#17 Feel-Good Management: a new way of motivating employees

Excerpts of a conversation with Iris Vonk from Shopgate

Speed-dating for new employees, farewell conversations and real-time feedback tools – after spending just a few minutes with Iris, one thing is certain: she is doing a lot of work at Shopgate and must be working as fast as she speaks. Strategic Feel-Good Management can have many advantages for employees, supervisors and business management executives.
The dynamic young woman sitting opposite us describes a new occupational profile. “Feel-Good Management at Shopgate is based on 4 pillars,” says Iris. In addition to Employee Management, it includes Internal Communication, Cultural Development, and Office Management.  And therefore, the 30-year-old has a multi-faceted career.  “A typical day could start with a conversation about our company values with management in the morning, followed by coaching an employee over lunch and then end with setting up new desks.”
Employee Management, Internal Communication, Cultural Development / Event Management, Office Management: the 4 parts of the Feel-Good Management of Shopgate

Marketing Feel-Good Management

Having studied Customer Service and Strategy Consulting, Iris claims that the most important pre-requisite for the job is having an open attitude towards many different topics and people.  It is easy to see that she loves and lives for her job. In advertising, her previous job, she often missed the human aspect. Today, she mediates between employees and managers according to both economic and social considerations. She utilizes her previous work experience in a targeted manner: “I always speak in a way that addresses my target group and use a variety of different arguments. For many issues I am in a position where I need to actively sell an idea – basically, market it – before I am able to implement it. Additionally, I attempt to bring the topics to a strategic level. In doing so, I am able to use the experience I gained during my time working at an agency and as a strategist.”

Variations of Feel-Good Management

There are supposedly 60 Feel-Good Managers in Germany today. It is a new field of work and lies somewhere amidst the classic operational topics: Human Resources, Organisational Development, and Corporate Communications. However, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent occupational description for this job so far.  In some reports, one can even read about “Feel-Good Grannies” who look after their IT staff with fresh soup and colourful smoothies.
Iris’ role in the company encompasses far more than that. Even her own application process was challenging: she competed with her fellow applicants for the position at Shopgate in the course of no less than 4 different application rounds. During the final round, she presented her own concept of what she believes Feel-Good Management should look like. All managers of the company, with a total of 140 employees at present date, needed to unanimously agree on a concept. They finally decided in favour of Iris. “This ensured my acceptance, and guaranteed good collaboration,” claims Iris.

Selecting the right measures through a process of trial and error

Iris has been at Shopgate for one year now. In addition to organizing countless events for both new and old employees, she has developed some very innovative formats during this time. For example, new hires are provided with a chance to quickly establish a network via speed-dating. Real-time feedback tools enable employees to report on their current satisfaction values every week.
The feedback provided by colleagues is, in any case, the key to selecting which measures to implement. Should a measure not resonate with the employees, Shopgate does not hang on to it. “We are very honest with ourselves, and say goodbye to less successful ideas quite quickly.” Iris has also worked to provide new impetus to some existing measures. Should an employee choose to leave us, I now conduct a Farewell Talk. We used to call these ‘Exit Conversations’. But to use this label for a final conversation in which we, as an organization, hope to gather honest feedback and facilitate a pleasant departure, was simply no longer fitting.“ Shopgate aims to part from employees in an appreciative manner, and – ideally – learn something while doing so.

Does Feel-Good Management work?

As long as Feel-Good Management is guided by an overarching strategy, and not comprised of single measures only, it has a good chance of motivating employees and positively contributing  to the goals of the organization.  Collaboration with management is crucial in this process. In addition, acceptance on the highest levels is also necessary: a Feel-Good Manager not only needs a wide scope of independent action, but the insights gained must also be reflected in corporate decisions, otherwise, the whole thing quickly begins to seem superficial.

Iris’ answer to Claire’s question from Edinburgh  – Interview #16: What are the most important criteria individuals consider when it comes to choosing an organization to work for?

I think every person values a different set of criteria and has an individual focus when choosing a company. Everyone has different motivations and drivers, whether of a monetary or emotional nature. Factors such as flexibility, a wide scope of action, fairness and humaneness are becoming increasingly important. The more an employee is perceived as a person, not purely as a worker, the higher is their level of job satisfaction. The work being done should enable the person to develop and express themselves. Only then can an individual’s full performance be rendered.

Iris’ question:

Until what point is home-office healthy? When does it harm the organization’s corporate culture?