We caught up with Max Hunter, Chief Joy Officer of LoyLogic and founder of Max Hunter & Partners. Max has over 15 years' experience helping businesses become great places to work and recently spoke alongside KonnectAgain at UNLEASH (formerly HR Tech World).
Max, your role is “Chief Joy Officer,” a very unique title! Does every company need someone in charge of joy?
Every company needs a person or people whose sole goal is to ask “is this a great place to work?” This individual has to have a voice high up in the company and have top-down buy-in. They’ll be responsible for having ideas and implementing the initiatives that employees say need to change. Whether or not the word “joy” is used doesn’t matter, the terminology is up to the company.
In theory, HR works on engagement, but in practice HR can have limited time to dedicate to this because they can get caught up in the policies and procedures side. So they have limited time to listen in to the people as a whole, to focus on what can make a difference to people’s everyday lives at work.
How can organisations measure joy at work?
I’m a bit torn on the measurement side. Measurement only works if it’s truly about listening to people instead of just measuring, checking and controlling people - which it can sometimes feel like to employees. It’s important that surveys are all about listening in to the people and the environment and about maximising people’s potential and motivation. You can have internal ongoing surveys but they must be given with the right intention and received with the right intention. This means they have to be used transparently and talk about the actions taken off the back of surveys.How often do companies need to run engagement surveys?
Ideally, twice a year, but this can vary from company to company. Annually is just not frequent enough. If you’re not making changes in a six-month period, then a year is too long to wait. You can do surveys even more frequently if your actions are bringing results sooner. The survey must be 8 minutes long or less, something that can be done in a mini break.You implemented an online community for LoyLogic employees. After 18 months you have a 90% engagement rate. What is it about this community that appeals to employees?
Two things: Trust and it’s their space. We trust them. We launched the internal app with an initiative or two that were fun or engaging to get people involved.But we made it non-compulsory and allowed our employees (which we call pilots) to fill with whatever they wanted.
There’s no metrics against it, it’s not a “command and control mechanism”. We encourage people to recognise each other through our ‘thanku’ initiative, which integrates our our own internal Choice rewards program from our core loyalty business. We give people the opportunity to post success stories and use the values, but we don’t enforce it. Initially there was concern about people abusing it, but by giving people trust there was voluntary engagement with it and that what makes it stick. It’s got a healthy sprinkling of fun in it too, which means people look forward to going onto it and seeing what people have posted.
Do you think a programme based on gratitude or positive feedback can be easily implemented in the workplace? Does it ever start to feel like homework?
With our workplace app, it was a space that people knew and trusted and connected with each other and shared. First of all there was the trust, so they knew that saying thank you through the app was real and wasn’t just a “programme” or initiative.
With recognition, we can’t be just thinking of getting feedback from the top down anymore. It’s important to recognise peer to peer and upward feedback - the whole 360 degree approach. But it’s only sincere if it’s spontaneous. If you’re told you have to go and give feedback to people during appraisal time, it feels insincere. But when a thank you comes up when you’re not expecting it, it’s such a great feeling. You need those catalysts to spark the culture of gratitude.
Engagement professionals sometimes struggle to convey the value of initiatives that need a budget, like an online community. How can they sell this to the c-suite?
The first answer is if you don’t have senior buy-in to this, then it’s not going to work, because it has to come across as sincere and authentic. But there are ways that you can show how it adds value to the business. It’s not “do you want happy people”, it’s about asking senior leaders “do you want motivated and productive people?”
Even if you don’t have the buy-in or you can’t get more budget for it, it’s a case of reallocating budget you’ve already got. Move the “command and control” mechanisms that you’ve always done to be replaced by something new that builds trust. This isn’t expensive either - you’re not spending hundreds of thousands on a consultancy firm or new systems - instead it’s about the intention and the communication.
How KonnectAgain can help you build an engaged workplace
KonnectAgain is an online platform that helps global companies tap into rich networks of their past and future talent. We help organisations understand why employees are leaving, stay connected with them and help re-hire high performing alumni as boomerangs. This results in reduced recruitment costs, boosted productivity, improved brand culture and a rich talent pool for referrals and boomerangs.