"Everyone wants to work in a company where they can be happy"

David Tomás, founder of Cyberclick, wants to show through actions that an agreeable working environment stimulates productivity and results for companies

David Tomás never tires of promoting the values that have made Cyberclick one of the top Best Workplaces
David Tomás never tires of promoting the values that have made Cyberclick one of the top Best Workplaces
When your company has attained first place in the premier category list of Best Workplaces, it means you know something about keeping your employees happy. This is the case of David Tomás, founder of Cyberclick. He has just published La empresa más feliz del mundo (Empresa Activa, Ediciones Urano, 2015), which relates the experience of adopting values that help companies to become places in which workers feel fulfilled.

David Tomás also works as a business angel and is a mentor at the accelerator, Conector, through which he has passed on his ideas to start-ups like PopPlaces, who are also applying measures, such as the happiness test. It all comes down to a case of, if you can do something to stay happy at work, why not do it?

When you talk of "the happiest company in the world", what are you referring to exactly?
The happiest company in the world is subjective to each person. But what is true is that everyone wants to work in a company where they are more or less happy. Being happy is not the idea of happiness for its own sake, but rather a route to personal fulfilment. It is about doing a job you like in an atmosphere you like, with people who you get on with. Thus, it is about trying to create around you the space to do this. The title of the book is something of an exaggeration, but the idea is to help you get up on a Monday morning with enthusiasm to do things. Unfortunately, Monday morning is not the best time of the week for most people.

Someone might describe your attitude as naive. What do you say to that?
I would say that I do not know anyone who does not want to feel good at work. We are not used to talking about happiness or personal fulfilment in companies, but I think that paradigm will change. A simple comparison can be made with social networks. If in 2005 we had been told that in 10 years we would be communicating by WhatsApp, or that we would be posting our private lives on Facebook, we would have laughed. I think the same thing will happen with fulfilment at work. In a few years, there will be people saying: "How could you work in that environment?". In the end, when you work in a positive environment you are much more productive! What's more, in the knowledge economy it is very difficult to be productive if you do not feel happy. If you do not feel valued, and you do not like what you do, you do not feel comfortable with your workmates and it is hard to give a 100%.

What are the main obstacles to achieving happiness at work?
First of all, is that today most companies do not make it a priority. And that is not because they are unaware of the positive impact on the company. That is why the first thing I say in the book is to stop and think about what you can do to be happy. But this has to be done not only once, but in a systematic way. If once a month or every three months the whole team gets together for half an hour to talk about what can be done to feel better, it is likely that lots of things will come out of the experience for making improvements. What's more, it is also likely that we can manage to improve the company's productivity. Every improvement makes us more efficient, while repetitive tasks that cannot be automated are also improved.

The book highlights putting the employee at the centre of the company's thinking. So, how does the current context of poor job security reflect on this?
I believe it will be the market or people themselves who will begin to change. Whenever, as a company, you have a competitor who begins to do better, to produce more, to be more efficient...you have to ask yourself what is going on. Why is their team 100% committed? As this happens, companies will be forced to think more about it. Initially, in order to keep hold of certain people who decide to take advantage of opportunities elsewhere. The past few years have been difficult because of the crisis, but it is also true that the situation is getting a little better and some companies are already seeing employees move to other companies that value them more and look after them better.

One of the reflections made in the book is the need to find a role for each person on the team. Are we too ready to just accept the role assigned to us?
Without a doubt! Because most companies are not participative; they are hierarchical. When you change the model and you let the people who are to do the work define what they like best and least, where they are more productive, and so on, you automatically have a better way of working. And we are not used to doing this. A project manager normally assigns A to Joan, B to Josep and C to Jordi. Why? Why not get them together, explain the three projects to them and see what each person prefers? Perhaps there is a formula for distributing the work so that the three projects are carried out more successfully. This is the change that companies have to make: becoming much more participative regarding their teams when making everyday decisions. At the end of the day it is they who will have to carry it out!

Does suggesting a change in the term 'Jefe' (Boss) for 'GeFe' (Gestor de Felicitat / Happiness manager) mean a change in leadership?
Exactly. It is the concept that some authors, such as Ken Blanchard, have called 'servant leadership'. A leader is not there to give orders, but to serve and help. Your success as a leader does not depend on making people do what you want, but rather helping them to achieve their objectives. Imposing strict rules, or not allowing employees to express their opinions, makes achieving objectives more difficult. This role needs to change, which requires humility from team leaders. They have to understand that they are not there to give orders and create a tense atmosphere, but rather the reverse.

For the leader, that means understanding that giving the team a voice does not mean questioning authority...
An effort is needed to understand that you will not always be right, that sometimes you are wrong and that the team will make you realise this. That takes a lot, and it took us a lot to do it! In the past, no one would disagree with me, because no one was thinking about the situation! But it is a practice you have to cultivate until people understand that they have to express their opinions. Obviously, it has to be done with respect and a positive attitude.

So now people do disagree with you. How did you manage that?
It took time! But I think we faced it in quite a natural way. If there is something you don't like, there has to be a mechanism for expressing it. We have a series of meetings in which we talk about the things we do not like and what we can improve. That has created trust. If you do not know whether disagreeing with someone means whether tomorrow you are out of a job, you have to take a risk. When there is trust, everything is much easier.

Can you give a practical example?
Three years ago we began a happiness test with traffic lights, in which every day you had to say how you felt by choosing one of three colours. At the beginning it was anonymous and you could indicate anything you did not like. That way we never knew who was the one who was not happy. What people began to see was that everything we collected from the experience was acted on. That generated the confidence that you would be listened to. Now it is no longer anonymous because it makes no sense if everyone is saying what they think in meetings. We also have a monthly survey about the relationship with heads, in which you can express your opinion, where you can say what you have learnt, and so on. They are all indicators for learning what people think.

In Cyberclick there is also the freedom to choose the holidays you want, and even giving the employees a budget so that they can choose where they prefer to train. But perhaps a company that is not going through the best of times cannot afford these resources...
Yes, it's true. Perhaps you do not have enough funds, as we haven't at one time or another. But what you do have is the resources of time and flexibility, so that people can organise their own holidays rather than just accepting what the company or management say. That is not at all difficult to do and you end up seeing that if people are given responsibility, they give much more back. The same thing happens with timetable flexibility. None of that requires money as a way of measuring happiness. Sometimes it is about small things, such as putting the photocopier nearer to the person who uses it the most. Thus, it is possible that there are things you cannot do, but there are many others you can do that do not have a direct cost.

What about celebrations?
We have a lot, each quarter when we reach our objectives. If we achieve them, it is a paid-for celebration, but if not the celebration is limited to going out for a sandwich. We do them in line with how the quarter has gone.
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