Investing in Your Employees Is the Smartest Business Decision You Can Make Richard Branson put it best: Customers come second, employees first. It's a philosophy that brings unexpected benefits to both the company and its clients.
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It's one of those things that we all knew, but didn't quite have enough data to paint a picture of: Most people are not happy at work. But, now we do, and the number is 85 percent. That's how many people are dissatisfied with their jobs the world over, according to the "State of the Global Workplace" survey conducted by Gallup poll last year.
While this in itself might be a depressing number, it points to almost $7 trillion in lost productivity the world over every year! Unfortunately the bad news doesn't stop there. The true cost of replacing employees can be twice their base salaries depending on their wage, role and experience. The cost of replacing high performers who often deliver 400 percent more in productivity than their average counterpart can be higher still.
In other words, the measures businesses use to engage employees and evaluate their performance are not working, or worse, they're backfiring.
Unfortunate, but totally understandable.
There are many reasons that may explain why this trend exists. Some companies either willingly or unwillingly instill not-so-best practices that can make employees not just unhappy but downright dejected.
Often companies don't communicate properly. Or, worse, they just assume everyone already knows what they are supposed to do. In a survey of 400 very large companies titled the "Cost of Poor Communications," it was discovered that poor communication was costing each company tens of millions of dollars.
Many companies do not take employee training seriously. Just having a rulebook rarely suffices to help employees understand the nuances of their job. An IBM study revealed that employees who do not feel they are developing in a company are 12 times more likely to leave it. Many times companies see employee training as an expense rather than investment and end up paying dearly in terms of low productivity and high turnover.
Other companies micromanage like crazy. Nobody likes someone (particularly a workplace supervisor) hovering over their shoulder all the time. And yet in a report by Career Addict, 79 percent respondents said they were being micromanaged and 69 percent had as a result considered switching companies. Contrary to what managers who micromanage believe, their methods actually motivate employees not to perform and to try and leave the company, while destroying teamwork and creating health problems.
Some managers literally track an employee's every movement. Now, it's one thing to keep a record of productive activities for posterity, and it's another to use employee GPS tracking apps to know when they have exited a vehicle, where they are going after office hours and surveilling their chats. While workplace surveillance is usually carried out in the name of productivity, it often creates even more stress and defeats its purpose.
Too many companies use interns to do the heavy lifting. Many people would rank this practice in the same category as kicking a puppy, but shortchanging interns is a surprisingly common practice in the startup world. Interns are promised nebulous, performance-based incentives including stock options that never materialize to squeeze every last bit of performance out of them for free. And let us not forget the cynical assertion that interns should really be paying their employers, since the latter is blessing them with knowledge and experience.
Dress codes might have made sense 20 years ago, but with freelancing and co-working culture on the rise, many employers including multibillion-dollar brands are giving up the suit and tie entirely and letting employees decide what they want to wear. On the other hand, many employers try clever ways of creating a middle ground -- even where there isn't one.
Why you should be investing (heavily) in your employees.
While the issues mentioned (and those like them) are best avoided, companies need to go above and beyond to find what their employees are looking for and deliver on it. The best companies have always understood this, too. Richard Branson, for instance, famously stated that customers come second, while employees come first.
But there is a much deeper reason to investing in your employees than good feels. Investing in your employees is a great business opportunity.
It builds you a solid reputation in the marketplace. All companies want to attract the best possible talent over to their camp. But who in their right of mind would want to work with a company that treats its members as disposable assets?
Unless you are the owner of the company, you will want to work for an organization that promotes your own growth and values your opinion.
In fact, millennials today often quit their jobs because of lack of learning and growth opportunities. And since almost all of them are researching companies on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn before applying, having bad reviews on there won't help you attract resumes.
Happy employees, even happier customers.
Engaged employee help you establish better relationship with your customers. Since your employees are the ones who are actually in contact with your customers, how they think and feel is actually a better representation of your company than all your marketing and advertising material ever could be.
Gallup in "State of American Workplace" reports that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer service and can result in 20 percent increase in sales.
Tempkin Group's 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study also shows that companies acing customer experience have one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as those that are not so good at it.
Employee engagement will foster loyalty. Brand loyalty is all the rage today, with many companies focused on increasing customer lifetime values. But what about your employee lifetime value? Losing your employees can have heavy repercussions in terms retraining time, cost and lost skills.
