Is happiness at work profitable?

The first thing that strikes you about CEO Salvatore Curaba is his ability to connect with people. His warmth and sense of inclusion is apparent as he immediately offers to do the interview in English when he hears that this is my first language, even though it would put him at a disadvantage. We decline as we are not here to make me feel comfortable, rather to get the most out of our interviewing time with him.

Salvatore has a seemingly radical view about work. He believes that it is important for his staff to be happy and he is proactively engaged in finding ways of putting this into practice by embedding it into the company culture.

He is not just interested in well-being at work, but more importantly, “Happiness at Work”

As he says, he is not just interested in well-being at work, but more importantly, “Happiness at Work”. Well-being is the domain of HR while happiness is more about good management, he states.

Salvatore believes he has found the formula for happiness in the workplace which he applies to his company EASI, which he co-founded in 1999 after a career as a professional footballer in the Belgian football leagues. The results speak for themselves. EASI has won the award for “Best Workplace in Belgium” for the third consecutive year and Salvatore has previously been nominated as Manager of the Year in Belgium.

The genuine affection and warmth inherent in staff interactions illustrate the relationship he has with his employees. “I am like a father to them” he states at some point. “I try to be the same person I am at work as I am at home”, implying the importance and care he places on his work relationships.

For him there are some key concepts that he practises

Recognition and Positivity Reinforcement

Salvatore asks that he is informed of any positive achievements by his staff so these can be recognised. He is keen to focus on the positive as his view is that we all make mistakes and it is important that people are not made to feel afraid of making mistakes, so mistakes are not viewed as learning experiences and successes and achievements are acknowledged and celebrated. This is done by showing gratitude and giving compliments, which he ensures he does on a daily basis. This principle of magnifying and celebrating people’s strengths and helpfulness adds to the cycle of positivity which further strengthens motivation and contentment while inspiring others.

Equality and Respect

For Salvatore, treating everyone with a sense of equality is very important. “It does not matter if you are speaking to a Senior Manager or if you are speaking to a person who is responsible for emptying the bins at night,” he says. They are all human beings and deserve to be treated with respect. This philosophy applies across the board, through to customers, colleagues, suppliers and visitors and this is evident when he clears away the dishes after our interview, not waiting for anyone else to do so.

Freedom, Autonomy and Responsibility

Salvatore firmly believes he is nurturing leaders of the future and places his trust in them being able to make decisions without needing to continually consult him. To go hand in hand with this principle, no managers are hired externally. They are promoted from within, which ensures that the company culture is already embedded in managers before they step into these roles.  Thus there is trust that this process has imbued them with the values that the company is built upon and that decisions will be taken with the company’s and staff’s best interest at heart. This also shows respect and reward for loyalty.

Studies have shown that staff morale and commitment is higher as a result of promotion from within with staff more likely to recommend their company to others.

While this is a great formula for happiness, is it possible to combine happiness at work with strong financial results   EASI also succeeds in this regard. The company was a finalist for Company of the Year 2015 at the EY Awards in Belgium, which rewards strong growth and exceptional results.

Is it possible to combine happiness at work with strong financial results?  EASI also succeeds in this regard

Salvatore is a pioneering spirit in Belgium and has certainly shaken up the business landscape with his company being the youngest to win “Best Workplace in Belgium” 3 years ago. This does not mean he intends resting on his laurels. His next goal is to become the best workplace in Europe. Judging by his passion and determination I wouldn’t bet against him achieving this and wish him every success in this endeavour.

We certainly need more leaders with these values and who believe in transforming our work environments into a positive, humanistic way.

The Pulzz company strongly believe that happiness and well-being at work make for more productive and profitable companies.  We do this by:
a) Offering management programmes to organisations, based on mindfulness, attention training and the latest findings in neuroscience
b) Promoting a more human-centric approach to management.