3 Key Characteristics of a Happy Workplace

What the strongest workplaces have in common

Do you help to cultivate a happy workplace? And I mean truly happy — if your company’s culture is described as ‘pretty good!’ or ‘better than most,’ you likely are not providing an environment with clear core values, purpose, and an inspiring vision. When all three of those items are in place, the team member experience shifts to a culture that has clarity. With clarity comes a better work experience, which leads to an improved quality of life. Simple, but hard.

The work it takes to cultivate and sustain a happy workplace is worth it — after all, when we provide our team members with life balance (not work-life balance . . . as if work and life are two seperate things!), we put them in a place to be at their best. At my company, we call it the imageOne Cycle of Care. It begins with our company genuinely caring for and appreciating team members. Team members, in turn, genuinely care for and appreciate the company and our customers. Our customers then genuinely care for and appreciate our team members and our company. It’s one big cycle and when it all comes together — amazing happens!

For 26 years, we’ve been obsessed with building a purpose-driven workplace at imageOne. Over the years, we’ve deepened our commitment to living our core values, serving our company purpose, and strategically working to realize our company vision — and we’ve experienced extraordinary results. Today, we have engaged, aligned team members; strong, meaningful relationships with customers; and deep roots in our community. Earlier this year, we were named one of twenty-five Forbes Small Giants: Best Small Companies in America 2017, a most humbling honor to receive.

If you’re looking to build a purpose-driven organization or hoping to work for one, here are three key characteristics to look for:

1. An Authentic Company Purpose

An authentic company purpose will always remind you of who you are and what you stand for. As you make big decisions about your products, services, and the way you do business, your company purpose will help you stay aligned and headed in a strong direction. In 2006, I started learning more about company purpose when I read the book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, written by my friend and mentor Bo Burlingham. Following up on that inspiration, we collaboratively created imageOne’s purpose, “We deliver extraordinary experiences that positively impact the lives of our team members, the goals of our customers, and the fabric of our community.”

An authentic company purpose protects both the health of the business and the happiness of your team members. When a company purpose is well-executed, it is inspiring to everyone in the company. While your purpose shouldn’t change, it should help you consider future possibilities that fit within your purpose. Finally, it should clearly express what’s true and unique about your company and be specific enough that no one else could genuinely claim it as their own.

2. Clearly-Defined Core Values

The importance of core values is discussed more than ever, but it’s less common to find companies that take their values to heart, challenging themselves to ensure they are truly living their values every day. Core values are the principles and beliefs that drive the behaviors of all members of the organization. The key to successfully implementing core values is two-fold: you must clearly define what they mean to the company, and you must ensure everyone is living them each day. At imageOne, we defined our core values while implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), resulting in the below values:

We have a Passion for Extraordinary

  • For our Customers
  • For our Team Members
  • For the Community

We are Open and Honest

  • We work with Integrity
  • We work with Humility
  • We are Vulnerable

We Flawlessly Execute

  • We are Easy
  • We are Efficient
  • We are Reliable

We Think Like Visionaries

  • We Create
  • We Improve
  • We Solve

In practice, defining your core values begins by involving all employees in the process to ensure they truly reflect what’s important to your team members. You’ll then begin integrating them into the DNA of the company by hiring and firing by values, incorporating them into reward and recognition programs, and talking about them every day.

3. An Inspiring Vision for the Future

Finally, a truly exceptional purpose-driven workplace will have crafted a vivid, inspiring vision for the future. While there are many approaches to company visioning, the key components are that it should be: 1) Vivid and detailed, 2) Inspiring to the entire organization, and 3) Aspirational yet attainable. In 2016, we completed our 2026 Company Vision, a process that incorporated every single member of the organization and contains components that are inspiring to everyone.

A company vision is a powerful way to energize and inspire team members, while also serving as a tool to help guide strategy and planning at all levels of the organization. When you bring the vision together with your purpose and values, you have a well-articulated framework for building a truly great organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about purpose-driven leadership, or how mindfulness meditation helped evolve my leadership, drop me a note or leave a comment below!