How to Create Happy Employees and Why Does It Matter?
There are some three billion working people in the world, with about 157 million in the USA, 42% of which work from home, up from a norm of 26% due to the current Covid crisis. Extensive surveys indicate that only 40% of them feel happy in their work, so that’s 1.8 billion who don’t jump for joy when the bedside alarm rings.
Why does this matter?
Because, according to the surveys and analysis, companies with happy employees grow three times faster (by revenue) than those with unhappy employees.
Furthermore, staff turnover in happy companies is much lower, too. In fact, it is half that exhibited by their unhappy counterparts.
So, there is quite a big win if you can make your company a happy company!
What to do?
I suppose we all think of Google with their pick your own laptop, phone and desk catalog as you arrive, and the throw cushions and fuzzball tables, but in truth, employee happiness goes much deeper than these gimmicks.
Michael Bush’s survey found four key things that differentiate happy from unhappy, and they are all related to behavior. They won’t cost you money!
1. Involvement. You started your small business as you had a vision as to how you might do some things better. You spotted a market opportunity you passionately believed in and have been prepared to risk all to achieve it. You need to make sure you share this vision with your employees, reiterate it and reinforce it from time to time. Ideally, you want them to believe in it (nearly) as passionately as you do! You need to make absolutely sure that they understand their part in your mission. They need to feel involved. They need to feel a sense of purpose. Then you are all pulling in the same direction. Then you will get traction!
2. Respect and Trust. Many believe we trust and empower our employees, but do we demonstrate this? If when an employee needs a new laptop and it takes fifteen levels of approval (a real example), they will feel untrusted. A great example of empowerment is the Four Seasons Hotel chain who tell their employees, “do whatever you think is right to service the customers.” The result? The company is now known for delivering some of the best service in the world.
3. Fairness. One thing that erodes trust quicker than anything else is the employee feeling he or she is not being treated fairly, regardless of rank, tenure, age, experience, or job category. Pay disparity can create massive problems. One company who seems to get this right is Salesforce (the CRM software company). Salesforce found that some men and women working in the same job with the same level of proficiency were paid differently, so they fixed it. They spent money to solve the problem and introduced processes to ensure it didn’t reoccur.
4. Listening. If before you started your own small business you had suffered years of working for larger corporations only to become frustrated at their preference for process over progress (and lots of other nonsense), you may remember some of the communications training you were given. Do you remember learning about active listening, maintaining eye contact, keeping an intense stare, the compassionate look, repeating what the person said and more, all to make you appear to have empathy with the customer/staff member?
I want you to forget all that. Employees are not stupid. They can feel if you are faking it. What your team members want when they share an idea with you is that you at least consider it when you make your decision. The one thing that everyone appreciates or wants when they are speaking to you is to believe that what they are saying actually matters so much that you MIGHT actually change your mind. Otherwise what is the point of the conversation? The other observation I would make, after 40 years of starting and running SMEs, is that the people who really know what is going on in any business are the customer facing guys and girls. You should always canvas their opinion; you may be surprised at what new ideas emerge. So, there are some ideas that you might consider.
The way you behave, the way you treat others, the way you respond, and the way you support people defines the work experience for everyone around you.
If there is something you believe in, some purpose that you have that you are willing to risk almost everything because it is so important to you, please empower your team to share the journey with you.
With thanks to Michael C Bush and others for the research.
Andy Makeham has enjoyed a lifetime in software business development, as a programmer, implementor and entrepreneur. He has grown, bought and sold many business software companies and floated one on the public markets. He has worked with private and private equity owners. Today Andy acts as a business development advisor to the software sector. In that capacity he is working with SOS Inventory.