August 12, 2015

Creating a Happier Company Culture

RailroadEvery business has its own unique culture, and that culture defines the core values of the company and creates a set of unofficial guidelines for employees to follow. It also helps determine which discretionary behavior is acceptable, as those who comply with these guidelines will feel more comfortable in the work environment, while those who do not may choose to seek employment elsewhere.

Your company may have a fantastic product or service, but your business may still falter if there is a negative work environment. Most importantly, you personally must be happy and positive — and present yourself as such — if you want a positive culture in your company. As a leader, prepare yourself daily with positive “vibes,” like good self-talk, and listen to something motivating on the way to work. You can even think about whose day you will personally be making at work.

Creating a culture of happiness in the workplace is rather simple and has very little (if any) cost. In my workplace, it didn’t cost us anything. There are a number of ways to create a positive work environment.

Here’s how I turned a crazy workplace into a culture of happiness in a matter of months.

Get to Really Know the People You’re Working With

First, pay attention to personal details about your staff members’ lives. Acknowledge important events and ask about the well-being of their families. People like to know others care about them beyond the work setting. Celebrating staff birthdays is another great way to let employees know they mean more to management than just names on the payroll.

Next, you should treat each person as an individual. This was hard for me, as I sometimes don’t feel I have time to get to know every person on my team. To combat this, I started by learning what each person did for fun, memorized it, and talked about it the next time we met. We go on daily “walkies” (walking meetings), which helps me get to know the varied personal preferences of those on my team.

This has also helped me identify my employees’ strengths and weaknesses. When a problem arises, I let an employee know what they have done wrong without being rude or disrespectful, give constructive criticism, and point out some things they do well.

KnowAfter a discussion like this, it helps to immediately get back to a normal atmosphere with this employee so they will know you are still a confidante and that the relationship has not been damaged. I find that employees typically need a little more encouragement than usual after criticism. A couple of compliments and a little joke tends to help the situation and will get them back to work more quickly.

Show That You Trust Them Enough to Take on Big Responsibilities

I like to provide my staff with opportunities to learn and accept new challenges. Providing such opportunities shows employees that you have confidence in their abilities. I have even gone as far as offering to let employees shadow me for a day. People can become bored with doing the same work continuously, and if they stay bored for too long, they will leave. Keeping staff challenged and acknowledging their talents can encourage them to remain with your company.

Implementing an open-door policy will also let your staff know you care about their concerns and that you’re willing to discuss their career goals with them. Such a policy lets my team know they can trust me and that I will maintain their confidentiality.

Make It Clear What Your Company Stands For

I find that employees feel more involved in their work if they feel the team is working for a common cause. Express your dedication to your core values. Doing so will help your staff feel that they are working towards a common goal — not just a paycheck.

Be transparent with everyone by keeping your employees informed about significant events that may affect the company as a whole. Also, give credit to the entire team when success is achieved. In most cases, successful individuals had the help from several other people. Say something like, “Ken was able to close that magnificent sale, and I’m sure he’d agree with me when I give thanks to the whole team for their part in making this success possible.”

We do run into emergencies every now and then, when employees have to step up and work long hours. Acknowledge this and make sure you show your appreciation through small tokens such as gift cards. If that’s not an option, I’ve found that letting everyone out early on a Friday works just as well.

HandsWhen people feel they are part of a team, they are more likely to contribute to or help with projects that may be outside of their specific job duties. Remember that good ideas can come from anyone. Show a willingness to listen to ideas from any source within the company. Empower your employees and build their self-confidence. Give them encouragement to try new methods of work and allow them to have autonomy.

Creating and maintaining a culture of happiness can have a positive impact on a company’s profits. Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, provides an excellent example of this correlation. Achor reviewed 10 years of research on the topic and found that having happy employees raised productivity by 31 percent, increased sales by 37 percent, and increased work accuracy by an average of 19 percent.

If you can nail the combination of great products/services, happy employees, and an all-around stimulating cultural environment, I believe you, too, will see greater productivity and higher profits — much like we have in our business!

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.

John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their clients easily online. You can connect with him on Twitter: @johnrampton.

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