An upbeat, happy workforce delivers better results. Tapping into your employees’ happy place isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a business imperative.
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, doesn’t put customers first. His philosophy has always been to put employees first. He’s a firm believer that people who are happy and positive enjoy their work, the brand they are associated with, and the company they work for. And if they’re proud of their work, they give it their all, 100% of the time.
Happy people serve customers well, which in turn make them happy and loyal. In other words, looking after your employees equals exceptional customer service, one of the few key differentiators in today’s competitive business environment.
Related: The bottom line
“I truly believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.” – Richard Branson
Here are three ways to keep your employees happy – which in turn will boost your profits.
1. Build your company around culture
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, which was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for USD1 billion, says his company is a customer service business that happens to sell shoes. It doesn’t compete on price – it just offers the very best customer service possible. 75% of its orders come from repeat customers.
Hsieh has achieved this by making his number one priority culture. “Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own,” he says.
Interestingly, while Zappos’ culture is based on ten core values, Hsieh says the values are less important than how the organisation is aligned around them. The Zappos message isn’t to adopt the company’s values, but to know exactly what your personal values are, and to then align the organisation around them. It makes the experience personal, and gives each individual meaning in their work and position within the company. And if alignment can’t be reached, there’s a culture mismatch and the employee moves on.
2. Put colleagues first
For Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved, founders of The Creative Counsel, South Africa’s largest advertising agency, which was sold to Publicis for a reported R1 billion in 2015, putting employees before customers did not come naturally to them.
As born entrepreneurs, both Neu-Ner and Oved were available to their customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what was happening, they would answer the phone. In their early years, this same expectation was communicated to their employees – customers come first, no matter what.
As the business grew, and its employee based started hitting double and then triple digits though, they realised that there was a fundamental flaw in the way they approached customers and employees. They were no longer the key point of content with their clients. They were working on growth strategies, not accounts. They had teams and managers who were the face of TCC.
Happy employees who feel valued and part of a team give customers the best service, and so the culture shifted to always putting each other first.
“You can’t deliver to clients without a happy family, that’s why this pillar is so important,” says Neu-Ner.
“If you walk out of a meeting and have two calls, and one’s a client and the other’s a colleague, your first instinct is to call the client first. That’s the wrong response. You don’t know why your colleague is calling. It could be to warn you about something related to the client. It could be because they have three clients waiting on an answer or input only you can provide. Family must come first,” agrees Oved.
“It’s also important for everyone on the team to know that their managers, colleagues and us have their back. Once you know that you’re supported, you’re more likely to make key decisions on your feet, and those are generally the decisions that drive the business forward.”
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3. Foster a positive workplace
Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, published a landmark paper that outlines how positive thinking impacts our skills.
Through various studies, she was able to show that when we experience positive emotions like joy, contentment and love, we naturally see more possibilities in our life. In a nutshell, positive emotions open our minds to more options.
Dr Fredrickson refers to this as the Broaden and Build Theory, because positive emotions broaden our sense of possibilities and open our minds, which in turn allow us to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of our life.
The lesson? The more positive your thoughts, the more you’re likely to find new ideas, solutions and ways to improve your skills and do more in business and in life.
If these are the skills you want to foster in your workforce, focus on encouraging and nurturing a positive workplace. Don’t encourage or accept workplace gossip. Ensure your managers quickly and decisively deal with negative situations instead of ignoring them. Promote positivity and happiness, and creativity will bloom in the workplace, delivering better solutions and services for your customers.
- Consider the general mood of your organisation. Are employees happy, relaxed and kind to each other?
- Do they enjoy their work and believe in the values and culture your brand stands for?
- If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, you may have a negative workplace culture that is directly impacting your bottom line and customer service levels.