Dr. Happy’s guide to building a better work culture

By Robert Half on 15 June 2013

Why the expert believes having fun is the key to productive, profitable businesses.

As the Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute, I’m often invited to conferences and into organisations to talk about happiness at work. To be perfectly frank, most people love the idea. But at the same time there’s a core group of ‘serious’ executives who sit back and think (or even say), “That’s all well and good, but we’re here to be productive and profitable.”

This is how I respond to them.

A positive work culture is not just about having fun. Of course having fun can be extremely useful – especially when an individual or team is aiming to be creative and innovative – but a truly positive culture includes much, much more.

According to research out of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, a positive workplace can be considered as one with most or all of the following:

  • A positive culture including optimism, empowered employees, gratitude and fun.
  • Positive relationships including those that recognise and utilise all strengths, show compassion and understanding, and have trust and respect.
  • Widespread use of positive communications that are supportive, constructive and encouraging.
  • The majority of employees gain meaning and purpose from what they do each and every day.

There are few who do not believe this all sounds good in theory, but what’s just as important to understand is that this goes beyond being ‘nice’. Organisations and businesses that get this right have the ability to outperform comparable businesses in every possible way. Positive organisations are more successful at attracting the best people, keeping the best people and getting the most out of those people. They therefore enjoy reduced turnover and absenteeism, as well as higher levels of performance and productivity. Ultimately, this goes directly to the bottom line.

So how can you achieve this in your team or organisation? Here are a few guiding principles:

  • Allow and encourage people to play and have fun, and understand that this does not mean they’ll get less done. Rather, when utilised appropriately, it will likely lead to them getting more done.
  • Encourage the expression of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Focus on what people do well – at least as much as you focus on what they don’t do well.
  • Until proven otherwise, believe the best in and expect the best from others.
  • Catch people when they’re doing things right.
  • Celebrate and savour wins and successes – what you do when things go right is just as important as what you do when things go wrong.
  • Encourage people to create their own ‘tribes’ and communities within the organisation and connect with communities outside the business.

There are so many ways to build a positive organisational culture, and these are just a few examples. What’s most important, however, is that you work towards finding what’s right for you. This is not just a nice thing to do – it’s the right thing to do for all staff and the organisation as a whole.

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