Tips From 30 of the Happiest Companies on Earth

Tip #1: Communicate Clearly & Frequently – “The Truth Always Comes Out:” 

Organizations who have some of happiest and most recognized employees credited their overt communication as to why they won. Transparent and open communication builds trust among team members and creates a culture of honesty. Last year was rough, people’s health, safety, and jobs were constantly at risk. If there was ever a need to increase the lines of upfront and honest communication within an organization, it was 2020. 

Here’s a selection of quotes from some of our winners: 

“Communication is our number one focus for delivering the best working environment as we moved to a hybrid-first model where teamwork and not location became of paramount importance”

– Ashely Carr, Managing Director at Neo PR - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient

“Our #1 tip for others to improve their employee happiness is to focus on communication. When employees feel heard and informed, they will more likely be happy at work. It sounds so simple. But it's so true.”

–  Dakota Davisson, Human Resources Generalist at Insurance Management Group -  2020 Wins Award Recipient

“Over time the change in happiness in our team just went from strength to strength. They believed we were communicating honestly with them and they could see the change.”

– Rachel Payne, General Manager at Convergecom - Happiest, Raising the Bar, & Wins Award Recipient

“Whilst in lockdown we all worked from home and kept in regular daily contact with our team via a team huddle each morning to see how they were, all staff were encouraged to reach out to their colleagues who they hadn't spoken to for a few days. Especially those living alone.”

– Michael Felder, Operations Director at The Summit Group -  2020 Happiest Award Recipient

“I believe the #1 for improving employee happiness and company culture is communication. Especially during the last year when our routines were upended and our main office closed, an increase in communication... allowed our employees to stay connected and focused.” 

–  Bruce Moe, Executive Director of Missouri State Teachers Association -  2020 Happiest Award Recipient

“Our #1 tip for improving happiness is to communicate freely, listen to and show genuine support to employees, and act on feedback that’s given.  A happy team equals happy customers!”

– Louise Potts, People and Culture Manager Health & Safety at SolutionsPT - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient

Tip #2: First Things First – Define Your Values Now:

By setting and defining your company's core values, you are creating a cultural roadmap for employees. From the get-go, everyone can lean on a shared belief system. Providing an outward facing list of shared beliefs and expectations of your employees fosters team bonding and cultivates a strong company culture. As an employer, you can align on values, hire from values, and even fire on values. Plus, this will facilitate driving purposeful work for your organization long term.

Here’s what some business leaders have to say about defining core values:

“Our #1 strategy for improving employee happiness/company culture is clearly defining our core values and then hiring and evaluating team members quarterly on those core values.  What we find is that employees are excited about recommending friends and acquaintances to work at Altaworx.”

– Forrest Derr, President of Altaworx LLC - 2020 Happiest & Wins Award Recipient

“[TINYpulse] has enabled difficult conversations that may have otherwise gone unaddressed.  TINYpulse helps us reinforce our Core Values of The Golden Rule, Candor, Teamwork, Continuous Improvement and Excellence. It was very rewarding to win a Happiest Company award in 2017 and 2018 but we were overwhelmed at winning in 2020.”

– Bill Boncosky, Owner and President of Art to Remember - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient 

"The official acknowledgment signifies that we truly do practice what we preach and our 4 Core Values aren’t just words on a wall. Cheering on our peers has always been part of who we are as a team, showing that we value, celebrate, and encourage each person and their efforts towards transforming how people and companies connect through hiring on purpose.”

– Jennifer Schissel, Director of Finance and People at Y Scouts - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient

“With Cheers for Peers, we recognize coworkers for embodying our core values. These values define our culture and how we approach working with clients, so I’m very proud of this award. It celebrates our commitment to building a team that believes in doing the right thing, building personal connections, and always being curious.”

– Clay Harris, CEO of WorkSmart - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient 

“...Most of our new business comes from referrals--and the foundation of it all is happy and engaged employees. We spend a lot of time focusing on our core values. Our culture is rooted in these values, and we work hard to infuse them in everything we do.”

– Steven Kapor, President of Fundriver, Inc. - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient 

“Our company values are core to our business so it’s no surprise that the team sends so many Cheers acknowledging their colleagues’ commitment to the values. Our key tips for employee happiness are: listening to your team, empowering them to do their job, acknowledging achievements and making the time to socialise and connect with each other.”

– Anthea Cohen, General Manager of GoFundraise - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient

Tip #3: Invest in Your Employees – If They Succeed, So Will You:

If you care about your employees, then you have to show them. Investing in your team can be done in numerous ways. Whether it’s expanding benefits, providing educational opportunities, or simply investing your time in them– your employees will take note.  Make your employees feel  like they have a stake in the company. 

