What’s the secret to happiness at work? Recent studies show that it’s not how much money you make, but how much progress.
We’ve written before about the progress principle, an idea developed by Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer, who found that the greatest indicator of happiness and motivation at work is incremental progress toward a meaningful goal.
Meaningful goals can be anything from the team’s stated objective, to a personal goal. It can be tangible and specific, like tackling the bugs in a program, or more general, like ensuring customer happiness.
We were curious about the progress principle in action, but meaningful goals are so personal and variable that we didn’t know where to begin. So we approached startups that served a social good. For these companies, their meaningful goal was collective, explicit and already built into the job description.
We asked each of these startup founders:
Your startup works towards a meaningful social good everyday.
How does your goal motivate your team’s hard work and happiness daily?
Here are their responses:
"I think everyone here stays in this because they know that it has a shot of really mattering to the world, and because that potential pulls some of the best work out of them and the people around them that they’ve ever seen."
"Many people are tired of deciding whether to do good or do well — here we get to do both. Having a higher mission beyond revenue brings the team together, lifts us up when times are tough, and motivates us to move faster and farther. We’re reshaping civil society through innovation, and that sort of higher mission is hard to escape. When profits and social good go hand in hand, it’s magic."
"We’ve built our ‘meaningful goal’ into the DNA of our company. We provide a meal to an American in need for every new member who joins. One member. One meal. That means when we’re doing statistical analysis of our cohorts, it’s not just numbers on a page of what our average daily CPA is, it’s real impact that we’re analyzing and the more effective we can be with our job, the more social good we will create. And it’s the social good that gets our team excited and keeps them passionate during the long hours that a startup can require!"
"At BetterDoctor, we always ask whether the task at hand is driving our mission ‘Make healthcare simpler and more transparent.’ At the simplest level I believe that happy employees are made of these three elements:
- 1. they have meaningful goals
- 2. they can make independent decisions
- 3. they belong to a group of likeminded people.
For me and my team the best validation of our hard work is the feedback we get from consumers who were able to find a great doctor via BetterDoctor. This always make us happy!”
"Our work helps to bring increased electricity and clean water to those who haven’t had access to it regularly before. Receiving a positive email, phone call or photo from someone that we’ve helped reminds us every day that we are working on something meaningful. I’m passionate about developing a solution that benefits others, and I hope to share that passion with my team."
"Our goal at DoGoodBuyUs is to change consumerism because we believe the world can’t change until it does. With that goal in mind, our employees understand that in everything they do, whether increasing our partners, or producing an event, they are bringing awareness to our charity’s causes. Knowing that your work is directly impacting others in a positive and tangible manner is an amazing feeling. We’ve been lucky to combine passion with career."
"The giving component of Pubslush is the heart and soul of our operation, and much of our team has been involved specifically in education philanthropy for years. Whenever we face a challenge, we collectively remind each other of our ultimate goal to alleviate children’s illiteracy. Considering in this moment that over 100 million children worldwide don’t have access to literature, our goal really helps us keep perspective.
We often reminisce about our favorite childhood books. How they affected us. I think that provides the greatest reminder of the power of books and why achieving our goal is so incredibly urgent.”
"There is nothing more important than having purpose in your life as one of the critical elements of true happiness. We are on a mission to give people a strong voice to show that their healthy lifestyle matters. Employees get up for that in the morning. They overcome obstacles for that. They care about something that is much bigger than themselves.
We can rally around this purpose as a team and feel great about it. All companies face their own rollercoaster of business ups and downs. True purpose allows those swings to create less whiplash and distraction for the team.”
"At Greenling, we have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). Ours is to change the way ten million people source their food. Our company works towards sustainability in everything we do and deliver. That goal is one of the primary reasons all of our team works here. On a daily basis, the team gets to interact with products they believe in and customers they care about."
"On a daily basis we update a display in our office of total acres of affordable drip irrigation sold. Seeing this number grow every day is a tangible motivation that keeps everybody focused.
We also have various customer success stories posted in our office which remind each employee of the impact of their hard work. During our monthly company-wide meetings all team member share their achievements and how they relate to the overall goal of improving the livelihood of millions of small-plot farmers. Field staff and office staff get to share and represent their different work experiences, allowing each employee to see the different sides of the business that are required for overall success.”
Goals drive your employees’ sense of purpose and progress. While these 10 startups set their sights on achieving a social good as a meaningful goal, any other personally and professionally gratifying objective can be just as rewarding in terms of happiness, motivation and productivity at work.
Show your team that they’re making progress, however incremental or slow it may be, and remember to celebrate yesterday’s achievements — it’ll be the fuel for their happiness and hard work today.