Focus On Making Your Staff Happy

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Happy, Ltd., employees

Henry Stewart DH guest blogger Henry Stewart is Chief Executive of the London-based Happy Ltd., a training company which has earned numerous awards including rankings in the World's Most Democratic Workplaces and the UK's Best Workplaces, and the Institute of IT Training's Gold medal for Training Company of the Year. Download Henry's book, The Happy Manifesto, for free, read his blog, or check him out on Twitter @happyhenry.

People work best when they're happy at work.

That principle is the core of everything we do at Happy (a training business in London, UK). Think about whether you agree with it. If you do, and I find over 95% of people do, then what should be the key focus of management? By simple logic, it should clearly be creating an environment where people are happy and feel good about themselves.

When I speak at conferences, I like to ask the audience to raise their hands if that is the main focus of management in their organisation. Generally one or two in a hundred raise their hands. (I suspect I’d get a different response if I spoke at Zappos.) Yet there is strong evidence to suggest such a focus makes good business sense.

One restaurant chain in the UK carried out research some years ago to find out why sales at some of their restaurants grew faster than at others. They found one factor stood out in explaining the difference: how happy the staff said they were in the annual staff survey.

One restaurant chain in the UK carried out a piece of research some years ago to find out what elements explained why sales at some of their restaurants grew faster than at others. They found one factor stood out above all others in explaining the difference: how happy the staff said they were in the annual staff survey. For a time they even changed their managers’ bonuses so that 50% was based solely on those staff survey results.

They still wanted to maximize growth and profits, of course. However, they believed that the way to achieve that was not to target these elements but instead to target the key factor that creates growth and profits, namely how happy its staff were. They sent a clear message to their managers: ‘Your key focus should be on making your staff happy.'

This is backed up by hard academic evidence. Alex Edman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the result of investing in the companies listed in the Great Place to Work listings over the last 25 years. He found a difference, compared to the stock market, of 3.5% a year. An investment which would have returned $100,000 in a tracker fund would have achieved $236,000 from investing in companies that focus on creating great workplaces.

So how would your organisation be different if the main focus of management was making your staff happy? Most people respond that it would not only be more enjoyable but it would be easier to get things done and would be more productive. So what can you do to make it happen?


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Henry Stewart

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