[Editor's Note: This is an informative — and refreshing — article that discusses how focusing on leadership to create an environment that encourages employee happiness can have a measurable impact on your customer's experience. Enjoy.]
I was sitting on a plane headed out to speak to a group of CEOs. My seatmate was cordial and wasn’t looking down at his phone the whole flight, so it left a little open space to have a conversation, which he started.
“You traveling on business?” he asked. “Yes I am, I’m a speaker and a workshop presenter. I’m headed to speak to a group of CEO’s about Happiness.”
His eyes widened as he looked at me and asked, “Happiness? To CEO’s?”
“Yup!” I stated almost triumphantly.
“Well that will never fly! CEO’s don’t care about happiness — all they care about are outcomes.”
“And you know this because…?”
“I AM a CEO.”
Well needless to say the conversation got lively.
By: JoAnna Brandi
I asked him if he cared about productivity, sales, and customer loyalty and of course he replied “Yes”.
“Would you like to know more about how happiness impacts those and other business outcomes?”
I think he said “Yes” as a challenge for me to “prove” my worthiness to speak to a group of people that may indeed be a lot like him.
I started by admitting that happiness does sometimes get a bad rap in business — many people perceive it as something “soft” and unimportant to other important business outcomes. But science — and business — is finding out something different.
When people feel happy at work, they are creating more positive emotions. Positive emotions evolved in humans because they serve an important purpose to build and broaden our capacity to create solutions!
It seems that when we are in the state of positive emotion the left side of the brain communicates better with the right side. This causes something known as the “Broaden and Build Response” which gives us the capacity to see a larger, more holistic vision or version of what we are looking at.
In research studies, we’ve seen a 300% and even a 400% increase in innovation in companies that are actively using the science of happiness to their advantage. Creativity surges when we are in a state of positivity.
So does productivity. Ours and others. Nine out of ten people report that they are more productive in the presence of positive people! And in a company practicing happiness at work that translates to a 31% increase in productivity. That means work gets done quicker, customers get served sooner, and the sense of accomplishment people have spills over to others as well.
Sales go up for happy, optimistic sales people and anyone else who touches the customer. On average sales increases 37% when the sales force is happier. And sometimes more. Happier Costco employees sell 200% more than Walmart’s! There are two different cultures there that produce two different sets of results. Costco focuses on creating a happy environment for their people.
Jim Sengal, Costco’s founder, says his mission is to keep their employees happy. The way the employees are trusted and treated had Costco enjoying the lowest theft ratio in their industry. Just watch that money drop to the bottom line! The economic results say it all. In the ten years between 2003 and 2013, Costco’s shares grew 200% while Walmart grew 50%.
A culture built around happiness pays — and the KPIs prove it
So much that Happiness has become a significant KPI in business today and can be measured and managed over time to produce stunning results, all of which in some way impact your customer’s experience.
Innovation helps people create solutions to customers; 44% more retention keeps people in place and keeps relationships with customers solid. Absenteeism rates in happy cultures drop by 41% making it easier for customers to be assured someone will be there to help when they need it.
A Glassdoor Economic Research Report discovered that each 1-star improvement in an employer’s Glassdoor company rating out of 5 is associated with a 1.3 point increase in customer satisfaction. But that’s not all. When they focused only on sectors where customer facing employees have the most direct and frequent contact with customers, like retail, food services, travel, financial services and of course, healthcare, they found the effect of satisfied workers is more than twice as strong. Each 1 star higher Glassdoor rating predicts a 3.2 points higher boost in customer satisfaction.
When we measure happiness, we are measuring 8 different components in the employee’s experience.
Every one of them have some effect on their ability to take care of their customers, externally and internally. Let’s take a look at what they are and how they might impact your customer’s experience.
1) The practice of happiness at work helps employees have healthy engagement. A 5:1 positivity to negativity ratio of emotions builds resilience, adds “energy gains” to the day, and gives people more energy to work on behalf of your customers. Happy people have 65% more energy than unhappy ones.
2) When companies practice positive leadership they give employees both autonomy and control. This boosts their intellectual arousal and their curiosity. It gives them the power to take care of issues and become problem solvers for their customers.
3) When people have a sense of purpose they are inspired to contribute to something larger then themselves. That helps them bring the best of themselves and their personal values to work — and to their customers.
4) When people have the opportunity to experience pleasure at work it makes the experience more fun; celebrate them often and they are more likely to pass those good feelings along. After all, emotions are contagious
5) Inner and outer recognition is key to making people feel important and valued. People who feel valued help customers feel valued as well.
6) Experiences at work: Nothing is all positive, nor should it be. But making sure that the number of positive experiences outweigh the negative is a critical component of how we want to manage in a positive culture. Mostly good or great experiences at work? Guess who that benefits. Of course, your customers!
7) Today we realize that social support is critical to an overall sense of well being at work and in all areas of life. We spend more time at work than with our families. Having friends and support at work adds to the depth of the experience. People who are in workplaces where they feel guided, supported, and cared about have the qualities they need to support their customers.
8) When we create a culture of trust, employees feel safe to explore and improve themselves. That helps them know they can grow. Growth is critical to not only keeping employees, but keeping them happy as well.
The young workforce is serious about happiness
As you move forward and the younger two generations become a larger percentage of your workforce, they will be looking for signs that you can provide a happy environment for them to grow in. Happiness is now being measured as a KPI because an employee’s happiness is an indicator of the business results you can expect.
To finish my story: By the time my seatmate arrived at his destination, he’d changed his mind about happiness being an important part of a company’s operating system. He did, however, want to get in a last word. He looked at me and said, “But I still don’t think it’s my job to make them happy.”
He got a big smile back from me and I said, “You are right. It’s not your job to make them happy — but it is your job to create a culture and a leadership team that is focused on what’s right and what’s strong way more often than they are focused on what’s wrong and broken.”
JoAnna Brandi is speaker, author, consultant and a Certified Chief Happiness Officer. She has been in her own customer retention and loyalty consultancy for 30 years working across industries with clients who want to create “Exquisite Customer Care” and happiness in their companies. She has a strategic partnership that allows her to offer Happiness as a KPI research along with her speeches and workshops. You can find her at www.ReturnOnHappiness.com and you can find her online leadership course at www.PositiveEnergizer.com where you will find a free assessment to see how well you are energizing your team!