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Glimmer Blog
Jun 25

Written by: peterm
25/06/2010 2:25 PM 

Not a new subject I know but a very important one. I actually did a search on the “Big G” under “Happy Staff” and got 50,000 Web pages come up with articles on the subject. It has also been widely publicised through the media about the extraordinary lengths that Google themselves go to, to ensure the work environment for their staff is a happy one.

I don’t think we need look too hard into the reasons why it is important , let’s face it, your staff are the lifeblood of your business, in the majority of cases without your staff your company would fold and its back to the drawing board.

Happy employees means higher profits, better service to your customers, less turnover of staff, less money spent on HR, etc… the list is an extensive one.

There have been research studies, in-house surveys, millions of dollars spent on research and millions of dollars spent on creating these environments with fancy desks & chairs, children’s crèches, inner city parking, in-house coffee shops, etc . All excellent incentives which may very well keep employees happiness levels closer to the top of the scale but I truly believe the real answer is a whole lot simpler and virtually no cost to the employer.

The problem with all the great ideas listed above is that it only seems to be these ones we read about. These studies and implementations cost horrendous amounts of money and the perception is that these levels of staff happiness and employee retention can only be achieved with enormous budgets. With that being a general level of thinking the average SME owner tends to believe that this form of staff retention is out of reach and settles for a higher turnover of staff than is necessary.

I’m sure no one sets out to create a work environment that is not conducive to their staff being happy. I’m sure the vast majority of business owners, if told their employees were leaving due to not being happy or being offered a better socially acceptable environment would be devastated. The problem is that the staff that are leaving very rarely tell the owners this is the case, and the staff that are there fear reprisals if they say anything. It is up to the business managers and owners to take stock of the working environment and ensure the simple things are being done to make or keep a happy team.

There are many ways in which the things we do can influence the happiness of our staff and improve our own working environments, but also increase our long term profits too… here are just a few of my thoughts…

Manners – Sometimes the simplicity of the solution is quite scary, but good manners play a massive part in the workplace environment. It’s difficult not to sound condescending when you say things like this but I know that there are business owners and managers out there that do not even think to say please and thank you when asking a simple task of a member of their team. Moreover they don’t install the type of culture in which every member of staff within the team use these manners when communicating with their colleagues.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted to have said “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices” the sacrifice in this case, of course, is about three seconds. It’s strange how some of the things you really appreciate from people, you take for granted until there not there or don’t appreciate as much until you are a little older and dare I say it a little wiser.
I used to work as a sales rep when I was younger back in the UK. The owners of the business were a husband and wife team and at times things could get a little ‘heated’ in the office environment and certainly a little stressful.

They were a very successful firm and despite the sometimes brash atmosphere during the day, staff turnover was extremely low as you always left work feeling you were appreciated. To feel appreciated… everyday… how many of us can say that about the roles we are currently in now.

How was this phenomenon achieved?

Quite simply, every day as you were leaving the wife of the business duo would look you in the eye and say “Goodnight and thanks for all your hard work today “, it was sincere and heartfelt. I believe she truly understood about what I said earlier, your employees are the lifeblood of your business. I don’t think you could ever equate the amount of money that daily comment translated to when it came to the company’s profit and loss statements but I honestly believe you would be amazed by the truth of it.

Perhaps on a Monday morning, asking how someone’s weekend was and genuinely listening to the answer. People want to know that you genuinely care about their well being.

I remember starting work for one company and I said to the boss that morning… “How was your weekend?”, the answer I got astounded me… “I don’t ask or answer those types of questions because I genuinely don’t care”. Needless to say I don’t need to go into the atmosphere of that particular environment.

It’s not just about manners of course, far from it, human understanding is essential. Little things like when the soccer world cup is on, to perhaps offer a half day to the team so they can stay up late and watch the match the night before. Yes there are wages involved in this but the high levels of moral you will create by doing it will bring the dollar value back in multiples of the original cost.

Birthday cakes for staff and morning tea. What about hump day drinks? A glass of wine or a beer for the staff at 4.30 on a Wednesday afternoon, creating a social culture that breeds happiness and team work.

It’s about creating a pleasant culture, an environment people want to come to, and not only work hard but enjoy it, enjoy getting up in the mornings and whistling ‘Hi ho, hi ho” on the way to work… Ok perhaps not the seven dwarf scenario with the whistling but I hope you get my point.

Sure, we are all in business to make money and what we are talking about goes a long way to help that, but can’t it also be about being proud of our own business environment. I remember the first time I ever heard one of my staff telling a headhunter that there would be no need for them to stay in touch as they were perfectly happy where they are and offering them more money would be a futile exercise. Brilliant feeling…

Obviously this is not the be all and end all to keep your work environment a happy one but I honestly believe it is a giant part of it. I would love to hear your ideas on happiness in the workplace, perhaps you have a story about what things your employer does or encourages that make you happy at work and share some positive ideas. Peter Martin – www.glimmermc.com.au

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