Do Happy Employees Matter?

Happy African-American BusinessmanHow happy are team members in your organization today? Are they enthused, optimistic, engaged, cooperative, and creative – or not so much?

This week I learned of a colleague’s recent conversation with a CEO of a global firm. The discussion revolved around increased turnover in their company – and not “beneficial” turnover. They were losing talented leaders and team members. That’s a problem.

Exit interviews revealed that these players didn’t feel valued. They saw the company as exclusively focused on results, not on the organization’s original “serve others” purpose.

Their Chief Talent Officer suggested doing an engagement survey to learn what the rest of their global workforce thought about these issues. The CEO boldly replied, “I don’t care about happy employees! I just want these people to produce!”

[stunned silence]

I believe that this CEO isn’t alone in his belief about happy employees. It’s an assumption that many senior leaders hold. These leaders grew up among bosses that held and acted from that same belief.

It’s all they know.

How might one seek to influence a senior leader with this belief? How might one inspire that leader to not only understand the benefits of employee engagement and happiness but to actively encourage it?

I’ve found success with a combination of these elements:

  • Show them the data. This particular CEO wasn’t influenced by the exit interview data from his own departing talent. So, you’ve got to gather reliable, undeniable data that leaves the leader with no choice but to try more employee-friendly practices and policies. Internal data – like this organization’s exit interviews – will have the most impact. A regular, organization-wide engagement survey is a needed foundational piece of internal data. Look at simple, fast feedback solutions for internal data like TinyPulse. Present them with key insights from current engagement research from organizations like Gallup, Kenexa, and others.
  • Show them the money. Happy, engaged employees produce better results and profits than disengaged employees. Research by Dale Carnegie found that companies with engaged employees outperform companies without engaged employees by up to 202%. Research from Towers Watson found engaged companies have 6% higher profits than disengaged companies.
  • Show them it works. Do your own employee engagement research, “under the radar.” Find a willing leader of a distinct, intact business unit who will let you “experiment” for a year. Start with an engagement survey to get a “happiness” benchmark. Note performance of individuals and teams to get performance benchmarks. Identify policies and practices that pit people against each other and refine them so they encourage cooperative interaction. Set clear values standards for treating everyone with trust, respect, and dignity. Create open communications across teams and across levels so everyone feels fully informed. Stick with it. Within six months you’ll see upticks in engagement, service, and results. Compare this “skunk works” unit’s performance with other units performance, and you’ll find impressive gains. Share these results with your senior leaders, over and over again.

Will these approaches help every senior leader to “get” and support employee engagement? No, but you’ll have living proof that happy employees are worth their weight in gold.

How important is employee engagement, happiness, and well-being in your organization? Share your comments and insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for building a safe, inspiring workplace? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This one-morning-a-month series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, starts in March 2015 and ends in September.

Photo © Kurhan – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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