Here are some real-life examples of investments employers have made: 

“We invest in the team through training, benefits, compensation, and professional development. And this isn’t something that’s happened overnight. PTCB has made it our priority to create a culture where each individual is valued for what they bring to the table, and encouraged to express and test new ideas.”

– William Schimmel, Executive Director and CEO of Pharmacy Technician Certification Board - 2020 Happiest & Employee Recognition Award Recipient 

“Four years ago I made a conscious decision as a CEO to invest in the happiness of my employees... Signing up for TINYpulse was one of the smartest things I have ever done... I have legitimately changed my business based on feedback I receive…”

– Marya Khalil-Otto, CEO of VI Aesthetics - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient

Investing doesn’t have to have a dollar sign in front of it. Providing time, resources, care, and energy without even considering the fiscal implications doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s exactly the right thing to do.

“People here care about each other and about the company improving. The best way to improve employee happiness and company culture is to love employees, to really care about them and their success. TINYpulse helps us to show our love by listening”

– Josh Weeks, President of Movemedical - 2020 Wins Award Recipient

“In a year where much was out of our control, one of our organization’s top priorities in 2020 was to support our team in ways that they needed most. Whether this meant more 1-on-1s, virtual brain breaks, virtual Happy Hours, opportunities for small projects to help build skill sets, it has been important to us that everyone knows they’re not alone.”

– Skye Morgan, Director of Operations at - 2020 Happiest, Recognition, & Wins Award Recipient 

Tip #4: Recognize Your Team – The Power of Saying “Thank You:”

Who doesn’t like to be recognized for a job well done? A recognized team is an engaged team. Literally just saying “thank you for doing X task, I can see how it will affect Y” goes a long way. This also shouldn’t be a top-down program, rather peer-to-peer. Your employees will build morale, increase happiness, and foster stronger connections. Don’t forget to make it consistent and include how it makes you feel.

These leaders know just how important recognition is:

“At The Hutong we strive to create a great place to work, learn, and grow, and so much of that boils down to a supportive culture, meaningful relationships, and peer recognition. We were honored to find out that our team are industry-leading (pardon the pun) cheerleaders for one another."

– Morgan O’Hara, Managing Partner of The Hutong - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient

“For Strategy First, giving someone a “Cheers” recognizes the discretionary effort someone puts into their work or their day, and the impact that effort has on others. It is more than meeting KPIs or targets. Sincerely saying “things have been challenging, but you stepped up by doing “X” and that helped me this way” can have a disproportionately positive impact on the recipient compared to the effort required to give the Cheers.”

– Patrick Anwandter, Managing Director & Financial Planner of Strategy First Financial Planning - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient

“TINYpulse allowed us to track the wellbeing of our staff and compare it with our historical data. It was very motivating to see the 'happiness trend' visualization tracking upwards and helpful to be able to use 'Cheers for Peers' to give remote feedback. Overall this award validates our sense that we all did a good job of supporting each other in these difficult circumstances.”

– Alistair du Chatenier, Principal of Thorndon School  - 2020 Happiest, Raising the Bar, Recognition, & Wins Award Recipient 

“For this [award] to become a reality, we've had to focus a lot of our attention and energy, over several years, to reimagine our company culture. This includes giving our employees the necessary time, guidance and encouragement on how to best recognise the efforts and talents of one another. We think we've been making great progress, and this is a… piece of validation to indicate we're on to a good thing.”

– Scott Colenutt, Managing Director of SiteVisibility - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient 

“We use TINYpulse Cheers to “Celebrate Success” (one of our guiding principles). And it means: catching people doing things right is more effective than catching them doing things wrong. And so we make sure that we regularly extend meaningful acknowledgment and appreciation in all directions throughout our company, we do this using TINYpulse Cheers. This principle is part of our value called “Be Enthusiastic”. We are so proud to receive this award from TINYpulse.”

– Stacey Levas, VP of Commercial Marketing at Prognos Health - 2020 Wins Award Recipient 

“In what turned out to be a year of unprecedented business challenges this is welcomed recognition. The backbone of our business is our employees, it is great to have the Cheers platform to continue to provide them recognition for all they do!”

– Marie Clarke, Sr Manager Customer Experience Programs at Holland America Group - Guest Programs - 2020 Employee Recognition and Wins Award Recipient

Tip #5: Democratize Your Decision Making – Start Collecting Frequent Feedback:

If you’re not listening to your employees, how will you know how they feel? How will you know what actions to take? The answer is simple. You won’t. Unless you’re actively listening, collecting feedback, and creating room for honest dialogue – you will not know how to address employee problems. Even better, make it anonymous. Some problems are hard to address. Fix that by paving the way for honest feedback.

