organisation's hierarchy.
- Managing for the First Time — a two-day workshop designed for new managers to help you understand what makes a great manager and the practical steps you can take to make it happen. The next course runs in the classroom on 29th November.
- The Happy Workplace Leadership Programme — our flagship four-day leadership course. Our Blended programme consisting of 12 Online 2-hour sessions begins on 17th January.
- Brave Leadership — this is a one-year leadership development programme for women. This programme is about unleashing your brilliance, as well as identifying and enabling greatness in others. It will also create, and connect you to, a network of inspirational women. Our next cohort starts on 5th March.
All of these programmes are also available to book as private group courses for your organisation. Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more details including pricing and availability.