The Sweet Smell of Success

By Penny Hunt, Partner, Human Energy Organisation

What does your survey data tell you about the morale / mood / ‘tone’ within your business at the minute? Feel you’ve got a good grip on things? All tickety–boo?

Conventional survey data can only ever provide a partial, often sanitized, snapshot of any organisation.

‘The Sniff Test’

Try a little walking around; take the air. In the spirit of enlarging our understanding of those elusive terms ‘engagement’ and ‘productivity’, a few of us have been visiting various business reception areas, breathing it all in: we’ve been experimenting with that beautifully-named data collection technique, the ‘sniff test’, and anonymously visiting client and non-client companies across sectors and markets.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy’s oft-quoted comment from Anna Karenina may well apply to companies.

It is possible to get a really powerful sense of whether working at that company is a happy experience just by watching and listening. It is harder than you might think to sit, watch, and soak up what is (really) going on, but incredibly informative and rewarding.

With enough input to fuel a large-scale drama, certain ‘happy’ indicators struck us as particularly interesting.

Reasons to be Cheerful:

  • A CEO who came to greet an interviewee herself; the candidate was visibly pleased and pleasantly surprised
  • Relaxed and cheerful acknowledgement at reception
  • People moving faster into the building than out
  • Coffee / snack bars / cafes were not uniformly successful – it was the people running them and whether they ‘knew’ the ‘customers’ that mattered
  • Overheard between employee team members– ‘is there anything else that would help you?’
  • Displays of work and output in reception; much happier than those where the minimalist look dominated
  • Security guards who smiled and helped
  • Chatter rather than silence
  • Talking in the lift lobbies (unhappy offices were more like train stations)
  • A sense of ‘being welcomed’ rather than ‘being processed’
  • Colour and movement.

Try the ‘sniff test’, and be amazed at the strength and clarity of the data you receive; data that is much more truthful than that found in an annual satisfaction survey.

To really know what’s going on in your company, stop and sniff the air.

If what you are sensing disappoints, don’t just re-issue the same inadequate and misleading survey – you need to know what’s really going on. You need to gather what really matters to people. You can read more about The Human Organisation’s eGap Diagnostic here and please do contact us for more information, a top-line quotation – or just a chat.

You’ll soon be picking up that sweet smell of success.


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