Making Your Employees Happy Makes Cents

A recent New York Times article addressing the working culture at Amazon raised a lot of eyebrows around the country. The general view of major tech companies is one that includes free lunches, on-site gyms, and generous leave policies, like those at Google, Facebook, and Netflix. Perhaps this is why the negative picture painted by the New York Times, which claimed to peer behind the veil at Amazon’s culture, made so many waves.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who rarely engages criticism of his company, quickly came to Amazon’s defense in a memo to his employees, stating, “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” Bezos added, “I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.”

Stepping back from the particulars here, one of the key takeaways from this exchange is that company culture and employee happiness are extremely important. A Forbes review of Dr. Noelle Nelson’s 2012 book, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, cites a Jackson Organization study, referenced in that text, stating that “companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity & assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. When looking at Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ stock prices rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the overall market.”

There are plenty of studies, like Nelson’s, that discuss the importance of cultivating employee satisfaction. The thinking here is that happy employees produce happy customers.

Yet, the irony is that in recent years while many companies have ramped up their customer experience programs, they aren’t paying as much attention to employee experience. If the latter influences the former, shouldn’t it get some love too?

Fortunately, for companies that want to understand, measure, and analyze the relationship they have with their employees, technology solutions exist to make this process consistent and reliable. Conducting custom employee surveys is one option for this kind of data-gathering.

When building a program to discern the “voice of the employee” use the following series of questions to create a roadmap for determining just how happy your employees are.

  • What goes into employee satisfaction?
  • What about employee engagement?
  • How can companies get a handle on these metrics, and what tools exist to measure and evaluate them?

You don’t want to go addressing concerns willy-nilly so having a system in place provides the best route for consistent, actionable results.

Employee Satisfaction

So what goes into employee satisfaction? The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) report on the subject for 2015 listed the top five factors affecting employee satisfaction, in the following order:

  1. respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
  2. trust between employees and senior management
  3. overall benefits
  4. overall compensation/pay
  5. job security

Seeing benefits and compensation near the top of the list isn’t surprising. Those have been at or near the top since SHRM began conducting this survey in 2002. However, the top two factors, those representing respect and trust, were new additions for the 2015 installment and instantly shot to the top of the list.

Financial factors are much more fixed than soft factors like respect and trust. Yet, considering how important these items are to employees and the amount of control companies have over shaping them, suggests that these may be good areas for companies to begin self-reflection and assessment.

Employee Engagement

Anyone who ever saw the old G. I. Joe cartoon understands that knowing is only half the battle. If employee satisfaction is one half, then employee engagement comprises the other half.

The importance of engaged employees shouldn’t be understated. In 2013, Gallup estimated that as much as 70% of the workforce was disengaged in the United States and that this disengagement cost companies $450–$550 billion annually in lost productivity.

SHRM also measured engagement and returned these as the leading factors for 2015 (Note: there was a three-way tie in the five slot):

  1. relationship with co-workers
  2. contribution of work to the organization’s business goals
  3. meaningfulness of the job
  4. opportunities to use skills/abilities
  5. relationship with immediate supervisor
  6. the work itself
  7. the organization’s financial stability

Keeping employees happy and engaged means that companies can spend less money on turnover, recruiting, and training, and put more of that money into supporting their current cast of employees. While recruiting and training may be necessary for growing companies, there’s little to recommend for employee churn that effectively makes the entrance to your HR department a revolving door.

Gauge and Evaluate Employee Happiness

SHRM already laid out the most important factors for employee satisfaction and engagement from an employee point-of-view. Basically, they’re handing you the first few bricks; it’s up to you to build the rest.

Knowing what issues are relevant to the majority of workers will help you to determine what questions are most relevant to your company and employees. Whether those revolve around salary, management transparency, or how meaningful an employee’s work is, asking your employees is the only way to really find out.

Surveys are great for that. Companies that already have a Voice of the Customer program (VoC) in place can use the same framework to also collect “Voice of the Employee” feedback.

Systematically asking employees about these things will provide a much needed baseline for evaluating your employees’ well-being. A well-designed survey can provide critical insights into the areas where your company performs well and where it struggles to meet your employees’ needs. Having an omni-channel tool with robust reporting and analysis capabilities ensures that you get the most out of the data you collect.

Thinking back to the statistic above about how happy employees affect company profitability, it’s worth taking the time to evaluate your employees’ happiness on the job. With the right tools collecting and analyzing that data is easy to do.

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