Happy Workers, An IT Company Dreaming Of A Happy Workplace


A very interesting experiment was carried out by a research team led by Duke University Professor Dan Ariely, author of ‘Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions’ and a scholar of behavioral economics. The participants were divided into two groups assembling Lego. The first group, after completing one Lego robot, received a different kind of robot to complete. They continued to build new robots, and finished robots were placed in front of the test subjects. Unlike the first group, the second group continued to receive the same type of Lego robot, and the robots they completed were dismantled by other people in front of them while they watched.

Both experimental groups were able to receive cash compensation for the number of completed robots, and it was possible for the participants to stop making robots at any time they wished. In general, you would expect the second experimental group to produce robots faster and get more compensation as they become skilled at creating the same robot over and over again. However, the opposite was true. The first group completed an average of 10.6 units and received a $14.40 reward while the second group completed 7.2 units and received only $11.50.

According to Professor Ariely, the reason for this is that “Human beings cannot be motivated by monetary compensation alone. It is human nature to look for meaning in the process of accomplishing something.” The second experimental group was confined to performing an uninspiring and meaningless task, which ultimately led to a decrease in production. This demonstrates that high monetary compensation is not related to productivity.

So what is the most effective way to get people involved and increase productivity? As Professor Ariely put it, humans focus the moment they feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. We even give meaning to such things as why we choose a certain thing to eat as well as what speed to eat it. Think about when you’re choosing what route to take or when choosing what flavor of noodles to buy at the store. All the choices we make have meaning behind them. We make decisions based on such things as what would be best for our health, what would be the most convenient thing to eat while having a conversation, etc. Ultimately, people find meaning and purpose when making choices as well as when working and accomplishing things. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t find meaning and purpose through other means.) The result of this process is immersion and productivity.

# Companies have low work commitment due to chronic fatigue and stress

The most serious problem that all companies have been experiencing in recent years is the continuing decline in employees commitment. Research continues to show that staff morale has fallen to poor levels worldwide, rather than being a department-specific issue. Two-thirds of US workers are already in a state of chronic fatigue, so they having concentrating on their work. They also distract their colleagues from their or have poor relationships with their colleagues. According to the American Psychology Association, this phenomenon is causing rapid political and economic changes in the United States, and the uncertainty resulting therefrom causes individuals to feel depressed and stressed (The Washington Post, “Americans are seriously stressed out…” Feb. 2017). Korea is no different. With 2 million people unemployed with more people being laid off in these times of declining economic growth, people are living in a state of chronic stress.

# Happy Workers, An IT Company Dreaming of a Happy Workplace
It’s no overstatement that Cisco is now at the head of a worldwide network. But what’s even more remarkable than the company’s products and technology is that the company has grown due to a tremendous amount of mergers and acquisitions. (The company has even concluded a total of 23 acquisitions in a single year.) Many companies fail after mergers and acquisitions due to personnel leaving the company or due to inter-organizational disagreements. However, most Cisco mergers and acquisitions have been successful. The average turnover of Silicon Valley is 30%, and 33% of employees at companies that undergo mergers and acquisitions end up leaving within just one year. Surprisingly, Cisco’s average employee leave rate is 10% at most, and the average turnover of the merged company is just 2%. (“How to think like the world’s greatest masters of M&A”, McGraw-Hill Inc, NY, 2001)

This goes to show that Cisco is a workplace that people don’t want to leave, and that workers are able to find meaning and purpose in continuing to work at the merged company. As a matter of fact, Cisco’s mergers and acquisitions take place very quickly. This eliminates anxiety among the employees of the acquired company, and is also for quickly instilling in the employees a new vision for their future. It’s probably not necessary to go into Cisco education programs and welfare-related matters. It’s a well known fact that ‘people’ are at the heart of every Cisco strategy.

There is horizontal communication as well the potential for growth, but the most important point is that the company is “fun” and employees can anticipate new things happening. Horizontal relationships that leave behind the hierarchical system of rank and position, various ways to collaborate, and a culture than encourages mutual growth are what’s on offer for employees. Of course, in some ways, a horizontal organization can slow decision making and take more time to solve problems. However, in a culture that recognizes individual differences and engages people in heated debates, employees are more than just simple ‘parts’ in a machine; they are meaningful members made to feel that they belong. We hope that many more IT companies will follow in our footsteps and create happy workers through trying various approaches. We’d like to close by reminding the reader once again that “People are the heart of every IT company”.

Andy Cho Principal Engineer at the Development Competency Office has published an online series of 31 “developer-centric” articles from 2016 to create a good company for developers to work, and he has sponsored various external developer events, including voluntary technology conferences created by developers.