These leaders have spoken, like I said, just listen: 

"Regularly scheduled pulse surveys gave me a sense of where the team was in dealing with the stresses of this pandemic and of course the "Wins" board kept everyone informed on key initiatives for our company."  

– Neil Collins, CEO of Santa Clara County Association of Realtors - 2020 Wins Award Recipient

“Our business nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, completely due to our culture… Our delivery model did a 180, but our focus on employee happiness only intensified. We’ve been proud recipients for a number of years, but none prouder than this year. An employee feedback loop is a key to scaling any organization’s success, and no one captures employee happiness better than TINYpulse.”

– Brandon Dufour, Founder and CEO of The Next Street - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient

“Our #1 tip for improving employee happiness/company culture is listening to your employees and encouraging an open dialogue, making sure to act on the feedback that you receive. This is something that we would not be able to do without TINYpulse, which allows us to offer a safe environment in which our employees feel comfortable being their most authentic selves.” 

– Laura Salvatore, Associate VP Human Capital at Centurion Asset Management Inc. - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient 

“The moment you start addressing the brutal facts concerning overall employee well-being and happiness, it's like initiating an upstream swim, with each sequential improvement step requiring more effort… TINYpulse has enabled us to create an environment of safety and trust, through which colleagues can give anonymized input, introduce a company-wide democratic process for suggesting improvements, and provide full transparency for incremental optimizations realized, so called Wins!”

–Judith Oleana-Ubaghs, Chief Happiness Officer of Profound Projects - 2020 Wins Award Recipient

“The anonymity allows the opportunity of honesty without a chance of judgment allowing for genuine feedback.  We have enjoyed using it and will continue to enjoy the pure honesty that allows for growth.”

– Lucas Robinson, CEO of WeatherSolve Structures - 2020 Happiest & Wins Award Recipient 

“Keeping our guests, safety, and open communications at the forefront of all we do, we leveraged the TINYpulse tool as our listening mechanism to ensure our team members had a channel to share their feedback and concerns. It was imperative to the Leadership team to understand how we are aligning to our key values, employee engagement, job satisfaction, level of happiness, and empowerment as we moved from an in-person, to work-at-home business model.”

– Kristin Olsen, Director of E-Commerce Portfolio Services at Alaska Airlines - 2020 Recognition & Wins Award Recipient

“For us, the best way to drive our progressive culture is to do it collaboratively across the organisation. Instead of assuming what needs to be changed, we ask colleagues directly what they need to work well and be happy at work. We do this by using...TINYpulse, which helps us to ask questions and regularly measure the happiness of our teams and enables people to provide honest feedback and suggestions.”

– Lynda Sagona, Group Chief Executive of United Welsh - 2020 Happiest Award Recipient

“My biggest piece of advice to any manager, HR team, or executive team seeking to improve company culture is to listen first. Your people are your culture and if you aren't regularly surveying them, collecting feedback, and actioning that data in alignment with strategic goals and mission, you aren't going to see results no matter how much effort and expertise you put into it."

– Kersten Collins, Director of People & Culture at Treehouse - 2020 Employee Recognition Award Recipient 

What You Should Takeaway:

Well there you have it – advice from business leaders themselves on what it takes to foster employee happiness and company culture. If I haven’t made it clear yet, these all of these winners are all doing one thing – collecting employee feedback and refining their company culture. Every single winner is actively creating a better workplace for their teams.  

  • Tip #1: Communicate Clearly & Frequently – “The Truth Always Comes Out:” 
  • Tip #2: First Things First – Define Your Values Now:
  • Tip #3: Invest in Your Employees – If They Succeed, So Will You: 
  • Tip #4: Recognize Your Team Now – The Power of Saying “Thank You:”
  • Tip #5: Democratize Your Decision Making – Start Collecting Frequent Feedback:

Whether you’re communicating transparently, living and breathing through core values, investing in your employees, encouraging recognition and collecting employee feedback – you’re on the right track. Each one of these is a huge step forward. Taking a holistic approach is even better. 

These aren’t end all, be all tactics. There’s so many ways you can cultivate a great culture of trust, honesty, and productivity. But, again, don’t take it from me. Take from the leaders who are prevailing and the best at it. Afterall, they won an award/s for just that.

Related: 15 Remote Employee Recognition Ideas To Build a Culture of Appreciation