MakeChange Awards: Celebrating Happy Places to Work

I was honored to present the award for the [Happy] Places to Work category at the 2nd Annual MakeChange Awards in Los Angeles, CA. This event honors local Los Angeles businesses making an impact on the community through social enterprise.  The room was abuzz with amazing entrepreneurs, business leaders and organizations committed to using business to positively impact their world and communities.

The [HAPPY] Places to Work Award recognizes companies/organizations that invest in people through employee strategies that best attract, retain, and develop talent, while demonstrating how it contributes to sustainable growth for their employees. My co-presenter was Wendy Coleman, founder of LA Urban Farms. When Wendy and I were discussing the presentation, we fell upon the old premise that ‘to be happy at work, you have to do something you love.’ And although there remains to be truth in that statement, more and more companies are taking the happiness and wellbeing of their employees into their own hands and creating happy places to work.

Take for example our three finalists: LA Cleantech Incubator, Galileo Learning, and Treeium. Each of these companies, and many others like them are realizing that employees are their most precious resource. And they are taking measures to ensure that their employees are thriving.

Some commonalities I noticed in the finalist are:

  • They work to make a positive impact on the present and the future. In other words, they are mission driven companies.
  • They empower their employees to make decisions and think creatively.
  • They show their employees they are valued through professional development and by putting people first

Galileo Learning took home the award in the [Happy] Places to Work category. In her acceptance speech, Katie Cooper, Camp Director and Senior Area Coordinator stated Galileo is a place where employees “truly practice what we teach our kids – to be visionary, courageous, determined, collaborative, and reflective as we innovate our way to a better world.” Perhaps this is why 97% of Galileo’s staff said they would recommend their job to a friend.

Another aspect of creating a happy place to work is engaging employees in strategic company goals. Galileo appears to have that aspect covered as well. Katie said that she has been the head of project management teams that included the company’s VP, who looked to her and her colleagues for direction. This non-linear way of strategic planning contradicts the old traditional hierarchy of the workplace, but seems to make a positive impact. As Katie stated, “The focus on honest feedback, professional development, and reaching personal goals has brought you out of your shell, and into your best self. You’ve never been so challenged or validated in your work.”

Many studies have shown that optimizing the support of human resources has led to competitive success. Harvard Business Review has written, “Happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcomes: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.”

Starting to create a happy work place doesn’t take much. It can start with small steps. Treeium has a wall painted with empowering quotes, Galileo makes work playful, where meetings often include tutus and rubber chickens. And LA Cleantech Incubator makes sure they engage their  mission in what they do every day.

We spend so much of our time working. Why not make work a happy place, benefiting the individual and the organization. Because after all, people are what make a company.

And happy people make better company.

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