Nurturing happy employees is not only a better work environment for everyone, but it can also help your small business grow & prosper
You know what’s a recipe for disaster? Unhappy employees and a toxic work culture combined with life in the social media age. I’ve seen it happen time and again — rightfully angry employees absolutely destroying the reputation of a company.
When the human costs of negative (and sometimes downright atrocious) work environments make it to the front page of Buzzfeed, NPR, or Business Insider, the damage done is so severe that it’s almost impossible to recover from.
After BuzzFeed blew the lid open on Blue Apron in October of 2016, I knew that no matter what the company tried to do to repair their reputation, I’d never purchase a single one of their meal kits again. The damage was done, and my trust in the company had been obliterated. In fact, it was so bad that it actually spread to their competitors. I am now highly suspicious of every meal kit company on the market. It’s unfair and perhaps a bit irrational, I know, but that’s just how the human brain works sometimes.
Here’s the thing — if your employees are unhappy, if they are actively disengaged, not only will you see high turnover, you may very well end up with long-term damage to your brand’s reputation. Both of these things are absolutely devastating to your bottom line. That’s why it’s imperative that you create a caring, supportive work environment and fill it with happy employees.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of happy, engaged employees:
Happy Employees Are Better Workers
Did you know that offices with engaged employees are 43 percent more productive? Engaged employees are not only highly involved with the day-to-day workings of a company, they’re extremely committed and genuinely want to see their organization succeed.
Happy, engaged employees enjoy their work. They feel a connection with their company, and truly believe that the work they’re doing is important. Consequently, they put more effort into their work, solving problems without being asked, innovating, and inspiring others around them. They’re invested emotionally because they know that the company is equally as invested in them.
Happy Employees Make for Happy Customers
Engaged employees are happy, productive, and passionate about what they do — and that often translates into going above and beyond for customers. This awesome service spawns loyal customers, which generates sustainable growth and profits.
A study from Gallup found that companies with highly engaged employees saw a 10 percent increase in customer ratings and a 20 percent increase in sales. That’s some real money right there, and it’s directly related to happy employees.
Happy Employees Are Brand Advocates
As demonstrated in the opening paragraphs, consumers prefer brands that treat their people well. That means that — whether you like it or not — your employees are ambassadors for your company, and people will listen to what they have to say. What’s particularly unsettling about this is that, unlike sales or marketing messages, you can’t control what is said and make it fit your desired narrative. Your reputation is essentially at their mercy.
Happy employees will speak well about your company, boosting its reputation and attractiveness to both potential employees and customers. Unhappy employees … well, you saw what happened with Blue Apron. This is just another one of the many reasons it’s imperative you create a safe and enjoyable workplace where employees are treated with respect.
How to Create Happy Employees
I wish there was an easy way to ensure all your employees were happy and engaged, but unfortunately, it’s fairly complex. Creating a positive work environment is more than cool perks. You need to have a meaningful mission, proper incentives to motivate employees, and perhaps most importantly, the right people in charge.
Put Good People in Management
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, most people leave companies because of incompetent or oppressive management. It’s your job to make sure the people you put in charge aren’t failing your employees. You need leaders who openly and efficiently communicate with their team, and who establish a safe and comfortable environment for employees.
Employees don’t need a lot from management in order to remain both happy and engaged, but there are a few things in particular that are on the lists of necessities. Employees absolutely must:
- Have a clear idea of what is expected of them
- Have reasonable freedom over how they do their work (no micromanaging)
- Be consulted over things that impact them directly
- Receive regular constructive feedback
- Be treated with respect
- Receive recognition for hard work
- Be cared for on a personal level
Make sure management is focusing on helping employees recognize and develop their strengths, rather than constantly pointing out their weaknesses. This produces a more engaged and productive workforce. Furthermore, it’s imperative any promises made to employees are kept. Broken promises are trust killers, and once trust is gone, so is engagement.
Ask for Feedback
Check in with employees frequently (at least quarterly) to determine not only how they’re doing, but to identify any potential obstacles before they become major issues. Ask them if they find their work interesting and if it feels worthwhile. Ask how they get along with their colleagues and managers. These factors are directly related to engagement through the quality of their experiences at work (i.e. how happy they are there).
Once you’ve gathered your data, you need to act on it quickly. Communicate the results with employees, and demonstrate your plan of action for dealing with any issues that have arisen, as well as when they can expect to see results. This is incredibly important, as employees who are asked for feedback and never see anything come of it will lose confidence in management.
Invest in Wellness
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in recent years, it’s this: employers need to do more to ensure their staff are mentally well. Too many employees are overworked and underappreciated, and the ensuing stress is having a serious impact on their mental health. A happy, healthy employee will be productive, content, and have a positive impact on their coworkers — all of which helps establish a healthy working environment.
Far too many work environments are fear based, and this is not only terrible for an employee’s mental health, it’s also completely ineffective from a production standpoint. You need to make sure your staff feels comfortable and safe at work in order to create a psychologically sound environment. Furthermore, remember that everyone needs time to recharge — you can’t be asking employees to be at your beck and call when they’re off the clock. Finally, if you offer perks like an employee assistance program or remote work policy, it shows them that you genuinely care about their mental health — and trust me when I say that will mean a lot.
By focusing on employee happiness, you’ll see a real uptick in genuine engagement — not to mention efficiency, productivity, and innovation. If you truly want to engage your employees, to experience the benefits that come along with this engagement, you have to put their happiness and mental health first. The costs will be minimal, but the return on investment will be huge.
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