Happy Workplaces a Full Time Effort

Mike MacEachern    February 13, 2017

Lutherwood is a non-profit providing that provides children’s mental health, employment and housing services to more than 16, 600 people annually in the Waterloo Region and Wellington County.  It also operates Lutherwood Village on the Park a retirement community in Waterloo, and Lutherwood Child and Family Foundation.  Its mission is to “inspire hope and strengthen lives by offering high quality mental health, employment and housing services”.  Operating for more than 45 years, Lutherwood’s leadership credits having motivated, engaged and happy employees as the key reason for its ongoing success.

A key to business success is ensuring employees are engaged at work and in the success of the business.  Despite efforts to improve employee engagement over the past decade engagement levels have remained relatively unchanged. This point is highlighted in a Gallup Journal article entitled “The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis” by Annamarie Mann and Jim Harter.  In this piece they relate that business approaches to this engagement problem follow a spectrum from on one hand strategic well defined business tactics that usually require a significant investment of time and resources and focus on organizational culture.  On the other end are often impractical easily created satisfaction surveys that at best provide metrics as to how employees are feeling at an annual point in time but do not translate into the hard work of improving workplaces and driving better results.  Often these types of surveys lead to “feeding the bears” which was coined by Jim Clifton the Chairman and CEO Gallup and refers to “measuring workers’ satisfaction or happiness levels and catering to their wants, instead of treating employees as stakeholders of their future and their company’s future”.  Building happy work places is a key to building successful organizations.  Building happy workplaces involves supporting and nurturing the organizational culture.  In an article entitled “Creating A Happier Workplace Through A Happier Workforce” it is described that the workplace has changed and employees in today’s workforce are overwhelming looking for among other things  work collaboration, more work life integration, and a boss that is accessible and a mentor.

Lutherwood has been recognized as a great place to work as they are invested in their employees.  Currently they are a using a tool called Plasticity to support their workforce.  The Plasticity platform, described below, has three main components that support organizational change insights measuring happiness, health and performance of teams.  A coaching component and a company culture component that combines social collaboration and group activities.   The tool aims to build happy workplaces.  Lutherwood’s Human Resources department sees the social feed within the tool as a means to help to break down both the geographical boundaries as their employees are located at seven sites and the functional boundaries as they have a wide range of service delivery areas.  Ultimately the tool allows employees to develop a greater appreciation of what their co-workers do on a daily basis and knits the organization together towards greater organizational engagement and purpose.  The tool was featured in the Canadian Business Happy Office project article “How Plasticity is hacking happiness to help companies work harder“.

Lessons for Others

Lessons learned

Traditional performance based surveys and reward systems won’t drive long term organizational success.  Engagement is a continual process not a once a year thing.

Social Collaboration tools can bring staff together across various functions and geographies to enhance a common sense of organizational purpose.

For long term success employers need to continually work on building engagement throughout the organization employees need to see themselves as important to organizational success and the organization has to care for the employees beyond simply the output they produce

Leveraging social collaboration helps to build the opportunity for engagement across the organization and management.

Management has to be active supporters and participants in the social collaboration.

Organization: Lutherwood
Industry: Not for Profit Social Services
Name of Organization Contact: Andrea Labyt, CHRP, (Human Resources Generalist)

Authored by: Mike MacEachern

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Lutherwood Agency Overview, retrieved February 9, 2017 , from Lutherwood website, https://www.lutherwood.ca/

Mann, A & Harter, J (2016, Jan. 7) The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis, Gallup Business Journal, retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/

Clifton, J (2014, June 5). Employee Satisfaction Doesn’t Matter  retrieved from Gallup Chairman Blog, http://www.gallup.com

Cohen Crompton, J (2014, Dec. 23).  Creating A Happier Workplace Through A Happier Workforce, Digitalist Magazine, http://www.digitalistmag.com

Toller, C (2015, Dec. 21).  How Plasticity is hacking happiness to help companies work harder, Canadian Business, retrieved from http://www.canadianbusiness.com

Lutherwood(2010, July 21).  Best Workplace Award, Retrieved February 9, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mAtTH7qxzI

Plasticity Labs(2014, Apr. 24).  Plasticity Labs:  The Product, Retrieved February 11, 2017 from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vLdPJ_Da7A