By putting your employees first, you can help them relate with your organization's goals and find a common ground. Doing so can engender trust and a feeling of mutual respect between the employer and the employee.
Altogether, it will make your organization a competitive powerhouse. Almost every brand today is data-driven, even if it is to a small degree. But making use of that data in a way that powers organizational growth depends on how engaged and active your employees are.
When employees are well trained, they will be better equipped to identify and exploit fleeting opportunities. That will, in turn, benefit the company.
Some ways to invest in your employees.
Every organization needs to find the best way to inculcate great relationships with their employees. So, there are many examples of how the best companies out there are making sure their employees are on top of their respective priorities.
Google keeps it casual. While having a dress code is all very nice to promote homogeneity, we now know that people are happier when they are allowed to customize their workspaces. Google is a great example of how companies can keep it light and fun while still killing it, productively speaking.
The company offers everything from laundry facilities to places for naps, and creatively executed common areas as well. They also give free breakfast, lunch and dinner; health and dental benefits; and hybrid car subsidies to keep their employees happy.
Employees at Google are also allowed to spend 20 percent of their time pursuing special projects they feel are worth their time. In fact, many of their best products, such as GMail, Google Maps, Google Cardboard, Adsense and Google Talk, are products of this policy.
You don't have to be a billion-dollar company to implement some of their methods. At the heart of Google's policy lies their belief that every employee's ideas can make a difference. TargetProcess, which was a small startup in 2013, decided to try their hand at Google's 20 percent policy, which resulted in an incredible culture of innovation.
Listening is investing, and it pays dividends.
Listen to your employees the way Virgin does. Lecturing employees where the company is heading and what is expected of them is so passé, so top-down. Not only can involving employees in your companies larger, strategic decisions help them feel valued, but you can also get fresh ideas and perspectives.
Virgin is a great example of a company that listens to its employees. Virgin realizes that every person on the planet has the potential to come up with the next million-dollar idea. Some of them may well be within your ranks, and the only way to find out who is to let everyone share their ideas.
For instance, Virgin Trains asked their employees for suggestions on improving their Voyager products. Bethan Patfield, a customer service assistant, came up with one when she noticed that celebrity chef Bryn Williams of Odette's was using their service regularly.
Patfield suggested that Williams might be asked to look into Voyager's menu options. Many meetings later, the team came up with awesome menu options that were a big hit with their customers.
The lesson here is your employees have a lot of insight that can be used to improve the quality of service. Given a chance, they can help you make a better product or service.
SquareSpace's flat organizational structure enhances communications. Primarily suited to startups, a flat organizational structure is where there are fewer management levels between leadership and employees. This facilitates communication between everyone involved and allows ideas to flow easily.
Coupled with some really strong perks and benefits, including 100 percent health insurance coverage, relaxed workspaces, flexible vacations, catered meals, monthly celebrations and more, Squarespace has consistently secured itself a top spot in every best places to work list out there.
Maintaining a flat organizational hierarchy can get tricky as companies become larger. However, there are ways to maintain your culture while growing as a company. For example, you can consider harnessing the power of smaller, project-focused teams that are far more agile with faster velocity than big departments. Facebook and Microsoft are great examples here.
Challenge your employees.
Adobe is another popular mainstay in best workplaces surveys. The firm is known for its rather generous perks, holiday pay, medical insurance, retirement plans and education reimbursements. However, there's a lot more they put into making sure their employees are happy and productive.
Adobe provides its employees with challenging projects, then follows up with all the support they need to meet them. Consequently, they routinely deliver fantastic products to the market.
At the heart of Adobe's workplace culture lie four signal characteristics -- exceptional, genuine, innovative and involved. Adobe is very proud of its integrity, which is upheld by their senior management who ensure full, fair and accurate disclosure of information.
Finally, the company also celebrates their employee's accomplishments by sharing their success stories on the Adobe Life blog. Doing so not only gives a huge boost to an employee's pride, but also helps them share their ideas with fellow Adobites.
Henry Ford had once said, "The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." In today's data-driven business world, talent is widely regarded as the most important resource. The ability to find simple yet effective solutions to pressing problems is what segregates great brands from mediocre and failed ones.
Since it's unrealistic to expect top-tier leaders to have the best solution for every single problem every single time, companies today must not only start investing in their employees but also make them an integral part of the decision-making process and growth story.