I have met many business leaders who think they can create happy and loyal customers without simultaneously having happy and loyal employees. We want to change that. In a series of articles we will share parts of an interview I have made with Alexander Kjerulf who is an expert on happiness at work. He has the recipe for how to get motivated and dedicated employees who create WOW experiences for customers.

ALEXANDER:

We’re here to be happy. What’s life worth if you’re not happy? And it’s exactly the same for work. What’s it all worth if you’re not happy? Your title, your salary, your bonus and your BMW are suddenly not worth anything if you’re unhappy.

When I think back I’ve always focused on my own job satisfaction. When I chose what to study, for example, I chose what was fun rather than what would maybe give me the most money. I was a geek as a teenager, so the only thing I could do was installing computers. I have a degree in data technology, and data technology is just like computer science, only geekier.

I finished in 1994 and had various jobs. Some had high job satisfaction, others not. In 1997 I was involved in starting up an IT company called Enterprise Systems, and when I started this company with two other happy geeks we only had one purpose, and that was to create a company with a lot of job satisfaction.
We had experience from companies where job satisfaction was very low, so now we wanted to create our own company that would be an awesome place to work. That was our primary purpose – and we succeeded!

Like I said, we started in 1997, the company grew fairly quickly and it was quite a big success. We quickly reached 20 employees and made some big complex IT systems for some major well-known companies. We created some very complex solutions – it was very interesting. It was going well and in 2002 we decided to sell the company. Then we had to find something else to do. Not having to think about what I should do next, I had the freedom to take some time off. I was just relaxing for some time, and then one day the idea came to me. I had to spread job satisfaction!

I had to take the best experiences from our company and from the rest of the world’s best jobs and then work out how to do it elsewhere. My questions were, “What can we do to get a good working life and what can the company do to create a really good workplace?” I started on this full-time in 2003, and it’s going terrifically. It’s unbelievable how much there is to do. The next step is making it a global consultancy business, focusing 100% on job satisfaction.

 

RELATIONWISE:

I guess job satisfaction is many things. Some might argue that job satisfaction is a higher salary, etc. What’s your approach?

 

ALEXANDER:

There are two aspects to it. First, what is job satisfaction? Secondly, what gives job satisfaction? Many people mix up the two questions. If we look at the first question, what job satisfaction is, it’s an indefinable thing. I’ve struggled to find a definition, but my favorite one is that it’s the feeling of joy you get at work. It can be that simple. If you ask people if they’ve experienced the feeling of job satisfaction everyone puts their hands up. If you ask them if they’ve experienced lack of job satisfaction everyone also puts their hands up. So, even without having the definition of what job satisfaction is, we know when we have it and we especially know when we don’t have it. The key here is that job satisfaction is a feeling, like anger is a feeling, like disappointment is a feeling, and feelings are hard to define, we just know when we have it. We know when we’re happy, we can feel it. Do you see where I’m going? It’s very difficult to define it, but we know when we have it.

Then there’s the next question, what gives job satisfaction and what removes job satisfaction? Many people believe it has something to do with the salary, the title or the fringe benefits. There are many companies that know something is wrong with regard to job satisfaction. They see a lack of motivation, there’s no energy, no trust, people are resisting frantically every change they try to make in the company and there’s poor communication. Perhaps there are rumors, bullying, slandering, high sick-ness absenteeism, etc. So many companies have discovered that it hurts when there are problems. They know something is wrong and they try to fix it, for example with a bonus scheme or through a pay rise to motivate people.

A lot of companies try with perks like free gym or home computer, free newspapers, etc. It’s proven again and again that it doesn’t work. People get all these things and say, “That was so sweet of you” and then they’re still dissatisfied because it isn’t motivating. So then the directors say, “Look at everything we’ve just given you and you’re still dissatisfied, you’re so ungrateful.” That’s because they’re doing it the wrong way. A pay rise does not give you job satisfaction. Fringe benefits do not provide job satisfaction. It may spoil your job satisfaction if you feel that your salary is too low, unfair or unreasonable. But no matter how high it is it can’t give you job satisfaction. So people will continue being dissatisfied if something is wrong at work, no matter how many perks you give them.

Job satisfaction is really just two things. The first thing is about results. It’s the fact that you make a difference. It’s the fact that you’re allowed to deliver the goods. It’s that you can do a job you’re proud of. That’s the first thing. This is so important, because as human beings we all need to know, “I really make a difference, I’m creating something, I’m delivering the goods.” The other thing is relationships and the fact that we’re feeling good with the people we’re working with. It’s natural that we all need social acceptance. We all need to know that we’re part of the group, that the people we’re with like us. It’s so important because we have to spend a lot of time with our colleagues, in fact more time than with our family back home.

Get inspired by Alexander Kjerulfs blog www.positivesharing.com