A happy worker is a productive worker but how do you know if your employees are happy? It’s simple if someone is happy they smile. Starting from this simple self evidently true statement The Smile philosophy has grown from a handful of startups in California’s Silicon Valley to influence corporate culture across the United States and Asia. But it hasn’t caught on in Europe, and in the UK it has been ignored or misunderstood.
So what does a Smile organisation do that’s different. Smile organisations are characterised by a very strong organisational culture that emphasises employee engagement and team spirit in which managers focus on employee happiness.
Every morning starts with Smile Time a corporate Smile assembly where all employees across the organisation are address by a different senior manager each day who wishes staff a good morning and happy day. This is a two way communication where any employee can ask a question of the senior manager and where a local manager will ask a selected employee to ask a question or provide the senior manager with some feedback about how they feel about their team and workplace.
Another employee engagement mechanism is the secret employee who whilst posing as a new employee provides a report on how friendly their new colleagues were, how helpful managers were and whether employees trust and have confidence in senior management. In this way senior management can get direct feedback on how happy employees are. This report is shared with everyone at the morning Smile Time assembly.
All Smile organisations are famous for their Coffee Mornings . The aim is to break down barriers, creat a relaxed atmosphere and foster a team spirit. At the same time every morning everyone stops for coffee. Each day a different person makes coffee for the whole office, this includes managers.
However critics have compared organisations who adopt Smile as having the characteristics of a cult so ridged is the “ socialisation” of new employees. On the internet ex employees refer to people who work in Smile organisations as Moonies and tell of a specialist Head Hunter called The Rescuer employed by concerned family and friends.
Here is one disgruntled former employees description of the Coffee Morning and how it worked in practise.
One person makes coffee for whole office. This is a lot of people to server in a short space of time which is why it is always luke warm. Whilst a new person will be asked how they take it your “guide” will tell you the correct response is , “how it comes”. Which is with milk and sugar as it comes in a large urn already mixed for speed and convenience. You don’t drink coffee well this has only passing resemblance best treated like medicin. It’s the communal act, the team spirt not the taste. The person who makes it is always congratulated on a fine cup.
Another way of keeping employees happy is the Surprise Smile Day. This is where your line manager rewards your attitude with a surprise day off, usually a Friday so you can enjoy a long weekend. However as one former employee explains what new employees don’t realise is this comes off their annual leave entitlement. Plus at Monday’s Smile Time assembly your line manager will announce you were rewarded with a Smile Day and you will be expected to share how you spent the day having fun.
Smile organisation’s like to tell everyone their are no rules here because ,”we trust our employees”. But your guide will tell you the things you do if you want to fit in and have an easy life. Perhaps the most telling comment about Smile organisations is a quote from an employee of several years, “ No one here smiles outside Smile Time”.