The Value of Happiness

At WINGS, we've worked hard for 15 years creating a culture within our organization; we even have a saying "Let your WINGS out."

We strive for all members of our team to feel energized and enthusiastic about the work we are doing. In essence, we want them to be happy. So, when we saw the Harvard Business Review's February Spotlight about happiness in the workplace, we couldn't wait to dig in and assess ourselves.

We were jazzed to find that building a culture of happiness actually enhances the performance of organizations. As the article, Creating Sustainable Performance states, "Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term. They routinely show up at work, they're less likely to quit, they go above and beyond the call of duty, and they attract people who are just as committed to the job. Moreover, they're not sprinters; they're more like marathon runners, in it for the long haul."

The article defines 4 measures to create a thriving and consistently high-performing workforce. Here's a breakdown of the measures and how WINGS cultivates them.

Provide decision-making discretion

This begins with our WINGSLeaders who work directly with our kids on a daily basis. WINGSLeaders are provided the opportunity to choose and decide what Choice Time (our version of electives) activities they want to implement with the kids. They typically choose activities they are interested in so transfer of learning is fun for both themselves and the kids. Check out some examples of the zaniest Choice Times WINGSLeaders have developed over the years:

Keepin' Life Seussical: Kids engage in activities based on Dr. Seuss books such as completing an obstacle course minus the use of one body part (arm, eyes, etc.).

Happy Habitats: Kids got a new group "pet" each week including snails, fish, frogs, butterflies, hermit crabs. Each week kids made new environments for their pet and learned all about them.

WINGS Apparel: Kids get to design and customize bags, bracelets, and other accessories.

Share information

WINGS has A LOT going on! As our staff continues to grow and spread out among different offices, it can be hard to keep up with all of the WINGS happenings. So, once a month we have a group "Soar Session." At Soar Sessions, all members of the team share what's new, good and tough within their daily job. These topics can range from Program staff walking the entire team through a game they plan to play with the kids to the CEO updating the group on recent findings about our program conducted by outside researchers.

Minimize incivility

At WINGS, we take our Creed very seriously. Our Creed states "Kind and Caring I will be....I want to step into their shoes [others] to see what they are going through..." Because we encourage our kids to live the Creed, we encourage all staff to do the same. By sticking to this mantra, it's easy for our staff to foster positive interactions with each other. For example, if a Program staff member informs a Corporate staff member that they need something done within a tight timeline at the beginning of the school year, the Corporate member "steps into the shoes" of the Program staff member and understands they are under a lot of stress with the start-up of the program. Instead of becoming frustrated at the tight timeline, Program and Corporate members work together.

Offer performance feedback

All WINGS employees are evaluated at least twice a year. As a result of the evaluations, employees prepare a professional development plan. The professional development plans focus on how to improve their performance and deepen their knowledge base. We implement the same feedback techniques on the staff that we use on the kids so employees understand specifically where and how they can improve. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and at WINGS we want to help our employees improve upon weaknesses so they can succeed and be happy!

Quotes from our Flock:

"At WINGS we say "Welcome to the movement." With a united culture like ours, we are going to change the world." —Lee Hilton, Behavior Specialist

"The minute you step into any of our offices, programs, or schools you feel immediately welcomed. It's really powerful to see people with various trainings, education, and interests come together with the purpose of giving the kids we serve a fun, safe, and enriching environment that will allow them to flourish." —Heather Williams, Program Director

"I have never worked with a group of people as generous and supportive as you guys are when a member of the team is faced with a difficult situation." —Michael Chrisley, Program Assistant

"Everyone at WINGS has been so supportive. I am so lucky to be part of such a wonderful program!" —Nicole Greig, WINGSLeader

"WINGS takes a results oriented workplace (ROW) mentality when it comes to face time, i.e. as long as you're getting your work done and pushing to improve, the actual number of hours you're at the office can vary quite a bit. As someone with a new family, this type of flexibility is greatly appreciated." —Adam Pomerantz, Director of Finance and Administration

The greek root of the word philanthropy is philanthropia and means “the love of humanity.”

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