My well-traveled and worldly brother calls Wegmans one of his all-time favorite places to shop on the planet. He is not alone. With over 90 stores and sales of $8.3 billion, it is one of the most beloved supermarkets in the country, both for its customers and for its employees.
According to Jo Natale, Wegmans’s VP for Media Relations, to be first with customers, Wegmans believes it must put its employees first. “In order to be a great place to shop, we must first be a great place to work.”
For decades, we have been fed the mantras of “the customer is always right” or “the customer is king.” The focus has been on the clients, the ones who pay the bills. Some forward-thinking managers like Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, and Richard Branson of Virgin fame are just two of many who decided to turn the old adage on its head, and did so with stunning success. In fact, according to one study, organizations that scored in the top 25 percent on employee happiness see 3X the return on assets and more than 2X the return on sales, compared to organizations in the bottom quartile. Happy employees translate into better profitability. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. And only 33% of U.S. workers are engaged.
Richard Branson, the serial entrepreneur, says it best:
There, he said it – Clients do not come first! This would have been blasphemous not too long ago. And yet, it makes so much sense. If the conduit through which you are trying to reach your paying customer is disengaged or is not happy, the customer journey is inevitably not going to be optimal as well. In a recent study, Glassdoor reports that there is a strong connection between employee and customer satisfaction levels. The salient conclusion: If you want to build a customer-first strategy, building high employee morale is a necessary precondition. Some of the companies in their list who did this successfully include Costco, Johnson & Johnson, Trader Joe’s, Hilton and Southwest.
Zappos ran an entire advertising campaign on the theme of “Happy People Making People Happy.” Today, many would agree that like Wegmans, getting love means first giving some love to the employees.
Not coincidentally, happier employees also have much higher retention rates.
What goes into making employees happy?
Unfortunately, happiness is not a one-size-fits-all solution and in reality, it is difficult to deliver because it means different things to different people. Nonetheless, here are some considerations:
1. Align the cultural attributes of the company and the employees. If you want happy employees, match the cultural attributes of the company with those of the prospective employees (#ethosq). This is much more than finding people with a defined skill set to meet the job description of a certain role. 2. Offer an ongoing development program where employees feel that their skills are current and relevant in the workplace. The pace of change is becoming a big irritant, and giving employees a way to grow and develop can alleviate some of that stress.
3. All work and no play turns the workers away. Create a fun atmosphere so that employees are looking forward to new adventures that make the workplace more enjoyable and satisfying for all. This is all the more important with young people as employees. A straight jacket environment is toxic for that employee subset.
4. Acknowledge and reward employees so that they are empowered to be the rock stars that you want them to be. Being appreciated is a key part of feeling fulfilled and all too often managers seem to forget that. Employees want more than a sense of purpose – they want to be seen and heard. Recognition is key. 5. For the younger generations, providing work-life balance may be more important than titles and money. Being attentive to their needs will be important to their Happiness Quotient. They may also want flexibility at work with more remote working options.
6. Create a culture of perpetual feedback. If you don’t hear it, you can’t fix it either. Once a year performance reviews are not continuous feedback. In many cases, managers tend to project their own happiness criteria into what they think their reports need.
Today, prospective employees have a wealth of information about employers at their fingertips, equipping them as “buyers” in a crowded job market. They’re researching employee reviews and comparing you to a slew of competitors, not just in terms of job requirements, but how you match their personal and cultural needs. The question is, what are you doing to meet those needs?
Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Better Bottom Lines
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