There’s a reason Richard Branson is worth four billion dollars. Most people know him as the mega wealthy CEO of Virgin who’s always grinning ear-to-ear and jumping out of airplanes. But over the years he’s shared a lot of wisdom for how to become unfathomably successful, and it has a lot to do with people.
“Happiness is the secret ingredient for successful businesses. If you have a happy company it will be invincible.”
He also once declared that the absolute top priority of his company are his employees, above customers. So his secret to success is definitely about keeping employees happy, but how does one actually do that? It’s not just an item on a to-do list. Employee retention and engagement require a deeper strategy and commitment to your company culture with many courses of action. Here’s how, in our experience, you make employees feel genuinely happy to come to your office every day:
Employee motivation is everything, and your employees don’t have to be part-owners to get stoked on your company’s vision. You just have to make sure they really understand that vision, and their critical role in helping realize it. Whether you hold regular town hall meetings that gather everyone together and excite them with a rousing reminder of what you’re all working towards; or you write a passionate, powerful manifesto and mount it on the wall for all to see; or you even take the time to meet with your people individually, and tell them exactly how they’re personally helping you grow this company, you have to get them vibing on your vision. Not only because inspired people work harder, but because millennials care about vision. So much so, half of them are willing to take a pay cut for a job that matches their values. So get writing that manifesto.
Listen to them
As important as it is for your team to be inspired by you, you must also be inspired by them. Take time to get to know your employees. Find out what their goals are outside their employee experience, in their life, and see if there’s anything you can do to support the achievement of those goals. Also listen to what they have to say about your company culture. It’s common today for organizations to create a feedback culture, which welcomes people in all roles to share their perspective, criticisms and ideas for the company. Feedback culture allows every employee to play a valuable part in a company’s growth and success, and helps stakeholders gain a deeper understanding of employee satisfaction company wide.
Let them work where they want
Even if your company requires face-to-face operations in the same office every day, you can still enable your employees to create their optimal work environment. Like Deloitte, which boasts “18 different types of workstations on any given floor.” Or Dell, which has saved millions over the last decade by building a flexible company culture, offering employees a variety of work arrangement options. So if your employee prefers slightly unconventional hours or thrives when they switch up their work environment, try to accommodate them. Because it shows you trust them to do a great job, and it empowers them to do a great job on their terms.
Get them bonding
They don’t call it Happy Hour for nothing. Business owners have long been privy to the benefits of a good team-building exercise, and it can be as simple as a few pints at the pub next door or a full off-site retreat with a week-long itinerary. These kinds of office-bonding activities are so beneficial to corporate culture that there are entire companies dedicated to planning them for you. Whatever the fun group event is – karaoke party, trivia tournament, baseball game – the benefits are two-fold: 1. You show your employees you appreciate them by footing the bill for something fun. 2. You give them an experience outside of work that allows them to decompress from the challenges of the job together, get to know each other on a deeper level, and grow to really appreciate each other.
Keep hiring them
Whenever there’s a new role to be filled in the company, look around and see if there’s an opportunity to promote from within. This not only makes that individual employee feel appreciated for their hard work, but it shows the rest of the team that yours is a company culture that rewards loyalty and offers opportunities for growth. It’s also worth noting that the average cost of recruiting, hiring and training a new employee is about $4,000, and apparently external hires get paid 20% more and are 60% more likely to get fired. So maybe give Julie in Operations that management position instead of Mr. Expensive Outside Hire.
Care about them
Employee wellness is a concept that stretches beyond offering good dental and a nice number of vacation days. Employers are beginning to take a more holistic approach to caring for their employees’ physical and mental well-being, offering benefits like fitness sessions, meditation workshops, and a greater investment in mental health services. But they’re not just caring for caring’s sake. According to this study, two thirds of Canadian workers feel stressed every single day (one third feeling stressed to the point of feeling physically ill), and according to this study, untreated depression in the US workforce costs companies $44 billion in lost productivity every year. Just a couple reasons to consider Yoga Thursdays.
You know what makes for happy employees? A good meal. A perfectly timed snack. A reason to take a break from the computer and gather in the kitchen for something delicious. According to this survey two thirds of employees with access to free food at work reported being “very” or “extremely” happy at their current job. When you feed your team well, you’re feeding them so much more than just food. You’re feeding them brain power, and reasons to get together.
At the end of the day, there are many ongoing commitments an employer can and should be making to cultivate a happy employee experience, and if you’re looking to achieve anything close to Branson-levels of success, the tips in this post are a good place to start.