Travelling by train from Edinburgh to Dundee, I had a profound revelation. Breaking the morning’s silence aboard the 50-year-old, lovingly refurbished ScotRail train, the conductor’s voice announced, “Good morning!” He was so cheerful and so warm as he told everyone he would shortly be appearing with a trolley loaded with Scottish water and shortbread that everyone in the carriage was soon smiling and nodding at one another.
The atmosphere in that carriage went from lifeless to lively in the space of 20 seconds. He took a repetitive, boring job and elevated it to an art form. And it was truly authentic. You could hear the smile in his voice. You could tell he was happy to be at work and looking forward to greeting passengers.
Happy people have a remarkable impact on those around them. This is why it is so important to seek out happy people when recruiting for your team, and to do your best to keep them happy once they join. No one can be cheerful all the time – life just isn’t like that – but you can have a positive attitude and the determination to work through problems. That approach to life can’t be taught.
Happy people not only make everyone around them happier, as this research featured in the British Medical Journal into how happiness spreads shows, they are also more productive.
Just look at the science. A recent extensive study into happiness and productivity found that workers are 13% more productive when happy. The research was conducted in the contact centres of British telecoms firm BT over a six-month period by some impressive economists and behavioural scientists from Oxford University, MIT, and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Crucially, these workers didn’t work longer hours, but they did make more calls per hour and converted more of those calls to sales.
At BigChange, our hunt for happy individuals starts at the recruitment stage. At the interview, we try to learn about their background, their experiences dealing with challenges, and how they react to different kinds of situations. We always hire for attitude and train people with the enthusiasm and passion for the job.
There are so many human touchpoints in this business, so we need cheerful, proactive people in every department. RoadCrew aren’t just speaking to head office staff, they are helping engineers out on the road too, who can call in at the touch of a button. We would never hire someone whose response to an enquiry was, “That’s not my job.” In our Sales and Customer Success teams, people are calling time-poor customers with help and advice, and so we need to be cheerful, dynamic, and engaged.
People ask me how we incentivise our colleagues to be happy. That question makes me laugh. You can’t pay people to smile. That’s not authentic. It’s about that unique marriage of the right skillset, the right energy, and the right attitude. We would rather wait months to find the right person than hire the wrong one quickly.
But one thing that we have learned, which keeps our happy people engaged and upbeat, are our parties.
Today, we gather for our end-of-year seasonal Thanksgiving party, bringing more than 250 of us together. It’s an opportunity to build trust, forge friendships, and collaborate – and prove that people are the heart and soul of our brand. We are a tech business, but we are unique in our commitment to that human touch. Savvy marketing phrases look good, but we have found our customers are more likely to remember a sincere smile or the offer of help that goes above and beyond.
The “Dynamic spread of happiness” study I mentioned above shows that people who are surrounded by many happy people are more likely to become or stay happy in the future. It concludes: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.” So fill your team with happy people and let them generate lots of happy customers. That’s the way to find your own happiness, as I have found mine.