It’s all well and good to talk ‘successful’, ‘profitable’, or ‘growing’ companies…but how often do we measure how ‘happy’ a company is? Why should we care?
On this episode, we are lucky enough to host David Tomas: entrepreneur and co-founder & GM of Cyberclick, one of the most renowned digital marketing companies in Europe.
David is also the best-selling author of “La Empresa Más Feliz del Mundo” or in English, “The Happiest Company in the World” – a book on smarter decision-making and more empathetic business management in companies.
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As the podcast is in Spanish, we’ve also added a summary in English below! So, let’s get to the questions…
What makes Cyberclick a happy company? How would you describe the company’s organisation of your company?
David: We consider ourselves a happy company because it is one of our priorities. We give it a lot of importance – it is a topic that we talk about every week and that we like to discuss with our team. We analyse the previous week to see if there has been a tough time and what can we do to improve.
I think that the fact that you are reflecting on this at all already puts you on the path towards creating (and maintaining) a happy company.
I would like to debunk the kind of hedonistic and cynical misperception that implies that being happy at work means working less.
On the contrary, our team works very hard precisely by getting rid of all those things that distract us from our work. Rather, we try to focus our time on productive tasks and on the kind of tasks that we actually like to do.
In a happy and well-functioning organisation, much like in a football team, each new member has a huge impact. How do you manage your hiring processes? Or better yet, how do you choose your new recruits?
David: We essentially follow a process that’s organised into different phases. Why? In most businesses, they don’t have (or take) the necessary time to carry out a complete hiring process.
I always recommend that if you don’t have the time, it’s best to contact an external consultancy that will help you.
In our case, we do a series of different interviews. First, we do a phone interview to see if the candidate has the required experience and interests. Then, if the phone interview goes well, we conduct a face-to-face interview with somebody from the team and some technical interviews to see if the candidate has the required skills and knowledge.
After that, we do another interview with people from different areas of the company to get to know the candidate. With this, what we achieve is that all the people that are going to be working with this candidate get to know the person and give their opinion towards the candidate.
Of course, I’m not the one who makes the final hiring decision. It is up to the teams to hire the new candidates, as they have every right to choose with whom they are going to work.
I can give my opinion, but the decision is ultimately made by the teams. For example, imagine that you are working here in Barcelona, and the guys at HQ decide to hire a new employee who is directly going to work with you without asking you. Maybe you don’t get along well with the person and it all goes horribly wrong. Thus, if the actual teams involved get to participate in the selection process, it is far more likely that the new hire will be a good match for our employees.
This is our key to success: making the teams part of the hiring process and requiring a unanimous vote to decide whether the new candidate is hired or not. If there’s somebody in a team that clearly doesn’t want to hire the new candidate, then we won’t.
As Talent Acquisition Specialists, we’ve seen many job descriptions in our time…but none have ever listed ‘happiness’ as a required skill. Do you think that happiness should also be considered when hiring a new candidate? How would you go about it?
David: I think that happiness should be a factor to consider because the best way to have a happy company is to hire happy employees and let them do what makes them happy.
I don’t know if the exact term ‘happiness’ needs to be included, but something around having empathy and a positive attitude. Somebody that sees the glass half-full rather than half-empty.
Being positive helps a lot in a company. Imagine that you hire 10 people who are all negative and see everything as difficult and complicated. It is impossible to have a happy company with an unhappy team. We must see opportunities rather than problems, and we need people who are realistic yet positive.
Have you ever heard the saying that positive people are not as tough or as pragmatic?
David: Yes, but I think that there are different degrees to positivity. Being positive doesn’t necessarily mean being naive. As I said, you must be realistic but with an optimistic outlook. If you are only optimistic without being realistic, you may risk becoming idealistic, where you think that everything is perfect and overlook problems and issues. This is no good for the company.
Also, what I think is important is to care about others; to have empathy. If you are hired and only ever focus on your own work and on what you do, it is impossible for you to cultivate happiness across the company.
We have heard many times that employees don’t quit their company, they quit their boss. This means we must listen to employees and establish real trust between colleagues and managers. What practices have you implemented at Cyberclick?
David: The first practice I have implemented is the hiring process, which is very immersive, ensuring that the employees get to know who is going to work with them.
