Forgive me if you will if I was to quote Virgin supremo Richard Branson for a second…… “Customers don’t come first, employees come first. Take care of your employees and they in turn will take care of your customers.”
Like most Mr Branson quotes, this one has the Marmite ‘love it or hate it’ feel. You love it because its so correct, but you hate it because in just 12 words he’s delivered more business and workplace insight than your City & Guilds, MBA and countless Ted Talks have delivered put together! He is rather annoying like that isn’t he?
Engaged employees are great for business. By creating a culture where employees feel valued and happy to be at work, an organisation can often see improvements in productivity, innovation, financial performance, and reductions in absence and staff turnover. On that note, did you know that poor mental health at work costs employers in the UK up to £42 billion a year? Makes you think doesn’t it?
Whilst I am writing this piece with my current public sector hat on, every word that I write is 100% relevant to your workforce regardless of sector, industry or whatever continent you are reading this on. I’ve had the privilege whilst carrying out my current role to work inside over 250 different organisations over the past 7 years; this means I’ve seen some quite fabulous workforce wellbeing initiatives, some of which I’m delighted to share with you here. Taking care of your people is at the heart of creating a great place to work, where people are appreciated, engaged, productive and thriving; creating somewhere where they actually want to work. So here goes, strap yourself in.
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- Its not about the money – Its turns out that Jessie J was right; forget about the price tag! That said, don’t get me wrong, if my employer suddenly announced that I was getting a bonus (fat chance in the public sector btw) I’d be pumped. But for how long? Studies show that a pay rise only leads to short-term satisfaction before the rut sets in again. With a rise comes a re-evaluation of status and you soon begin to start comparing your level of pay to what you can’t afford again. Instead, go the extra mile. Rather than just buying everyone an ice cream next summer, why not get your boss to set up their own ice cream trolley, going around each desk creating wonderful creations with sprinkles and sauces. You’ll think I’m crazy suggesting this but it gives the boss a fantastic and rare opportunity to connect with everyone in the business individually, you’ll all have had fun and boy, will you remember it for the rest of your career!
- Give staff a sense of purpose – No one wants to stagnate in a role. Even those who roll their eyes and pretend they just want to come in and get on with their job. Provide training opportunities, allow people to work between departments, get them to attend conferences for you. Also, keep things fresh by offering them new tasks and responsibilities, perhaps with a mentor to help them along the way. This gives them a renewed sense of purpose in the workplace, and will help them feel better about the role that they are in.
- Be transparent – People work best when they understand why they are doing what they are doing. Good communication builds a team ethic and plays an important role in making staff feel they have joint ownership. Openness about business performance goes a long way towards engaging staff in both good times and bad. Simple ideas like performance charts on the wall can make everyone feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
- Keep the small-team spirit – It’s important to keep the small-team spirit when you grow. Growth will bring a melting pot of personalities and you’ll need to continually adapt. Initiatives such as buddy systems work well. Pair random staff up for a few months and offer them a small budget to go and do something together once in a while. The get them to feedback on what they’ve learnt about each other. I’ve also seen organisations vote in a dedicated “fun manager” who arranges events and trips, and a weekly full-team meeting gets everyone talking together.
- Flexibility is king – Family life can often impact on productivity so it’s important to listen to your employees and take into account the ever changing demands of modern life when it comes to your flexible working policy. It’s key that your staff maintain a positive work-life balance in order for them to stay productive, motivated and engaged, and ultimately less susceptible to pulling a sickie!
- Encourage staff to be more active – In the UK, we sit for an average of 8.9 hours each day. Office workers are spending the majority of these hours sat at a desk, and research indicates that this poses a real health risk, irrespective of how active people are outside of work. Sports days, entering a team into a sporting league, step count competitions, having a team meeting during a nice brisk walk, all of these will help people get active more. Gone are the days when companies view employee wellbeing programs as nice to do, companies who implement wellbeing strategies perform better than their counterparts in key operational areas like productivity, absenteeism, turnover and profitability according to Gallup.
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We’ve got to put our employees in the driver’s seats of their own lives. Progressive employers know this and it’s fantastic to see so many take an innovative, holistic view of their workforce, ditching ‘tick-the-box’ programs, and realising that taking care of employees goes beyond uplifting a salary by 5%. Healthy, engaged employees are what will give you a competitive advantage. No matter how good your business model is or products are, you still need a stellar team to look after your customers.
The One Question is, how happy are your employees and are they in turn making your customers happy? Well the team at The One Question can help. As well as being outrageously passionate about helping businesses go above and beyond, they can help you discover the only system in the world that measures and manages your employee happiness in real-time. I recommend that you give them a shout to find out more.
I am so excited to be at the forefront of the fundamental shift that’s happening in the employee/employer relationship, and to work with forward-thinking business leaders who’ve ditched the ‘set it and forget it’ mentality in favour of doing their best to set people up for success. A lot of exciting, innovative things are happening across all sectors when it comes to employee wellbeing; as an L&D professional, coach, mentor and ‘giver outer’ of fresh thinking, it’s in my DNA to shake things up a bit and I can help you deliver it. My colleagues at The One Question can and will blow you away with their offer too.
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