happy employees

What Role Does Positive Work Culture Play in Driving Results?

I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Steve Jobs and thinking a little about the connection between work culture, employee happiness, and productivity.

Autocratic and hard-driving bosses can get results. Steve Jobs motivated those he led at Apple to produce changes that overturned industries. His tirades, however, were legendary. Yet, many of the Apple employees who were on the receiving end of them are quick to credit Jobs with motivating them to do their best work because they feared disappointing him.

Reading Isaacson’s biography of Jobs has made me ambivalent about him. I admire the vision, drive, and passion he had, but I cringe when I read the stories about how badly he sometimes treated people in the workplace.

All of this has sparked some questions that I’d like to use to start a conversation about work culture, productivity, and happiness.

  • In marketing, do happy people produce better work?
  • As you reflect on your career, did you do your best work in the workplace that made you happiest? (Did doing great work make you happy or did the happy workplace help you do great work or a little of both?)
  • What are the key ingredients to a happy work environment?
  • How do you measure happiness and the productivity gains that come from greater happiness?

Intuitively, I believe that happier people do better work. Beyond my intuition, a great many studies of productivity and happiness broadly support the idea that worker happiness positively correlates with productivity and profits. (See this 2015 HBR article, for example).

Does a happy work environment mean you all join arms singing Kumbaya? Quite the contrary.  According to Dr. Vanessa Buote, “being happy and leading rich lives is about taking the good with the bad, and learning how to reframe the negative experiences to take the positive aspects out of them.”

That’s how it is at BFO. Steve Krull (CEO) and Dan Golden (President) have created a culture based on mutual respect; one that practices open management and shares its numbers with every employee every week. We are each encouraged to contribute to discussions about how we can improve results by finding better ways to serve our clients, our communities and each other. So often high performance, technical and creative people tend to be introverts accustomed to facing challenges alone. But, at BFO we are encouraged to identify any obstacles or challenges we face and face these challenges together.

As I consider my work at BFO, I believe part of the reason I am doing the best work of my career is that I am part of a culture that values employees and has clarity about the connection between our clients’ success and our own. I’m convinced that happy employees do better work and that the culture inside a company is crucial to how well it will do for those it serves.

In 2016, Ad Age selected BFO as the #1 Best Place to Work in the United States. It’s a distinction we (BFO Beefers) already knew. We have been on the INC5000 Fastest Growing Company list for a 5th straight year and the successful implementation of the GGOB strategy earned BFO recognition as a Great Game of Business All-star for 2016.

Each week we explore some of our challenges, solutions and successes for BFO and our clients. What are some of the challenges you face?  Start a conversation!


Also published on Medium.