The next thing is that in our company, the idea of a boss doesn’t exist. We don’t assume that people will remain in the same position forever. We work in teams who collaborate equally amongst themselves, so this makes the idea of a boss irrelevant and indistinguishable within the company.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are never any issues to resolve. But when these arise, it is necessary for companies to find a way to communicate effectively and to have an honest conversation with employees.
We give all our employees a book entitled “Conversaciones cruciales”, or in English, “Crucial Conversations”. The book teaches you how to explain and confront problems in an assertive way.
Sometimes work problems stem from simple misunderstandings, but if there is no proper communication, the employee may end up leaving the company.
So, if a boss or manager receives constructive feedback from the team, they should be aware that there must be some things that are not done in a proper way, and endeavour to change that. It is important to be humble and accept criticism.
We try to encourage comments on any issue our teams might be facing. And we have different methods to do this: we talk about happiness every Monday, and twice a year we go on a retreat (for 3 days in summer and 2 days in winter) to discuss and work through any challenges and issues in the team. In the end, every company must find their own formula – this is ours.
You are talking a lot about moments where you stop and think about your clients and internal processes, and listen to your employees… How have you managed to implement this kind of ‘stop-and-think’ routine? Nowadays, everything moves so fast, and most of us find it hard to stop or slow down. So, how do you manage to instil that in your employees?
David: I think that, nowadays, though we may like to stop, the thing is that we are not used to stopping. The fact that everything is fast throws us into this kind of cycle where we don’t stop, but I do think that everybody likes to stop and think about their life.
We’ve managed to implement this with discipline. For us it’s a priority, and it’s something that we won’t skip. We talk every week for 10-15 minutes about happiness in the workplace. We have lunch together every Monday to talk about company issues and to give examples about our company culture and values. All this and the retreats we do twice a year; this is our key.
Happiness cannot be exclusively related to our professional life. Our personal life also has a huge impact. So, how do you best balance the two? And what company policies do you think are best for achieving this balance?
David: I don’t think I’m a good example, because I dedicate most of my time to my professional life! And not only to the company; I’m also a lecturer and teach at universities, which I love, too.
So, in my case, I spend a lot of time on my professional life because it is my passion. It’s what I want to do in life – to spread the word about companies with a different way of looking at things.
Also, I try to spend all my free time with my family; with my sons and partner. All in all, I sacrifice a lot of things. For example, if you ask me what the last TV series I watched was, I probably wouldn’t know because I haven’t seen any for, like, 15-20 years. Maybe I’d say Dallas.
While others spend time with things like TV series, films and those kinds of things; I spend time on professional topics that are my passion (related to companies and start-ups), or with my family. Also, I used to love exercising and doing sports, but when you have three kids, you don’t have that much time! Now, I try to get around by walking instead, so that by the end of the day, I’ve walked from six to 10 kilometres. I also try to use my time while walking to make calls.
You know a lot of companies, give a lot of lectures, and know a lot of people. How do you view the business world here in Spain? Do you think it’s moving towards a world of happy businesses? What do you think successful companies do? Are there any good practices that you would like to highlight?
David: Yes, I think that we are moving towards a world of happier businesses, mainly because society is demanding it.
The best professionals want to work in companies where they are recognised, feel valued and supported, and can balance work and life. If a company wants to grow, it will need good professionals, and so the trend will be to adapt accordingly.
There are ‘successful’ companies in which employees face a lot of pressure and must work a lot. But in the end, in my opinion, those that are truly successful long-term will be the ones who prioritise work-life balance. Those companies will be able to retain top professionals.
As for Spain, specifically, we know that another financial crisis is coming, but now is actually a very good time for companies.
There are certain sectors where there is full employment. I’m talking about very qualified technical profiles: Digital marketers, IT services providers, software developers… All of these profiles are in high demand nowadays, so everybody who directs themselves towards these sectors will have promising job opportunities.
At your company, Cyberclick, do you have a high employee turnover?
David: I don’t know what the average employee retention rate is in our sector, but in our case, turnover is extremely low. Only very few people leave the company. Normally, our employees leave because they have reached an important life goal with us, and wish to then move onto other challenges or to focus on other passions.
I think we have a very low rotation rate compared to others in the industry. Last year, one person left because they wanted to start a new project, and we fully encourage our employees to pursue entrepreneurship and develop their own projects if they so desire!
Thank you very much David, it has been a pleasure to share these ideas with you.
Don’t miss our other episodes of Grow Your Own Way: The Podcast!