Happy employee, profitable business?

We are always trying to find ways to increase our company’s profitability, to improve our customer satisfaction and  to find a distinctive edge for our business. In today’s competitive world, we have to target our efforts to make business thrive.

Cutting costs, adding value to our service, shrinking losses, increasing margins, advertising creatively. Name it and we are trying it. We would almost do anything for profitability.

When you think about businesses like Google, Apple, Zappos, The Container Store or Salesforce.com and their success, we all start asking ourselves: how do they do it? Why are they so successful? What is it that make them different?

All of them have one thing in common: high employee satisfaction.

According to the Great Place to Work® Institute, Inc some of the perks that keep Google employees happy are: medical and dental inside their facilities; free washers and dryers; free meals (any time) on a daily basis at 11 gourmet restaurants; unlimited sick leave and the list goes on and on.

At Zappos (according to their own website), besides all the regular benefits such as medical and dental, the employees count on an on-site Fitness Center, open 24/7 with cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights; on-site Weight Watchers sessions with reimbursement (they offer free salads, sandwiches, soup, fruit, beverages, ice cream, cereals, and more); massage chair and nap room and cab vouchers, among many other benefits.

The Container Store has a “Fun Committee” in place, because fun is part of their mission; Salesforce.com (nominated among the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune 5 times on a row) pays one of the highest salaries in the industry.

So, why is it so important to have happy employees?

It is really not that difficult to understand: happy employees are more productive, more engaged and more loyal. And there are obviously several studies that will tell you so.

For example, at Kansas State University, the Leadership Chair in Business Administration and professor Thomas that satisfied employees perform better and are less likely to leave their jobs.

All around the world, psychologists such as Martin Seligman and John Helliwell have gotten to some common conclusions: happy people tend to be more productive, more positive relationships and better health; happy people tend to get better performance evaluations and higher pay; and happier employees have positive work behaviors.

The bottom line is that happy employees want to go to work, to perform well and feel valued, they want to give their best contribution to the business. Happy employees are more committed and loyal and will not keep looking for new jobs every 6 months.

Just to try to quantify it somehow, in an article published by the Bloomberg Businessweek, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer ( The Process Principle) point out the “pros” of employee happiness. In their research, they collected some data from Gallup, which quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually.

There are obviously other researchers that do not believe the “employee happiness” point would a be relevant one.

What can you do to make and keep your employees happy? Here are some things that my 20 years of experience taught me:

1- Recognition: employees want to work harder for you if they know they will be recognized by their efforts, preferably publicly (there is nothing more disappointing than that boss that takes credit for their employees’ work) and that their contribution is noticed.

2- Opportunities for growth: always have a career path for your employees and be clear about it. Once I got a job offer that seems to be almost a “dream” one: great environment, great salary, reasonably flexible. What turned me off? The fact that the company said” “we have no plans to grow in the next 5-8 years, so there is not really where to go from here”… More than the “dream position”, employees want a chance for a great career.

3- Respect: employees want to be respected – treated with fairness, paid what they are worth.

4- Trust: if you hired someone, one wants to be trusted – delegate, empower, do not micro manage (or…why would hire him in the first place?).

5- Respect their personal life: yes they have some bad days at work because they have problems at home. Well, we all do. Being there for your employee is very important as well as respecting their personal time. Don’t think your employee must be available 24/7. Work and life balance is one of the most important things for a happy employee.

6- Incentives: employees like to feel motivated. And believe me, it is NOT all about money! Reward them with a day off, offer them lunch one day, organize a social event. Ask what would feel special to them.

7- Ask for their input, their ideas, their opinions. Make them part of the projects. Make them own a project. Ask them to coach a new hire. INCLUDE them.

There are many things that can make and keep your employees happy, what that will certainly mean better business for you, and at the end of the day, that really matters.

Make it your mission to cultivate a positive environment, an open dialog workplace, a culture based on fairness and recognition and develop committed and loyal employees, who will work hard for your company’s profitability.

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One Response

  1. is it possible to make the work place more likable than the home? i believe yes. i feel that when employees feel that they enjoy better at workplace rather than anywhere else than the real productivity comes. but at the same time it should be monitored that the decorum of the place should not be disturbed.

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