The three surprising organizational culture components common to companies with “high happiness levels”

In February this year, Rakuten People & Culture Lab advisor Ryuji Nakatake published Winning Culture: Creating People and Organizations with Winning Habits. “Winning Culture” is one of the Lab’s research themes and we have often discussed the common essence of winning teams around the world, including Spanish professional soccer club FC Barcelona.

But how do you create a strong organizational culture with a winning habit? Mr. Nakatake is currently publishing a series of articles entitled “Ryuji Nakatake’s Winning Culture” on Diamond Online. In this column, we present an article about the three components that make up the organizational culture of companies with “high happiness levels.”

Since the release of Winning Culture: Creating People and Organizations with Winning Habits, I’ve had many conversations with front-line professionals from various industries at events and interviews. As a result, I recently spoke with Professor Takashi Maeno of Keio University, one of Japan’s leading experts in happiness studies.

During our conversation, I asked Professor Maeno, “Are there any facets of organizational culture that are common among companies that have high levels of happiness and perform well?”

Professor Maeno has examined the relationship between happiness and business performance through interviews with managers and employees from a wide range of companies based on happiness studies. As an expert on the subject, he promptly gave me the answer.

He told me that the elements of organizational culture common to companies with high levels of happiness are “greetings, cleaning, and communication.”

First of all, companies in which employees can greet people in a pleasant manner tend to have high levels of happiness and perform well. As I have many opportunities to visit various companies, this observation made perfect sense to me.

The other day I paid a visit to Ishizaka Inc., a pioneering industrial waste treatment company that has achieved a 98% recycling rate for industrial waste, to conduct an interview, and the company’s president and all its employees extended me a warm greeting.

Next is cleaning. Companies that are able to do this on their own are said to have higher levels of happiness and results. In today’s age of outsourcing, there are many companies that outsource the cleaning of their offices to outside contractors.

Obviously, it’s more convenient to outsource cleaning duties. But I’m sure that these companies have realized the importance of going the extra step to handle this responsibility by themselves.

The same holds true in the world of sports. The stronger the team, the more they straighten up their own locker rooms and lodging rooms when they travel, and they carry their own luggage. For example, the All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand, one of rugby’s winningest teams, carry their own luggage when they travel. At the airport, the coach also takes off his blazer, removes his tie, and carries his own luggage. And the team handles most of its own transportation as well.

It seems rather simple, but if everyone could enjoy taking care of the things that they are able to, it would result in a lot of happiness.

And the third element is communication. Companies where management can communicate comfortably with employees, and employees with each other, as if they were a family, are said to have higher levels of happiness and achieve better results.

Greetings, cleaning, and communication. These three components come naturally to everyone, without anyone forcing them to do them. And what’s important is doing these things unconsciously.

I was thoroughly convinced by what Professor Maeno said. And it is easy to imagine how pleasant it would be to work in a place where everyone exchanges cordial greetings, with an environment that is clean and organized, and communication resembles that of a family. If you were to work in such a place, isn’t it only natural that your performance would improve?

In order to put greetings, cleaning, and communication into practice as a matter of course, the first thing a company’s president must do is continue greeting his employees with sincerity. It is precisely because this is a non-work area that leaders need to take the initiative and lead the way rather than issuing instructions or orders.

In the world of sports, non-competitive areas are referred to as “off the field” and, in the same way, key people must set an example. Although results may not come easily, persistence is key. In this way, an organizational culture in which everyone greets each other will gradually take root.

These are very simple things to do, but for a company that completely lacks such elements, trying to integrate greetings, cleaning, and communication into the organizational culture poses a very challenging hurdle.

And for businesspeople as well, the higher their position, the more they take for granted that others will do things for them. But this does not lead to increased happiness.

Realizing an organizational culture capable of maintaining happiness requires that you take the initiative in greeting people cordially, cleaning, and enriching communication. That’s it.

Do you greet people on a daily basis? Do you tidy up and clean the space that everyone uses? Let’s take that first step.

This article is an English translation of an article from the serialized DIAMOND Online series Ryuji Nakatake’s Winning Culture, printed with permission by DIAMOND, Inc.
The original article (in Japanese) can be viewed here.