This December we interviewed David Martínez, managing partner of AddVANTE and head of the Strategic Consultancy area.
You have been managing a service company with more than 100 professionals for some time now. Do you believe it is possible to be happy in the workplace?
Yes, absolutely, but to achieve this it is necessary for the organisation to be focused on this objective. Strong competition, low salaries, the difficulty of reconciling family life, little recognition and the lack of attention to people’s concerns and feelings are some of the aspects that make it difficult to experience this feeling of happiness.
In reality, a large part of our unhappiness is produced when we realise that the expectations we had, or had generated for ourselves, are not fulfilled. We are living in the best moment of prosperity and material well-being of humanity, but strangely enough, the same does not happen with happiness, either because we seek what we do not have or because we are afraid of losing what we do have.
This paradox is a cause for concern and, for this reason, companies, institutions or human groups are striving to find new ways to create organisations that promote the happiness of their employees.
As Maslow explains in his theory on the hierarchy of needs, it is not enough for a person to have his or her basic needs covered; if these are already covered, it is necessary to continue advancing in order to reach higher levels of satisfaction. In this sense, organisations must create relational ecosystems that facilitate environments of positive relationships that are sufficiently consolidated to neutralise any threat of toxicity or negativity. To this end, it is necessary to take different aspects into account.
As managing partner of AddVANTE, we know that one of your main concerns is always people. How do you manage to increase the level of well-being of a firm like AddVANTE?
A happy organisation is not happy because of its statements, but because of its actions. And the first action an organisation takes with a future employee is the selection process. For an organisation that pursues happiness, recruiting is not just about getting good people, but good people. People are the breeding ground on which to build happiness.
A key aspect of building happiness is to create an environment of emotional well-being. To this end, it is essential to strengthen the sense of belonging. Knowing how to manage emotions, enjoying celebrating together, wanting to know about others, being good at talking about others, listening to the needs of others and generating trusting environments that facilitate the perception of community and well-being.
People in charge of people have an important role to play in this process, as they can be facilitators, or they can be a real obstacle. As a good friend told me, most of the time people don’t leave the company, they leave the bosses. Knowing how to give the right recognition, correctly conveying the meaning of the work being done and its role in the company’s value chain, are aspects that build happiness.
Is it true that it is a competitive advantage to have happy professionals within an organisation?
It is said that happy employees are more productive, however, it is not easy to find ratios that really validate this statement. We could say that it is difficult to prove whether the investment made in happiness is transformed into higher productivity, but what has been proven is that a happy organisation is more resilient, has a greater capacity for adaptation and facilitates creativity and innovation.
On the other hand, it is easy to find managers who do not value the benefit that happiness can bring in the workplace, arguing that it is a high cost to manage and maintain the level of well-being of people. The answer is blunt: if it is considered expensive to achieve well-being in organisations, let’s try discomfort and then we will know if it is really costly.
Is it possible to achieve happy organisations in mature companies that already have a long history?
It seems to be easier to find happy work environments in start-ups. It is clear that the excitement, youth and challenge of starting up a new business are in themselves sufficiently motivating. However, when we are faced with companies that have a certain trajectory, the initial euphoria dies down and it is when it is necessary to look for more elaborate aspects such as well-being and happiness. But in order to do so, it is necessary to make things happen; happiness does not come by itself, but toxicity and discomfort do.
What are the key aspects of developing an organisational model based on the well-being of your employees?
In order to achieve happy organisations, it is essential that there is a leadership committed to this vision, but above all, a person must be appointed who is responsible for ensuring the happiness of the organisation. This person is called the Chief Happiness Officer.
This professional profile must be a person who has a global vision of the relational ecosystem of the organisation, a high level of sensitivity to manage people’s emotions, attentive to the evolution of the working environment and the personal interactions that occur, and also has great common sense to intervene in situations of conflict and implement the necessary support measures.
There are people who are born with the happiness gene and who are capable of making others happy, they just need to be found and they will help to raise the level of happiness in the organisation. It is not necessary to have university degrees to be a happiness generator. They are people with a special gift, they are empathetic, they know how to understand the needs of those around them, they have a permanent ability to listen, they are great team players and they are particularly positive people.
Finally, in an increasingly technological and digitalised world, what should we do to create more humane companies?
Happiness in organisations is closely linked to what they transmit and communicate, to their interests, values and proposals. Sometimes we think that happy organisations can only be those that carry out a social action or have a high social and human purpose. But the key to happiness in the workplace does not depend on the purpose of the company or its technology, but on its capacity to care for the well-being of the people who work in it. Creating more humane companies is not an abstract or philosophical question, humanising the company means taking action, dedicating resources and recognising the important role played by the people who cultivate happiness.