Happiness at work on a factory shopfloor

Building involvement, development and growth

The world’s biggest producer of windscreen wipers is a single plant that belongs to a large multinational consortium. A job satisfaction survey indicated that there were problems concerning the learning climate (people were afraid to make mistakes) and development opportunities (people felt they had too few possibilities for growth). The company feels very strongly about job satisfaction, so it wanted to tackle these issues. They asked Kessels & Smit for support. Together, we decided to turn the question around. We didn’t start with the problems, but took ‘happiness at work’ as our main theme.


Looking for success

One department immediately chose to experiment with this approach. A core team started up an appreciative inquiry into ‘happiness and joy at work’ with a twofold aim: to investigate opportunities for improvement on the one hand, and to involve workers in creating those improvements on the other. We did some 30 interviews, in which team members and Kessels & Smit consultants asked workers questions such as: ‘What gives you joy in your work nowadays?’ And: ‘What would your job look like if it were like that all the time...?’ We also investigated what people saw as feasible first steps they could take in the direction of their ‘dream’ scenario. And – first and foremost – what they wanted to work on themselves. What energized them? The core team shared the results of these interviews in workshops with the entire department, where people add their own insights and analyses.


Building on what works

This resulted in a list of concrete topics on which workers themselves want to work. These were translated into six clear questions that all turn out to have one common theme: ‘How do we work together?’ This appeared as a core topic that is important to happiness at work and that workers felt energized to take on. Team leaders each took on a question and invited workers to participate. We supported team leaders in engaging people and in developing solutions. Through this personal coaching, the team leaders also increased their own leadership skills.


Sharing ideas and inspiration

In a final meeting, every group found a special way to share their results with co-workers, team leaders and the plant management team. Over 50 workers brought out the best in themselves, addressing such a big audience. They didn’t know they had it in them. The audience was impressed: outcomes exceed their expectations and the people were more beuatiful and talented than anyone knew. So, looking at an issue differently enables us to see more!

“Starting with those who feel the energy and drive to participate.... that dynamic is very contagious, engaging more and more people along the way in an organic fashion.”
- Manager Bosch