The Secretary General’s Voice
– Happy Staff for Happy Members

A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s seventh contribution, in which he reflects on happiness in the workplace.

Early this year, I concluded a column saying that only happy staff can make happy members. I am more than ever an adept of such statement. This is not just a demagogic formula but the conclusion of serious research.

Indeed, happiness at work is a recognised science that is more and more studied, and its concepts are implemented in a growing number of companies. This is what convinced me to introduce the position of ‘Manager Internal Culture’ playing the role of Chief Happiness Officer at UITP. Her mainmission consists in ingraining the association values into the culture of theorganisation in a sustainable and determined way.The objective is to grow the engagement and fulfilment of staff by proactively fostering well-being at work and supportive attitudes towards colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

It is a fundamental cultural change that aims to bring to life the association core values: Respect – Innovation – Sharing – Expertise. This will be accompanied by various tools to help our employees adopt this new approach, such as: transparent and structured internal communication, a Code of Conduct describing principles for staff behaviour within and outside the organisation, trainings on caring management, on how to deal with emails, etc.

In doing so, we don’t only make working more pleasant and rewarding, but we also spread a culture of customer excellence across the whole organisation at all positions and jobs. It is important that all employees, and not just the front line staff who are in contact with members, understand and appreciate the impact of their work on the delivered service, even if they never meet any members in their daily operations. Doug Conant[1]said it better: “To win in the market place, you must first win in the workplace”. To achieve this objective, the organisation must have clear priorities shared with all employees and adopted by them, foster staff engagement and empowerment, implement transparency as a fundamental principle, and have a management leading by example.

There are also a strong collaboration spirit and sharing mentality, and, with these, a curiosity towards colleagues: who are they? What do they do? How can I engage with them, how can I help them engage with me? It goes with a certain agility and the need to produce association services within short timelines. Agility doesn’t mean improvisation but pragmatism in seizing opportunities. It involves partnerships with other associations and international organisations and building alliances as often as possible. We shouldn’t try to do everything everywhere for everyone: let’s join forces and build on our respective strengths.

It also goes with humility and respect: yes, we are a large global association with a long history but there’s no reason to be arrogant and self-indulgent. And of course, it goes with a lot of pleasure: enjoying any moments, without forcing ourselves to do what we don’t want to do, working at our own pace, celebrating success but accepting the right to fail, never underestimating every individual contribution, feeling proud of our role in the team and having fun.

Last week, the whole staff of UITP worldwide was gathered in Brussels for our annual retreat (pictured). They are from different disciplines, different nationalities, different cultures, different ages, different educational backgrounds… but all are committed to using these differences to enrich and strengthen the association. They are UITP and UITP is them!

[1]Former President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company

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