Workplace happiness | Pelorus Consulting

workplace happiness

Could this be Britain’s happiest workplace?

Workplace happiness and productivity goes hand in hand with the successful fusion of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

These may sound fuzzy and theoretical concepts. But when a company recognises their values and harnesses them for team development, the results are rock solid. Here we’ll explain why – and how.

Shining example of organisational development

As an independent organisational development consultancy specialising in leadership development, at Pelorus Consulting we were excited when print management supplier Webmart UK agreed to our carrying out a cross-company case study.

It was an inspirational eye opener. We discovered what has to be one of the most unconventional, yet happiest and most successful, companies in Britain.

Download the full white paper here. Six Winning Ways To Inspire Your Employees in the Workplace: The Way-Out Webmart Story.

The interrelationship between workplace happiness and profits

Oxford-based Webmart describes itself as the “best value supplier of print in the UK”. It provides high-quality print solutions. With two further regional offices in Glasgow and Barnsley, its client list includes major global and UK brands.

Webmart’s profits have grown year on year since it launched in 1996. But, in our view, it’s not the company’s exceptional balance sheets that are its main achievement. It’s the production of the exceptional workplace happiness quota of its team of circa 50 employees.

The two, of course, are directly linked.

Webmart has expanded year on year. It has won many awards, including Lloyds Bank National Business Awards 2016 Employer of the Year.

Its success is welded to its ability to attract and keep talented people whose intrinsic and extrinsic motivational values align with those of the business.

Workplace happiness is worth the investment. A recent University of Warwick and Social Market Foundation study showed that workplace happiness and wellbeing raise productivity by between 12–20%.

The report concluded: “If happiness in the workplace brings increased returns to productivity, then human resource departments, business managers and the architects of progression policies will want to consider the implications.”

Workplace happy o’meters

At Webmart there’s a strong understanding of the connection between workplace happiness and productivity. Which is why throughout their buildings there are yellow terminals with emoticons for people to express how they are feeling.  The data is pooled to produce a daily company-wide ‘happiness map’.

The whole work environment is designed for happiness. Sunshine yellow is the dominant colour and the workplace is quirky, uplifting and functional. Themed rooms and fun spaces, as well as shared routines, create the Webmart staff experience.

What do Webmart’s employees say about the company? Here are few snippets:

“Great people. The place oozes passion. Anyone who visits feels it as soon as they walk in.” 

“The bosses encourage ideas, innovation and openness.” 

“There’s no corporate culture here.” 

“We’re about enjoying the work we do. People here are more like friends, rather than just work colleagues.”

“Interaction is important here. It’s all about connecting with people.”

So just how does Webmart motivate its team members so effectively?

Key factors for successful company team development

Our research singled out six key factors that drive the success of the business and its happy, results-driven workplace.

  1. Communication – a clear philosophy is understood company-wide
  2. Use of effective leadership at all levels
  3. Expression of clear inter-company values and trust
  4. Established rituals and routines for personal productivity
  5. Smart measurement of Key Performance Indicators
  6. Recruitment and development of staff whose values align with those of the business

All carrots, no sticks

CEO Simon Biltcliffe has organised his company bottom-up to be employee-friendly. He focuses on the workplace happiness of his team, with a clever mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the opposite of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is about the stimulus that comes from external influences, such as money or other types of rewards. Intrinsic motivation comes from internal factors such as your value system or desire to develop professionally.

While these two motivational stimuli are often seen as separate, reality is often more blurred. But used right, understanding intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is a powerful way to drive employee engagement, energy and happiness.

Extrinsic motivational factors at play

Biltcliffe describes his business philosophy as “Marxist Capitalism”. It’s a way of using the profits of the business to go directly to the employees who’ve helped earn them. Boiled down, his thinking is this: happy people are more productive.

Wealth sharing at Webmart takes place along the same lines as the John Lewis Partnership or Grant Thornton’s Shared Enterprise concept. Profits are distributed among those who have helped to create them.

A profits-related bonus is calculated as a percentage of base salary in recognition of the contribution team members make to the value chain. In 2014/15, it was 43.7% of eligible team (those who have served with the company for two years or more) members’ salaries.

“We’re a business whose core motivation is to do good and help those around us while doing business. We’ve developed our own business philosophy of Marxist-capitalism. We use capitalism to generate income and Marxism to distribute value created back to the Webmarteers and beyond.”

Simon Biltcliffe CEO

There are plenty more extrinsic rewards on offer at Webmart. They get free ironing, free food Fridays (and beer o’clock), free holidays at the Webmart Oxygen Farm (a company-owned woodland eco-lodge in Scotland) and free gym. There’s a monthly ‘dreams come true wheel’ whereby staff hitting targets get to spin a wheel to be chosen to win £1,000 to spend on their nominated dream.

So Webmart has its extrinsic (external rewards) motivational base covered. But its intrinsic motivational bedrock is just as strong.

Intrinsic motivational factors at play

Webmart believes in a necessary balance between wealth creation, wealth sharing and returning wealth to the local community. This resonates with the ethos of the expanding BCorp movement.

This is a growing community of more than 2,000 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and over 120 industries. They’re working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business. Active in the UK since 2013, its key message is: “Business as a force for good”. It is a mantra that Webmart shares.

Shared beliefs are strong at Webmart. It incentivises team members to minimize environmental impact and get involved in charitable giving, with a 50%-75% subsidy depending on charity and years at Webmart.

In 2014-15, charitable donations totalled £26,768. Over £500,000 has been awarded to charity since 1996. “Everyone here spends some work time with a charity. Yes, sure we make a profit here, but it’s not just about profit,” says an operations team member.

There’s plenty of intellectual return for employees too. Webmart places a strong emphasis on training and development.

Its principle is that its employees’ intellectual fulfillment is vital for happiness and productivity. Right from the start, candidates do a psychometric assessment. This reveals their natural tendencies, towards, for example extrovertism, and their decision-making styles. Webmart then tailors this to their roles, assigning peer mentors to help develop weaker areas.

All in it togetherness

workplace happiness

Teams that play together stay together

Team play is prioritised. There’s a strong sense of trust, transparency and collaboration company-wide.

Training budgets are ring-fenced. Staff members are encouraged to seek opportunities to constantly learn and improve. “Developing people is an investment,” says Biltcliffe. “It is about reciprocity. If you put in x, you’ll get x2 back. It’s human nature.”

Everyone is actively encouraged to spend work time on their own business idea or project, in a similar approach to Google’s “20% time”. Rather than distracting from the business, staff say this encourages innovation and entrepreneurial behaviour. “It’s like having our own mini MBA within Webmart. What people learn outside they share and bring back to their work here.”

Webmart uses smart technology to enable individuals and teams improve performance. Real-time themed dashboards show how each person and team is working towards achieving sales and performance targets. These reflect Webmart’s high expectations and work standards.

“You have to prove that you deserve to be here,” says an operations team member. “It’s not an easy ride. But you get rewarded.”

Download the full white paper here: Six Winning Ways To Inspire Your Employees in the Workplace: The Way-Out Webmart Story

Also to find out more about how Pelorus Consulting can help your company with organizational and team development. Contact: or speak to one of our team on       00 44 (0)1273 936619 and one of our consultants will arrange a call. Find out more at: