On Supporting a Culture of Happiness as the Foundation for Success
It’s an exciting time to be in eDiscovery and the legal industry. We now stand firmly in the age of big data. Leveraging innovation and technology in the service of both the business and the practice of law is (finally) the new normal. It seems like the only thing keeping pace with the rapid rate of innovation and advancing technology is the rate of consolidation of providers in our space. Changes to technology and our industry’s landscape has had a tremendous impact on the people on the front lines, those responsible for delivering services every day. As a result, real attention is starting to be paid to the workforce of the future and what it takes to keep industry professionals current in an evolving field. At ProSearch, we believe that as a part of preparing a workforce for the future, it is critical to dedicate attention to the culture that supports the people who must simultaneously lead and adapt to the continuous change in our space.
Anyone who has worked in or in support of litigation, investigation, or compliance, will probably agree that when describing the process of collecting, sorting, reviewing, and producing legal documents “happiness” and “well-being” aren’t the first words to come to mind. “Arduous”, “contentious”, or “burdensome”? Sure. “Challenging”, or “satisfying”? Probably. But “happy”? Not so much. In fact, in our industry, the age-old formula that “hard work breeds success, and success breeds happiness” often prevails. “But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: happiness fuels success, not the other way around.”
Our journey to a culture of happiness began like many good stories: a long time ago, at a RelativityFest far, far away. The year was 2014, Shawn Achor was the keynote speaker, and our generous hosts distributed copies of his book “The Happiness Advantage”. A group of ProSearchers returned to Los Angeles with Shawn’s book and thought about how we could put this information to use. What has evolved over the past four years is a series of principles and supporting programs that interact to support a culture of happiness. They include:
- Measure Happiness Regularly
- Manage Business Transparently
- Provide Feedback Generously
- Train ProSearchers Continuously
- Identify and Support Overlapping Communities of Practice
1. MEASURE HAPPINESS REGULARLY
By Measure Happiness Regularly, we mean, quite literally, that we measure happiness every week. We partner with an organization called Friday (founded by Nic Marks) to send a weekly survey to each team member asking them to anonymously rate their happiness. Every week, we receive aggregated happiness results. Individuals can privately track changes to their personal happiness, and different teams and communities can see and discuss their results as small groups. We work closely with the folks at Friday to interpret our results, and pay attention to changes over time to five specific components of, or “Five Ways to Team Happiness”. We use results from the weekly survey to spark conversation about happiness, and we provide several venues for escalating ideas about happiness. The venues we have for discussing happiness include the same venues we use to manage our business transparently.
2. MANAGE BUSINESS TRANSPARENTLY
By Manage Business Transparently we mean that every ProSearcher participates in at least one weekly meeting that covers topics related to managing our business. We have had a lot of luck using a version of the “Level 10 meeting” from Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). In these meetings we share headlines and updates from the previous week, review progress toward company and team priorities, and we carve out at least 10 minutes to discuss team happiness and the results of the happiness survey. What is crucial is that every person in our organization participates regularly in at least one forum to contribute to an ongoing conversation about happiness. And in addition to these group settings to provide feedback about happiness, we work to provide frequent and generous feedback to individuals on our team.
3. PROVIDE FEEDBACK GENEROUSLY
By Provide Feedback Generously we mean that as a matter of culture, we make a commitment to enabling frequent feedback (both positive and constructive) between each ProSearcher and her manger-and-mentors. And in addition to this we also encourage frequent peer-to-peer feedback. We partner with a company called Reflektive, whose performance management system includes a feedback wall that allows individuals to give a “high-five” or “shout-out” to their colleagues.
Importantly, the feedback wall lets us use hashtags to associate positive feedback with our Core Values. This turns out to be a great way to recognize excellence, and because we use the hashtags to call out examples of living our Core Values, we have a mechanism to consistently keep these values top-of-mind for our team.
4. TRAIN PROSEARCHERS CONTINUOUSLY
By Train ProSearchers Continuously, we mean that we make a deliberate effort to encourage everyone’s commitment to life-long learning. We support the attainment of both industry-focused certifications as well as certifications we’ve developed in-house to support standard industry skills (such as mastery of dtSearch), or mastery of our proprietary tools and workflows. Our training programs are housed in a learning management system that we have branded internally as ProSearch University. We’ve innovated on traditional commitments to continuous education by emphasizing both the role of trainer and the role of learner by naming two Core Values (we call them “Master Your Craft” and “Empowering Others”) that ProSearchers can hashtag when they give shout-outs to colleagues who have themselves developed a new skill, or who have enabled the development of a skill or competency in others.
5. SUPPORT MULTIPLE, OVERLAPPING COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
Finally, we work hard to bring the principles and supporting programs in 1-4 above together in support of traditional teams as well as to support multiple, overlapping communities of practice. This means that in addition to having strong team cultures at ProSearch, we encourage participation in Communities of Practice, or micro-communities that cross team lines. This helps us to avoid the “silo” effects that are common as businesses grow. Micro-communities at ProSearch range from the ProSearchers currently in a specific job or level, to the ProSearchers who have ever been in a specific job at ProSearch, to those who are experts at or have an interest in a specific tool, process, or methodology, or even ProSearchers who share that they are alumni of a specific organization, such as a school or previous employer. These micro-communities can elect to have a tag added to our happiness survey, which enables them to discuss happiness as a community.
By nurturing multiple, overlapping Communities of Practice, we build bridges across teams and increase shared understanding, we broaden the definition of team, we value the small groups that themselves support a culture of inclusion and happiness, and we increase the likelihood that every ProSearcher has a robust network to rely on as they navigate their career.
Sean Achor helped us kick-start our journey to happiness by pointing out that “happiness fuels success, not the other way around”. Our experience has been that cultivating happiness can lead to employees who are confident, engaged, and (yes), Happy. Happy employees take pride in being experts in their job and are well-suited to collaborate. Our overlapping Communities of Practice ensure people are well-supported to flawlessly execute. Individuals are recognized for their work, which leads to opportunities for growth, which fuels happiness and satisfaction. This engenders a culture characterized by both high performance and low attrition, which allows our team members to develop substantive relationships with our clients. These relationships are characterized by a thorough understanding of our clients’ data, litigation profile, and unique business challenge. This understanding further enables our people to co-create solutions. It’s a virtuous cycle, it’s good business, and it is fueled by a culture of happiness.