Employee Happiness

Owners and managers of businesses go to work to achieve one thing; they work to believe that the doors of the business will open in the morning…come what may. This simple business principle may seem basic and common sense in nature; however, it plays a larger influencing role than many businessmen and women care to admit.

This is because the above statement gives the business owner a sense of purpose. If you think back to when you started your own business, you had a drive and a purpose to forge your own path, to do things your way.

Perhaps this was because what motivated you was money, perhaps what motivated you was making a difference in your customers lives. We all have our own stories to tell when it comes to that motivation. But when it comes to the real reason, when we strip your motivation down to its bare parts, you left the company you were working for and because independent because you were pissed off with, or disillusioned by, a manager or boss you worked with.

Employees join companies, but they leave managers; plain and simple. If you left a company because you hated work, why did you start your own company?

In this first article of a series, we will focus on how to engage your employees effectively.
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Engage and improve

Engaged employees build better businesses. This is the second simple truth of doing business. If we have to draw a parallel to the human body, the heart pumps blood through the body, but it is the soul that makes us who we are. The same is true for business, your products and services are the heartbeat of your business, but your employees are the soul that gives your business its identity.

So how do we build an environment that looks after our staff? At times, business can be tough, even without the challenges that we are forced to work through building our dream into a sustainable business, employee engagement can often be a challenge. Add the challenges of today into the mix and it can at times be near impossible.

We need to find a way to align the values and culture of the company with the personal values of employees. Research shows that having committed employees working for a company can increase revenue by 10% and profitability by $2 400 a year. The same research shows that a company with engaged employees outperform those who don’t have engaged employees by an estimated 202%.

It’s all about culture

A significant influencer when it comes to employee engagement is the culture or value of a company. Do your employees see themselves as product pushers, or do they see themselves as advocates of change and improvement in the lives of clients. What are the messages you are sending to employees?

I said this earlier, people join companies, but leave bosses. And yet, only 25% of companies in South Africa have employee engagement strategies regarding culture. What is scary is that if given a choice, 66% of employees expect to leave their companies within three years of starting with them if this engagement does not occur.

Does this mean that you have to have a strategy meeting every week to find out whether the staff is planning a mutiny? No; simplicity goes a long way. Getting to know the name of each staff member makes them feel like they are more than just a number. Getting to know a bit more about their personal lives gives you a human face. They will slowly start to trust you rather than fear you.

I am also not saying that you don’t have to establish boundaries. At the end of the day, you are their boss, not their friend. However, the other side of that debate is that if an employee is scared of approaching you to discuss a problem or concern, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your business.

Personal drivers

Employees are driven by money more than they are driven by buying into the culture of a company. As much as we would love to think that this is not the case, it is. And the sooner we come to terms with this third business truth, the faster we can implement systems and processes to address this.

We are aware of the traditional benefits of a retirement savings vehicle and medical aid; but what else can you offer employees?

We need to work towards uncluttering the minds of employees. If employees are bringing personal issues into the workplace…and they do… their minds are not fully engaged on improving your business. One of the biggest issues that clutter the minds of people is finances. This is where you can play a role. If you employ the services of a financial planner or a debt councillor once a month that can sit with employees and talk with them about finances, they will soon be able to put financial worries at the back of their minds for the period of time that they are at your business.

The devil is in the detail

A lot of what we spoke about earlier in this article is centred on the phycology of employee engagement and why it is important. But how do we achieve this?

I recently read an interesting article on hreonline.com which gives six pointers on how to initiate employee engagement. We will only focus on three.

  • Have team leaders own the execution. According to the article, managers ultimately set the example for employees of best practices for engagement. As such, HR should become the centre of excellence and work with team leads to surface the information needed and advise them on how to keep employees engaged;
  • Encourage clear conversations between managers and associates. The article adds that it is important to check in with both managers and associates and ask, When was the last time you had a conversation with your manager or your employee? Then provide them with the information they need for a successful interaction. During this conversation, it is important that managers provide clarity of purpose so that employees know exactly how their roles contribute to the overall success of the organization, which can help them to take greater pride in their work; and
  • Use Big Data to refine messages and identify the best communication channels. Today, many HR leaders treat messages to associates as one size fits all, but that will not be the case in the future. You need to think about the demographic mix of your employee population (including age, gender, location and more) and how those factors impact their perception of messages. Also, consider how each person absorbs information differently and wants it delivered.

Many people have spoken openly to me about Richard Branson and how he seems to be pompous, opulent, and possibly arrogant. He may well be all of these things. But you cannot fault him on one thing, his engagement with his employees has seen Virgin grow into the company that it is today…and who doesn’t want that?

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