Let me ask you something.
Are your staff happy? Do you think it matters if they are? Do you know for definite? Maybe you’re sceptical about this kind of stuff, thinking it’s all a bit soft.
What if I was to tell you that I’ve seen data showing that happier teams are 20% more productive? And that top companies that consistently out-perform their competitors are the ones that genuinely care about the well-being of their staff. What’s more, they obsess about measuring happiness levels. They’re not doing this because it’s soft. They’re doing it because it drives economic advantage.
In fact, we believe these so-called ‘soft’ aspects of business culture are actually the hardest areas to get right. And they’re the most important. The happiness of your staff should be your number 1 priority – no question. Happiness leads to engagement which leads to profitability. These things can’t be separated. So it’s fundamental to the future growth of your business.
At the beginning of our relationship with clients, we recommend they use Friday Pulse to measure staff happiness. Why? Because it’s simply the best tool in its market. It will glue your finger to the heartbeat of your business, giving you real-time data that will inform every aspect of your strategy.
Put simply, it’s a platform that measures happiness levels at a team and company level. It gives your employees a voice by asking them to rate their experience of work on a weekly basis and share their frustrations and successes. I first came across it when I was introduced to Nic Marks, the founder, by some clients who were sharing the same tech accelerator space.
I was so impressed by my initial chat with Nic that I invited him onto my Melting Pot podcast. Clients were often asking me what tools they should use. NPS was an obvious one for measuring customer engagement but staff engagement was more tricky. Often clients would write their own surveys which drove me nuts! They were rubbish. Without any training in crafting the right questions, these surveys ended up a massive waste of time for all concerned.
As any statistician will tell you, there’s an art to asking questions in ways that lead to relevant, impactful data. So treating a staff engagement exercise like an old-fashioned customer sat survey and ending up with a mean score of 5.4… what does that even mean?
When I chatted to Nic and heard the story behind his new creation, I was blown away. He even told me that I’d inadvertently contributed to its creation. When I was MD of Peer 1, I’d introduced a weekly pulse that he’d heard about. It was a pretty simple bit of code we got our developers to knock together that gave everyone the opportunity for a thumbs up/thumbs down rating of their working week. I wanted to catch anyone who was unhappy before things started to spiral. And this had given Nic the idea for his new venture.
Nic had done a fascinating TED talk about ‘gross domestic happiness’. Sometimes described as a ‘statistician with soul’, he’d worked for the Government looking at how they should measure infrastructure projects. Instead of purely focusing on ROI analysis, he introduced and designed a ‘Return on Happiness or ROH’ measure for voters and taxpayers.
It was a natural progression to look at ways of measuring staff engagement. Nic could see how so many surveys were missing the point by asking the wrong questions. He hated ones like, ‘Would you recommend your company as a place to work?’ and ‘How engaged are you feeling’. Firstly, people often didn’t understand what the questions meant and secondly, there was no evidence that these correlated with performance in any way.
But if people were asked about how happy they were feeling it was a whole different ball game. Suddenly, you could see direct correlations in the data between happiness and success. I’ve found this in the businesses I’ve run and discussed it in a recent episode of the Melting Pot with John Ratliff, former CEO of Apple Tree Answers. As soon as he changed the question he was asking his staff to, ‘How happy are you working at Apple Tree Answers?’ – bingo. Suddenly the data lined up. He found the happiest call centres had the highest NPS.
It’s this statistical depth combined with ease of use that led to us recommending Friday Pulse to our clients. As a platform, it’s perfect. It’s beautifully designed for a start and extremely engaging. This is important. As people become more familiar with it, it becomes compulsive. You start to look forward to it landing in your in-box as it provides bite-sized insights into what it means to be happy. It’s fun and informative – and this is important.
It’s also simple – taking just a few minutes to complete at the end of each week. The weekly pulse dovetails with our recommendations to clients around weekly team meetings. Not only does it ask you how happy you were at work last week on a scale of 1 – 5 (and Nic will tell you at length why that’s the optimum scale to use). It asks you to tell it about any frustrations you’ve had or suggestions for ways to improve.
These fields were included based on data from companies that scored highly as great places to work. They typically got two suggestions per month from every employee. And capturing frustrations means you can spot problems in teams and ensure the managers work on sorting these out. See it as an early warning system for your business.
Finally, there’s an opportunity in every Friday Pulse for people to thank each other. That’s because there’s a strong positive correlation between showing gratitude and organisational wellbeing.
The beauty of Friday Pulse is the fact it’s being used regularly by 6000 teams in a variety of sectors. As a result, it gives you a comparison set that will tell you where you’re strong or weak as a business. Then, every quarter, there’s a deeper survey similar to the Gallup Q12 which generates strategic input. Nic has a team of psychologists that can look at your data, compare it to similar businesses and give you advice on what you can do to improve your happiness score.
In fact, they don’t start with the scores at all. They start with the participation rate. There’s no point fixating on happiness scores if only the most motivated staff are filling in their surveys. Until your participation rate is at 70% or above, you’re getting skewed data and this, in itself, tells you that you’ve got work to do on your culture.
An external perspective is so useful that we’ve started to bring our clients together every six months, alongside experts from Friday Pulse, to go through their data with each other. It’s been insightful to compare data to benchmarks, swap stories and share advice. Friday Pulse can also tell everyone their current thinking and where the product is heading.
Individual team culture has a profound effect on employee engagement. In fact, Gallup found that 80% of the employee engagement score on their Q12 survey is driven by the manager and team. It goes without saying that this is going to be reflected in happiness scores too.
Because the data is given at a team level, Friday Pulse gives you the opportunity to spot when a team manager isn’t an A-Player. You can then put in place strategies to fix any problems in that team. When you do the quarterly surveys, you can dig into accountability and engagement, giving you granular data that you can work with. Maybe you want to explore the sense of belonging in your teams or measure the impact of losing a client or making some changes. All of these things can be measured and evaluated for their impact on teams.
The testimonials we’ve received from clients who’ve been using Friday Pulse have been mind-blowing. I was recently chatting to the COO of Excelsior MAT who described the effect of Friday Pulse on their Multi-Academy Trust of schools as ‘phenomenal’. It’s been particularly useful during the pandemic, telling them things they wouldn’t have known without it. One particular story that sticks in my mind concerned teachers in their twenties who’d struggled during the second wave. They’d been coming into school and teaching kids all day long without any adult interaction. Staff rooms were closed and contact was minimal. Then they’d returned to their empty homes in complete isolation.
When the senior leadership team crunched the Friday Pulse data, they could see particular unhappiness in this cohort and put in interventions to help. In fact, Excelsior MAT can track the happiness of staff in a particular school directly through to pupil outcomes. How amazing is that?
Dominic has spent 14 years working in sales, marketing and business management within the IT sector. He has held executive positions at Peer 1 Hosting, IT Lab and Rackspace. At Peer 1 he built the UK business to £30m run rate in 5 years. He won many awards for creating a great place to work. At Rackspace Dominic built the UK company from four to 150 staff, and increased annual revenues from £595,000 to £25 million in just four years. Under his management, Rackspace was recognised as one of the most outstanding workplaces in Europe, and won several service awards for its Fanatical Support TM. Dominic has a BSc in Agricultural and Food Marketing from Newcastle and a MBA from Sheffield Business School. Dominic is also a regular public speaker on creating great places to work and achieving continuous client satisfaction and an assessor on the Sunday Times Customer Experience Awards.