Why Start-ups Could Be the Happiest Places to Work

05/05/2016 12:36 | Updated 24 May 2016

We have the opportunity to create the worlds happiest and most successful organizations

The knowledge is out there, so is the expertise.

We just need to make more effort to apply it.

A Start-up, has the opportunity to set its culture for success from the outset. No historic operating practices, no politics getting in the way, no corporate bull-sh*t, no disengaged employees.

A Start-up can start as it means to go on, and can embrace the ways of working that work for people, society, and the future.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows us people would prefer to engage with purposeful businesses; authentic brands; values driven organizations. Whether as an employee or a customer, these things are becoming increasingly important.

Start-ups can embrace this, and help us create a world full of more business people with soul (as I call them).

Seeing with new eyes

Historically businesses have operated from models of hierarchy and control, with some moving towards empowerment and collaboration.

It is becoming clearer by the day that organizations who put purpose before profit, organizations that are values driven, are going to be the businesses of the future.


Because they are the ones that appeal to people, that engage people, (or at least the majority of the working population).

A values driven organization with a strong sense of purpose, is more likely to attract and retain talent and customers. And will help create a better world in the process.

If a Start-up business ensures it begins its journey with a strong sense of purpose, and a set of values to live by, they are setting themselves up for success right at the outset.

'Purpose'; 'Values'; 'Authenticity'; 'Integrity'; and 'Open, honest communication' are cited in research as becoming more important in terms of employee and customer engagement, and ultimately, success.

The recent Millennial Survey by Deloitte, Cohn & Wolfe's Authentic 100, and Edelmen's Trust Barometer are three studies this year that provide that evidence, and confirm to me what has always seemed to be common sense.

But you know what they say about common sense don't you?

(Not so common)

Let's think about people.

What matters to people, and why does it matter to business?

People are people whether they are employees, customers or supporters, or even active protestors.

All people.

What they all have in common, in the most part, is a set of things they care about.

A set of things that drive them.

A set of things that they use to make decisions.

Things that make a difference in terms of job satisfaction, engagement, loyalty, trust, purchasing decisions.

What makes a person choose your brand, over another?

A brand to buy from, or buy-in-to.

What makes them choose to work for your business, or to recommend it?

In simple terms, you could say it's all about 'Why' and 'How'.

I'll start with Why.

'Why' includes: your purpose, your values, essentially the 'heart and soul' of your business.

Putting purpose before profit is one of the biggest themes coming out of the latest research.

In addition to that, values are having the greatest influence on decision making.

It makes sense.

People want to engage with meaningful brands; purpose driven organizations with a set of values they can relate to.

People want to feel that they are making a difference, a contribution. They want the people they work for, and buy from, to care about that too.

To be believable and for people to believe in you, you need to embrace authenticity (and acting with integrity), which means being comfortable with honest, transparent communication.

Acting on purpose, bringing values to life.

There can be no say/do gap here.

Still makes sense.

As Simon Sinek says:

"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe"

So we understand why 'Why' is important.

What about 'How'?

When I talk about 'How' in this instance, I am talking about organizational design; Management versus Autonomy.

Creating the conditions for people to do their best work.

What kind of set-up makes for the most productive culture with the most engaged people?

The inspirational work of Daniel H Pink, proves to us that Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are the ingredients of genuine motivation. We need these to create an environment and culture, for people to do their best work.

This in turn leads to high levels of engagement and satisfaction.

In this article on employee engagement, I explain a little further how we can create the right conditions for engagement.

Start-up's have the perfect opportunity to design their organisation for the future.

Established business still have the opportunity to improve, to change and to reinvent themselves, it will just take a bit more time and effort.

Effort that will be so worth it as they realize the benefits.

Creating a culture for people to do their best work

The old hierarchical models of management are becoming too cumbersome to achieve the innovation required to stay relevant among the disruption, and are perhaps too controlled to really 'connect' with people.

My sense is people would rather choose to work with, and do business with, business people with soul. A soulful business, where 'heart and soul' is worn on its sleeve. A business which aspires to Pink's ideal of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

And the evidence is there.

Why wouldn't we choose purpose and autonomy?

Should this be the 'lightbulb moment' we all need to create the world's happiest and most successful organizations?

Today's Start-ups have the opportunity to create a movement, to shift organizational culture, and continue this into the future, for the happiness and betterment of the world.

"The course of human history has always moved in the direction of greater freedom. And there's a reason for that--because it's in our nature to push for it," Daniel H Pink

Why do I care about this?

Having worked as a consultant in business change, culture, engagement and communications for the best part of two decades, I have a real interest in business and people.

And how the two can best work together.

I believe there is a lot we can do to make the working world a happier, more successful place.

I'd like to live in a world where more businesses are driven by meaning and purpose.

Where values are valued, not just words on a wall.

Where communication is honest, involving and authentic.

Where people live happier, meaningful, successful lives.

I believe this is possible.

Do you?

Lucy is the Managing Director of Leading Conversations, a Strategic Communications & Thought Leadership Consultancy. You can follow Leading Conversations on Twitter @leadingconv for all the latest inspiration and conversations.

You can also find Leading Conversations on Facebook

A expanded version of this article originally appeared here