Practical Happiness Tips From Our Bucket List Visit to Spain
It’s one of those days that begins perfectly. You wake up, take a look out of the window and your senses are cheerfully greeted with a beautiful blue sky.
You feel the comforting Mediterranean breeze touch your skin and witness the rising sun beaming down on the glistening rooftops. You open the windows and hear the locals set up shop in the street below.
We enjoy this awakening and decide to put on some upbeat music while we get ready for the day ahead of us. By the time we leave the apartment, we are in the perfect state of mind, ready to take on Barcelona’s bustling streets.
As the rest of the city wakes up, we wander in search of a bocadillo de jamon and a freshly brewed double espresso. As we're in Spain, we're in search of the most basic looking bar as they are usually the ones that serve the best local food. The weather is too beautiful to stay inside, so we take our sandwich and coffee to go while we discuss the day ahead of us.
Meeting David Tomás
Once again, there's a list of inspiring people we're about to meet on this beautiful day. One of them is our Bucket List hero David Tomás. David is a Spanish serial entrepreneur and start-up mentor. He is also the author of the book 'The happiest company in the world'; written like a novel, but with practical tips for creating happy companies.
We're meeting David at Cyberclick; his online advertising and direct marketing company. The company is located in the WTC right in the middle of the port in Barcelona. The office has a 180 degree panoramic view on the port where yachts and seagulls pass by regularly.
After we introduce ourselves, David tells us he recognizes his own story in ours. Just like us, he started working as an engineer after obtaining his engineering degree. After 2.5 years, he was fed up with the way things were organized and decided to quit his job.
He then started his company Cyberclick and focused on working in a radically different way; a happier way. Along the way their mission statement has been crafted and now reads: "creating the happiest company in the world".
To ensure it's not just a fuzzy, cool sounding phrase, they have implemented some practical techniques. Here are a few of them.
An extraordinary recruitment process
To ensure that all employees are a perfect fit for the organization, Cyberclick has a radically different recruitment process. Just like all companies in Barcelona, Cyberclick has a vast amount of job applicants. But like no other company in Barcelona, they have a special way of treating them. Here's a quick overview:
- Only 3 or 4 of these are invited for a visit to the company
- They are tested by the team and the direct colleagues on: skills, personality, and behavior
- Multiple reference calls are made to previous employers
- Once selected, the applicant starts working for 3 weeks
- After 3 weeks, the team evaluates the new employee. They have a strong focus on the new employee's alignment with the company values. Every team member can use a veto during the evaluation
- After 3 months, there's another evaluation with a similar process
- Once the employee has successfully passed all stages, he has a decision to make. He can choose to (1) take the job, or (2) not take the job and receive a 2-month bonus on top of the salary for the time worked (Up till now 30 employees had the chance to take the bonus. So far, nobody took it.)
Literally reinventing the way we work
There's a long list that shows this is not a company like many others. As there's so much to share, for now we listed the most notable differences with traditional organizations. In later blogs, we'll come back to the practical implications of some of these innovative features.
Here's some of the radically different approaches of Cyberclick:
- The values of the company are determined by the employees themselves.
- Once a week the teams preform a stand-up in which everyone has to give an example of how they experienced one of the values during that week.
- All employees can work wherever they want.
- All employees can work whenever they want.
- The employees and the teams decide everything themselves. There are no bosses, managers or supervisors.
- David's role is therefore minimized to inspire the organization and to challenge them to look for new possibilities. He stresses this with the quote: "I actually don't work".
- Every employee sets his or her own goals. The company goals are derived from these and have to be aligned with the personal goals. (Quite the opposite of what happens in traditional organization)
- There's no maximum amount of holidays. Holidays are not even tracked.
- When targets are reached, there's always a celebration.
- Every employee gets his own training budget and can spend it on whatever he/she likes. Even for scuba diving or surfing. Cyberclick beliefs that as long as it's good for personal development, it's good for the company. To underline this, David refers to the following quote:
- There are books that every employee has to read. An example is "Crucial conversations".
- Every 3 months they have a book session. Every employee reads the same book and they discuss the book together during this session.
- Everyone has to spend some hours per week using their skills to support a non governmental organization (NGO). There's a special focus on NGO's that focus on the local community.
- They measure their happiness through a short daily survey. This used to be anonymous, but the employees changed this because of the high amounts of trust. The scores are discussed on a weekly basis.
- If a very unhappy score shows up, it will be discussed immediately. Only once the problem is solved, they continue with their work.
- They work in small teams. David believes that 8-16 persons is ideal.
- They work with 'Open book management'. Everyone gets a training in basic financials so they understand the basics of the financials of the company. There's complete transparency on this.
- They have a profit sharing program. Above a certain profit margin, the profit gets divided among the employees.
In search for tapas
Once again we're inspired by one of our Bucket List heroes, David Tomas. But we're even more inspired by the fact that there are already companies that show that work can be organized (very successfully) in a radically different way. We realize this once we leave the building and are being welcomed once again by the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.
In search for some tasty tapas, we reflect on the visit and prepare ourselves for our visit to another company that is challenging the status quo: Infojobs.
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Earlier this year, I wrote about VkusVill, the Russian supermarket chain that is reinventing the retail industry. The Russian pioneer proves that you can rapidly scale a profitable chain of retail shops by letting frontline employees make all the important decisions. They do this with impressive results; the company is not only growing rapidly (CAGR 40%), it also manages to keep bureaucracy and hierarchy to a minimum, as upper management accounts for less than 10% of the total payroll.
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