For a number of years, VALA’s vision was to be the Happiest company by 2020. In 2020, our employee satisfaction scores were at record high, we won the Tunto service award for “Most successful employer brand of the year (with special mentions for best management and most transparent employer brand) and our national employee-NPS scores were of the very highest in the industry. We felt we had reached a milestone that we had been driving towards for a long time.
However, something didn’t feel right.
We’ve learned that the pursuit of happiness as an absolute objective is not effective. The main reason is that happiness is not a static state of emotion and it is not the employers responsibility or right to tell people that they should pursue happiness. Obsessing about happiness can cause pressure and stress, thus yielding the opposite emotions. In addition, happiness is definitely not easy to measure, let alone beneficial to be compared to others.
Our goal is no longer to be happy
Okay so pursuit of happiness into the dumpster, cool. But what should we replace it with?
Thorough pondering eventually led to enlightenment – our job as an employer is to provide a work culture for VALA people to be as happy as they can be, if they want to. Our job is to provide flexible means for VALA people to build their life as they see best fit. We don’t aim for a single collective experience of happiness, we aim for optimal tools and a suitable environment for individually built voluntary happiness. Instead of measuring happiness, we measure the means for it. Instead of encouraging people to be happy, we encourage them to utilize the tools and means for it.
It’s important to allow people to feel as they feel and if it’s unhappiness, which they don’t want to fix at that moment, then so be it.
Just to be very clear, we of course want VALA people and our company to be happy. The only difference is that we are removing the pressure around this topic by focusing on the journey instead of the destination. Just like we’ve always dealt with financials; no strict goals but rather we’ve believed that by doing things well we’ll reach desired financial figures.
VALA means/tools for happiness
So a shift has occurred, a shift from destination to journey, from goals to doing our best. VALA is like a hockey coach saying she doesn’t aim to win, she aims for the players to have the needed playbook, training and mental support to win, if they want to.
Sounds quite lame yes. But when dealing with people’s emotions, encouraging, rather than forceful, is often appropriate.
So in practice, we’ve pivoted from striving towards individually perceived happiness, to focusing instead on the building blocks of happiness and what makes life and work feel meaningful.
Real life (strategic) examples
Perhaps some examples would help. As we’ve just refreshed our strategy, here are some of the most important tasks and objectives from our new strategy, that provide the means for VALA people to be as happy as they want to be.
Values we live by
A culture that emphasises empathy, transparency, life-long learning, autonomy and sustainability. Our values are present in everyday life and they are at the core in providing an environment that supports happiness in people’s lives.
Ability to influence
Many of the company matters are discussed, workshopped and decided on either collectively or voluntarily built taskforces. A number of topics are also simply voted on, so influencing has been made very low threshold and straight-forward.
Ability to organize and participate company culture and operations
People can choose for themselves how much they want to be involved in participating or organizing various projects and events. We at VALA completely understand that the level of participation can change throughout one’s VALA life-cycle, as priorities in life tend to shift and alter as time passes, and this is completely acceptable.
Enabling the most interesting client projects for VALA people, globally
One wish from VALA people has been to expand our opportunities in going abroad and working on international projects. Therefore, this has been taken on as an official objective in our new strategy. Also in general, VALA people get to choose their projects whenever it’s possible.
Building VALA’s expertise and knowledge sharing culture together to be the number 1 Quality House in Europe
Another objective is about building VALA’s expertise and knowledge sharing culture together to be the number 1 Quality House in Europe. Supporting each other’s growth and knowledge through best practices, mentoring and teamwork makes our work feel a thousand times more meaningful.
Ensuring VALA’s service offering is compelling to VALA people and VALA’s customers now and in the future
VALA’s strategy is committed to continuously developing our existing services to meet both VALA people’s interests and market needs, to provide both occupational stability and interesting work. Naturally, individuals’ professional development plays a major part in this.
Continuing to be an inspiring example of a thriving work culture.
Another one of our strategic objectives is to continue to focus on a healthy work-life balance, strong sense of togetherness, and possibility to affect our own work and working conditions to help us maintain a strong sense of pride towards the work we do and VALA’s accomplishments.