How This CEO Prioritizes Employee Joy
May 30, 2018

How This CEO Prioritizes Employee Joy

by Brian de Haaff

Last December, I met up with a group of awesome people in Laguna Beach, CA. We ran along the beach together. Shared personal stories that made us laugh and cry. Ate some good food. Even spent time volunteering for local organizations. No, this was not a vacation with my oldest friends — it was the Aha! semi-annual company meeting. And it is one of the many reasons that this is one of the best places to work.

Am I biased? Maybe a little — but this is not just my personal opinion.

Last week, I was honored to share that Aha! was named one of Inc. magazine’s Best Places to Work for 2018. This was not an easy achievement — our team has worked hard to earn this recognition. Just like everything else we have worked for, it started with a framework for success.

Four years ago, we pioneered The Responsive Method (TRM). TRM is grounded in the belief that lasting success and happiness originate in respect for and service to others. When a teammate or customer has a need, we respond right away — while the need is still fresh. And with both curiosity and kindness.

TRM gave us the foundation to scale a rapidly growing organization — one of the fastest growing software companies in the U.S. — with a shared set of values that allow us to serve our customer and each other.

As the company has grown, we have been looking at one more way to measure how well we are doing in this area. We call it the Complete Employee Experience (CEE).

If you are a regular reader of this blog or have read my bestselling book Lovability, you might think this concept sounds a bit familiar. After all, I have written extensively about the Complete Product Experience (CPE) — our holistic approach to building products. The CEE is a little different though. Instead of being a framework for customer success, it is focused on the team’s success.

This means thinking broadly about our teammates’ experiences so we can help each other bring our best to each day and be happy.

The greatest gift any company can give an employee is a better opportunity to be their best and experience joy every day. That is our aim. We do not always succeed, but we do our best.

We take this responsibility seriously at Aha! And we do not just assume that we are on track. So we measure our success twice a year with a lovability survey that every team member completes. Then we go over the results together at our semi-annual company meeting.

Here are the components of a Complete Employee Experience:

Have a clear vision
Everyone knows what they are working towards. They are aware of what success is and guided back to the purpose if they wind up in the weeds.

Value hard work
Everyone has the opportunity to achieve and to do something important. Doing great work is valued and recognized.

Work-life harmony
Everyone has flexibility in how we get our jobs done — and to remain responsive to family and friends.

Give 100%
Both employees and leaders across the organization give everything they have to support the company’s success.

Build team spirit
Team members are committed to one another. We work well together to achieve our goals.

Work from anywhere
We can work anywhere (in the countries we are hired in) to be our best. We focus on achievements, not locations.

Teach hard
Direct feedback is given on a regular basis to help people improve their skills every day.

Grow talent from within
There is a framework for success, people are trained on it and given room to grow. There is trust that people will step into challenging roles as the organization needs them to. Most promotions occur from within.

Honor reality
Neither time nor money is invested in manipulation. Work is guided by values and purpose.

Reject mediocrity
We choose to be great. We pursue excellence and are not satisfied until we reach an exceptional outcome.

Do not give up
When challenges arise, we keep learning, focusing, and working harder.

Let go
We walk away from business or people that are a bad fit.

This success of the CEE hinges on a mutual commitment. Both the teammates and the company need to give everything they have to be great and build something lasting.

Everyone needs to be 100 percent invested — I call this concept 100 + 100 = 100. The idea is that, when the company and the team give their all, it leads to collective achievement for all (not just some). Resilience is needed when things get hard. So leaders need to deliver teammates all of the above — while continuing to strive for more learning, growing, and achieving. But the hard work begins at the company level. Founders and leaders are responsible for prioritizing an exceptional experience for the team.

So far, I am thankful to say that the scores on our employee survey at Aha! are consistently quite high. People are happy with the work and each other. They are committed to growing for the company, their teammates, and themselves.

And as a company, we are committed to maintaining that high score — so that Aha! can continue to be one of the best places to work for years to come.

What do you need to be happy at work?

Roadmap the future with Aha! — sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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