Now here’s an interesting living, breathing and real example of happiness at work!

Now here’s an interesting living, breathing and real example of happiness at work!

At John Lewis, ‘happiness’ beats profit

There was clapping and cheering and whoops of delight in John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets the length of the country this morning. Middle England’s favourite retailer was unveiling its annual profits, and said it had made enough money in the teeth of the worst recession since the second world war to pay an annual bonus equal to 15% of salary to its 70,000 staff. They will all get the same percentage _ã_ from chairman Charlie Mayfield, down to sixth-formers who spend a few hours each weekend stacking shelves in Waitrose.

The egalitarianism at John Lewis is a refreshing change at a time when “bonus” has almost become a dirty word, conjuring up images of overpaid corporate executives and obscenely rewarded bankers for whom a Ô£1m handout is small change.

But then, the structure of the John Lewis organisation _ã_ as an employee-owned partnership _ã_ is a concept at odds with all other ownership structures, from tightly controlled family firms to private-equity backed businesses and stockmarket-listed companies. Instead of profits flowing to the shareholders, at John Lewis they flow to the staff, in the form of the annual bonus.

It is therefore in the interests of the staff, at John Lewis, more than anywhere, to keep sales and profit motoring.

The structure has other advantages _ã_ the business can wait far longer for a return on its investments than listed companies, which have to answer to demanding City shareholders.

This is an organisation with a formal mission to maximise the “happiness” of its staff _ã_ certainly not an aim that staff at many other companies, like British Airways, might recognise.

To read more about how this business integrates staff happiness into its operations – click here