What makes you happy in Life?

Culture in High Performance Organizations

by Chris Hazewinkel 


If you ask millenials, what makes them happy in life? “Becoming rich and famous” is often the answer, which is very likely the result of how we raise our kids. An 80 year study by Harvard University, one of the longest studies ever done in history (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/), provides different answers to the same question:

Great relationships - a good match with personality
Secure relationships - one that withstands an argument

Austin, Texas (March 10, 2018)

On a wonderful sunny afternoon, during South by South West (SXSW), I had the pleasure to moderate an interview between Gerrit Brouwer (founder and CEO Appical) and Joost van Bellen (Artist, DJ and writer). Joost, a Dutch phenomenal DJ known from revolutionary clubs like “Roxy (Amsterdam)” and various festivals, like “Valtifest” and “Meubelstukken”, has brought (electro) techno house music to the non-commercial public. 

What makes him happy, is the journey he followed with people he likes, to become what he is today. Knowing his own personality, staying young, being confident and realizing a meaningful life as a result of his achievements, surrounded by a secure community of people. Mistakes are there to learn and overcome, and some mistakes, can turn out in something really good! Joost’s recommendation was, to never get stuck in anxiety like 1 out of 8 people do. Do not wait and see, start acting for the better. Keep investing in personal relationships, that will pay out in your happiness and a meaningful life. 

“It brings you wisdom, self confidence, pleasure and it makes you proud.” 


That same afternoon, I also interviewed leaders in Talent Development together with Gerrit. These leaders were from companies like Southwest Airlines, Uber (Zenefit, Glassdoor), and Pepsi. 

“Talking about meaningful relationships (culture) in high performance organisations, it seems hard work and requires anticipation.” 

Nowadays, technology like Artificial Intelligence (Alexa/Siri kind of solutions) are a reality within HR and L&D. Automation is key and implementation of these technologies requires involvement and support of the business. For that reason, HR and Talent Management development should be more strategic at on-board level as culture and happy people can really differentiate your company.

This view starts with good matching of the applicants soft-skills with the company’s culture. On-boarding a new employee is definitely an important part of this. There is never a second chance for a good first impression. The better the new hire is guided, the more confident he/she will be, with a happier work environment as a result. Appical has proven within Pepsi, for example, that this is a major component in building a great culture, aside of the efficiency and value this brings for the people involved. 

It is not a stand alone process. The whole company is responsible for cultural optimization. Authentic involvement of the board and senior leaders on the workfloor is crucial. Anticipation in process development when experiencing high performance growth is also key, otherwise you will lose your safe ground for people. Things will get hectic and people lose confidence. At companies like Uber, it is of major importance to continuously stimulate culture, understand the employee experience, work through the steps in the process, and provide a feeling of freedom with valuable relationships at every level. 

“The new HR and L&D is all about the employee experience and should have strategic focus in order to create competitive advantage” 

At the academy of Southwest Airlines it is key that people physically get together on their first day of work as part of the onboarding. They all fly into the central campus to receive updates and interviews from business professionals from their respective line of business, not from HR or learning and development to maintain the authentic part of culture. A 360 degree experience as part of good onboarding. 

At many organizations, these processes of onboarding often go terribly wrong. There is no objective or strategy to really put effort into this and it seems complex as people have other priorities. At these organisations chaos is an everyday thing and they cannot keep up with high performance. A solution like a mobile app, can change this dramatically. There is money to be saved, avoiding these mistakes, and not only for prevention and retention, according to Gerrit, founder of Appical, but even more money to be gained, by having happy people in your company as part of an engaged culture. 

Another topic to think about next, on-boarding and the process of culture matching in high performance growth is not even enough. In our new age work environment, off-boarding is also key. A good and quality goodbye is of major importance for the branding of your company, as well as confidence of your previous employees and growth towards the future. 

And then…. DJ Set from Joost van Bellen - What a party!

It was a wonderful day in Austin, and to top it all off, we were treated with a nice set from Joost van Bellen in the garden of the New Dutch Wave house, clearly staying in the mood of celebrating top notch Dutch creativity and entrepreneurship. With plenty of energy and happiness at display on the dance floor, it was evident that NDW did an excellent job of mixing the right ingredients for magic to happen.

Looking forward to meet many more creatives, innovators and entrepreneurs at 2019’s edition of New Dutch Wave at SXSW.

Chris HazewinkelComment