A happy employee is a productive employee. This is a catchphrase that you’ll often come across when doing research on how to create an effective workforce. Let us take a close look at the words ‘happy’ and ‘productive’. Happiness is an emotion and productivity is an action. Both humans and machines can be productive but only human beings need to attain a certain level of contentment in order to be productive.
From a business output perspective, it would be ideal if human beings were more like machines, because, in the words of Andy Warhol, “Machines have less problems.” But we are not machines and our problems do, as a matter of fact, largely arise from our emotions, how we feel about things, and certain feelings, as we all know, tend to get in the way of productivity.
The advantage that we have over machines is that we have the ability to be innovative. This means that we have the ability to grow a business in terms of product offering and client base.
Ideally, therefore, you want your employees to be both. You want them to be productive and innovative. The key to achieving both is happiness. If people are content about their place in the workspace, they are more willing to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and to contribute to the growth of a company. So the question is, how do you ensure the happiness of your employees?
Make your Employees your Main Focus
Many CEOs still believe in the archaic idea that the ‘customer is king’, and because they do, they often drive their employees like slaves to meet the demands of their customers. If you want your employees to be content, however, you have to put them first. In the words of Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.”
But what does this entail from a practical perspective? What instantly jumps to mind is a decent salary, loads of benefits and a pleasant working environment, and although these things are important, there is a lot more that you can do in an effort to make your employees feel valued.
First and foremost, employees should always be recognised for the contributions that they make to the company. If a sales representative lands a new client or a team manages to get a project out in time and to a client’s satisfaction, one does not need to call the company together and make a public announcement or send an email to all. This, as a matter of fact, could make the rest of the staff feel inadequate, especially if you’re employing a couple of overachievers. A handshake and a few words of gratitude in a private setting will, however, suffice.
Seeing as (hopefully) everyone is making a contribution in the greater sense, it is also advised that you take your workforce on the occasional outing and it is here that you should make a small speech, thanking them as a collective for all of their hard work.
Upskill, Even when There is no Skills Shortage
Most companies only consider upskilling staff members when there is a skills shortage. Upskilling should also be done, however, to help your employees realise their personal career ambitions. It is advised that, in your one-on-one meetings with employees, you discuss their career ambitions and encourage them to speak honestly and freely. Use what you’ve learned and help them to move towards realising their career dream(s).
If, for example, a valuable member of a production team aspires to be a project manager one day, consider sending him or her on a project management course. This is a way of showing employees that the company supports personal growth. The message that you’ll be sending is as follows: ‘the company not only cares about you as an employee but as a person as well.’ You’ll be seen as a company of people for people.
This approach to upskilling will also lead to talent retention, even if moving up in your company’s hierarchy is a slow process. Why? Because, ultimately, what people want from a work environment is the space and opportunity in which to grow, and education is a form of growth.
Emphasise the Importance of Having a Balanced Home/Work Life
Between tight deadlines and the occasional unexpected piece of urgent business, people tend to work well into the night and through many a weekend. Most do this willingly, because it is a chance to prove their dedication to the company. The worst thing that you can do is to abuse this willingness. A close second is not being aware of the fact that it happens on a continuous basis. You ought to know. You ought to be aware. It shows that you care for the wellbeing of your employees and value the amount of personal time which they are willing to sacrifice.
Make sure that you keep a close eye on the working habits of all of your employees. If someone had to work on a project through the night and there is nothing too urgent happening the next day, give them the day off and don’t deduct it from their leave.
If you see that someone is pushing themselves too hard, have a sit down with them and, after telling them how much you appreciate the effort that they are putting into their work, make them aware of the fact that you are concerned about their wellbeing and recommend some time off. Again, this will show that you care about the people whom you employ, that their wellbeing is more important to you than the profit margin.
By focusing on the physical and, especially, emotional wellbeing of your employees, you’ll not only be creating a workforce that will keep your business running and constantly moving forward, but you’ll also become known as a preferred place of employment. This means that the most sought-after talent in the industry is bound to apply when you’re running a recruitment drive.
It might seem as though your company cannot afford to do the above, as though too much time and money is required in order to achieve all of this, but when you consider what you stand to gain and, especially, what you stand to lose in the long run, you’ll quickly realise the necessity.
All of the above is best summarised by another quote by Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
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