NOVENTUM CASE STUDY: How one company sought happiness in its path to growth
Continuing our theme on creating happiness in your service organisation and introducing a new series of Noventum Case Studies, we find out how one company has managed to defy the economic downturn by implementing a ‘happiness directive’.
In 2008, Hutten -a leading culinary service provider in the Netherlands, embarked on a programme of social innovation in which they loaded their internal brand with happiness values. Hutten has since achieved unprecedented employee and customer satisfaction rates resulting in extremely high growth and profit levels. Their HR director Pascal Verheugd talks to Noventum about how they managed it.
‘Most companies, particularly in Holland, are driven by productivity and profit margins. Here at Hutten, we think differently. We wanted to position happiness as the central driver within our company. This was not simply a top down initiative however.
Working from the ground up we engaged with all team members to develop our mission to promote the values of happiness, collaboration, transparency and sustainability across our organisation. This vision was not just internally generated. Our partners, suppliers and clients are key stakeholders so these values were generated also considering their input from the outside in.
Typically this ‘happiness vision’ could have been difficult to justify on board level but in our case, the CEO, Bob Hutten, and I were signing from the same hymn sheet. We were both of the belief that social innovation should be the most important goal for every company and that managing targets, bonuses and profitability simply isn’t enough.
People have to want to work for you. If they share the same values internally and are happy working together then it stands to reason that their happiness will create better productivity and that this will filter through to customers in the end. Our priority goal was never profit, however,’ said Mr. Verheugd.
In their drive to promote happiness, Hutten implemented a number of strategies beginning with their people appraisals. These sessions would not focus on their people’s weaknesses but on their strengths, passions and aspirations; asking what it is they wanted and what they felt they were they good at. After soliciting feedback from colleagues they used this information to job craft; creating teams of people doing exactly what they wanted to do.
‘People tend to have the belief that they must always endure parts of their job that they don’t enjoy ⎯ that isn’t true,’ said Mr. Verheugd. ‘Personalities and inclinations are different so it could be that while one task is hated by one person, it’s loved by another.
‘Based on our conversations we built teams relevant to what people are good at what they want to do. Young people in particular are highly self-motivated, so when you put them in the right place, you don’t have to motivate them,’ he said.
Online tools are have been particularly utilised in promotion of Hutten’s vision. The creation of a social media portal, My Hutten Life, due to be launched later in 2013, has been designed to help Hutten connect their people across 140 locations and promote their shared values.
Furthermore a special Culture Team has been created to connect employees through various cultural communities both on and offline. Members of these networks have been designed to engage employees on all levels– helping to reflect the company’s more egalitarian organisation.
‘We’re democratically-oriented,’ said Mr. Verheugd, ‘We try to encourage a sense of friendship and family in the company so if, for example, somebody does something wrong, his colleague will discuss it with him on an equal level –it will not be a reprimand coming from above.
‘At Hutten we speak about our people as humans, not as part of a process or goal. So we encourage our coworkers to take personal responsibility for their workload and for their work life balance. We don’t impose it on them.’ he added.
In pursuit of happiness Hutten has also developed an online tool called the Career Compass in which
employees can share real life success stories and map out their future goals. Hutten’s leadership team have also facilitated peer to peer training workshops both on an off line and set up video presentations. Within these sessions, successes are periodically identified and celebrated.
Other internal communication channels comprise videos, face-to-face meetings and a monthly newsletter. Externally Hutten’s vision has been espoused though speaking at industry conventions seminars and interviews with the media.
Recruitment has also played a key role in the promotion of Hutten’s ethos.
‘In many large companies if you ask people what they want, they can’t answer,’ said Mr Verheugd.
‘At Hutten, we encourage individuality and we look for people who are driven to be the best they can be and who have a passion for working with people. When people do a job they like, they grow and that results in higher pay naturally – but we don’t look for people who are driven by money’ he said. Hutten’s philosophy has permeated externally through the company to such an extent that people have sought to work for the company despite, in some cases, taking a cut in pay.
Hutten’s vision for happiness, both internally and externally resulted in improved employee satisfaction, generating better service quality and customer satisfaction.
Their egalitarian organisation and streamlined processes have helped achieve great power for social innovation contributing to the successful implementation of these drives.
When the initiative was launched in 2008 the company comprised 400 people, it now comprises over 1,200. While business had shrunk across Europe in 2012 with particular decline in hospitality and catering services, Hutten achieved 17 per cent growth in 2012.
Concluding Mr. Verheugd commented, ‘Given that we are in the hospitality business, it stands to reason that happiness is important, but we don’t think it should be specific to industry or region. People are people; whether they’re working in hospitality in Brazil, catering in Holland or IT in Britain, everyone wants to go home feeling happy.’