We recently had the pleasure of running an employee engagement workshop for a group of CEOs, where we met Stefan Fragner, CEO at Happy Socks. It was immediately clear that we had lots in common and that Happy Socks are doing some great work within the world of engagement.
He connected us to their Head of Happiness, Daniel Alund, and here is what he had to say:
Hi Daniel, can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and how you came to join Happy Socks?
I’m a business psychologist – educated in both Sydney and London. I spent 10 years as a management consultant, delivering recruitment programs, culture change and developing future leaders across the world. It was great fun and I learnt loads, but you don’t always get to see the fruits of your labour.
When I was approached by Happy Socks I immediately loved everything about it – the brand, the approach, the products! And from day one I’ve been able to play a part in what happens here, really getting involved and being listened to – and I get to be creative too. You hardly ever hear a no.
I’m responsible for HR globally and also part of the Leadership Team – and it’s a great team to be a part of. We role-model behaviours that are important in the organization and we can take our whole selves to work.
Also, having worked all over the world it’s also nice to be back in Stockholm but still be part of a very diverse team here at Happy Socks.
And for those people who might not have heard of Happy Socks can you tell us a bit about the company?
Happy Socks was founded 10 years ago by two Swedish friends, who spotted a gap in the market for bringing colour and happiness to every corner of the world through socks. We’re now in 90 different markets (we’ve opened our 100th store last month, on Times Square in New York!) and our products really reflect our culture here – after all, happy people make Happy Socks.
And we do more than socks, as we’ve branched out into swimwear and underwear, and we have amazing collaboration-themed products already out there – with many more on the way.
The products show our happy culture, made by people living our values and truly believing in our products.
I absolutely love the Happy Socks vision – could you tell us a bit more about the vision and how you ensure the culture of the company reflects it?‘
‘TO SPREAD HAPPINESS BY TURNING AN EVERYDAY ESSENTIAL INTO A COLORFUL DESIGN PIECE WITH A RIGID STANDARD OF ULTIMATE QUALITY, CRAFTSMANSHIP AND CREATIVITY.’
We encourage people to ‘bring their whole self to work’. We believe in diversity and acceptance.
Wherever you’re from, whatever your ethnicity, sexuality, or culture, it doesn’t matter – you’re part of the happy crew at Happy Socks. You can be yourself, whoever you are. We’re trying to make a product for a really diverse audience so we want that to be reflected within our team. That’s something that I’m so proud of here. Even in our Swedish HQ, over 40% of the people aren’t Swedish speakers. I feel that having this diversity builds creativity, which is integral here.
What do you do to promote happiness with your employees?
Well, one way is by listening – with a diverse workforce we also have to cater for different needs. We also want information to flow upwards, not just top down. Our people are so important to us, we want them to know we care and want to listen to them.
We’ve recently grown out of an office, so we ran an amazing competition where we asked people ‘what would really make your friends jealous of your office’? There were some incredible ideas – some fun and silly (like a slide to other rooms to get us to meetings quickly) and loads more that we will look to implement and that will really make people happy.
Oh, and we also have absolutely epic after work parties! Teams take it in turns to plan one a month. We’ve had live bands and recently had our own ‘Oktoberfest’ with amazing German food and catering. These are all about bringing people together and offering them chances to network and also celebrate the great work we do.
And we have monthly birthday parties, where we sing along to Stevie Wonder and eat cake! We’ve grown too much in numbers to be able to celebrate on everyone’s actual birthdays now, so we celebrate in the birth-month groups instead!
Plus, we have a comms board where you can put up great press and other stories to celebrate, as well as add a bit of humour too – our energy is great here.
As well as all the fun, we also look at important practical things too, like helping people with their work/life balance. Flexibility is important – we want people to be able to enjoy the time they have with their families. Our people give so much to this organisation, and we want the organisation to give back as well.
Are there any top tips you can give our readers? Or things to avoid?
Yes. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Sometimes you get great ideas and feedback but be realistic. You can’t do all of the things all of the time. Be honest and make sure you let them know you’ve heard them but it’s not something you can do right now.
Listen to people, give them a voice. Don’t assume that you know it all, because you won’t! Ideas come from everywhere, so you have to have a true open-door policy at all times. I think here in Sweden we do have much flatter structures, which really helps people feel they can approach anyone.
I sometimes joke that happiness can be a dirty word inside organisations (not yours obviously) – but do you have any thoughts on why this might the case?
I don’t know?! Maybe sometimes it feels forced? I think maybe it’s because people make assumptions about what makes people happy. It’s not as complicated as I think people think it is! You need to listen to what people actually want. Plus, if you provide an environment where people can be themselves, they will be happy naturally, and then it’s not forced. We don’t tell people what their values should be, for us it’s just about being yourself.
Your brand is very clear and strong, how do you ensure it is lived inside the company?
All of the above! But also, everything we do, we share. Our employees get all of the products and get involved. You only ever see Happy Socks in the building – we have the best socks!
And finally, what makes you happy, both inside work and outside of work?
Being able to be myself. I don’t have to act a certain way or be someone else. This applies inside and outside of work. This makes you more comfortable – and when you’re comfortable you can be creative and have fun with the people around you. We have a lot of fun with each other here. It’s the best place to work and makes me very proud.
Just to say, this is not an ad – we are now huge fans of not only the company ethos but the products as well, we love Happy Socks!