It’s great to be part of a whole session on wellbeing and inclusion – fantastic to see a conference of this size and standing giving weight to these issues. Brighton SEO is fantastic for inclusion – having a creche on site is an awesome thing, Kelvin’s commitment to having a diverse speaker line-up is phenomenal, so it’s really special to be part of.
I am here to talk to you about happiness. Happiness is often seen as a fluffy, nice to have thing that we only talk about because we’re in hippy, touchy-feely Brighton where we like to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but it’s only really something businesses should worry about to tick the CSR box or fill in an award entry. It’s not seen as serious business. In fact, sometimes it’s seen as actively detracting from serious business. Hopefully in the next 20 minutes I’ll bombard you with enough facts and figures to convince you that happiness is serious, and that it isn’t just a nice to have, it’s something that will translate into cold, hard cash in your pocket.
So who the hell am I and why am I talking to you about this? My name’s Allegra, I’m an organisational values consultant. I work with businesses to identify the actual authentic values that are central to their business and turn them into genuine, meaningful actions. Everything I’m doing right now is fairly new, because I basically fell out of love with what I was doing before. And I’m not alone…
My generation – I hate the “m” word, it’s so overused, but those born between around 1981 to 1996, who make up a pretty substantial and influential section of the workforce right now, expect to change jobs at least every 3 years (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/the-future-of-work-job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials/#24d5c72a13b8) and 43% plan to leave their current job within the next two years (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/millennials-jobs-career-work-salary-quit-young-people-study-a8361936.html) – so yes, possibly they’re incredibly ambitious and intent on climbing the career ladder, but still it’s clear their current jobs aren’t offering them what they need to grow and flourish
The tech sector has the highest turnover rate of any industry (https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2018/the-3-industries-with-the-highest-turnover-rates). That should give us all cause for concern. There were a few articles a little while ago making a song and dance about how technology was one of the happiest sectors because 51% of people in the industry say they are happy in their jobs. (https://realbusiness.co.uk/sme-job-satisfaction-staff-happiness-by-industry-country-company-size/) Am I the only person who thinks that’s pretty low?
That means 49% of people working in the tech sector don’t like the thing they spend a third of their lives doing. That means we can pretty much draw a line down the middle of this room and say that this side are happy in their work and this side are dreading Monday and are really glad of this great excuse to get out of the office for a day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s acceptable.
The UK as a whole is pretty far down the happiness league tables – only 42% are happy in their jobs. That’s not good.
So why should you care?
For those of you who run businesses, if you sell stuff or do things for people, then you’ll be much more likely to get people to buy them from you if you make your potential customers happy
Trust came second with 83% - and you don’t trust someone you don’t like
Numerous studies show that consumers chooses brands that make them feel happy. Happiness is a complex issue, and depending on a number of factors consumers might equate happiness with calm, excitement or altruism, and you need to understand the space your customer is currently in and the state of mind your messaging is putting them in, which is a topic for a whole talk in itself, but essentially if you make them happy they will buy from you, and continue to buy from you.
Quote from study by advertising agency Isobel: https://www.marketingweek.com/the-secrets-of-being-a-happy-brand/
Study into influence of happiness on purchase decisions: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-11815-4_100
If you employ or manage staff, you’ll want to keep them happy. But likewise if you’re the employee, you owe it to yourself and your business to push for your own happiness. And if you’re freelance and you’re business is just you, your happiness is pretty much central to your success.
Research shows that one of the major drivers of happy customers, and a perception of a “happy” brand, is happy employees
According to Oxford Economics, the average cost of hiring a new staff member is more than £30,000 – around £5,000 on recruitment fees, and a whopping £25,000 on lost productivity in the 28 weeks it will take for the new recruit to get up to speed (https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4857). When you add into the mix the knowledge and skill you lost with previous person, and the risk you run if you’re an agency in not providing continuity of service and having that 28 week period where someone isn’t fully up to speed on a client, and that’s a pretty hefty price tag.
Important for all businesses, but a real issue for freelancers where keeping motivated and productive as the only person working in isolation can be difficult anyway
Happiness in sales people increases sales by 37%
Your brain in general works 31% more productively when you’re in a positive state vs negative or stressed: https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6a822zBGfjQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=shawn+achor&ots=Q5sj77qXAt&sig=ran1QhgHgyO9vxXoK5pWuNxvp-c#v=onepage&q=shawn%20achor&f=false
Ultimately, this all adds up to a more successful business that makes more money.
Companies with happy employees outperform competition
Companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity & assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t
Hopefully that’s convinced you happiness is valuable and can make you some serious money. So the big question now is how can you make people happy?
What makes you happy, and what’s most important to you, might vary a little depending on your life stage and situation, but a study by marketing consultancy Rare found five key drivers: fun and enjoyment, health, safety, relationships with others and self-respect.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’m going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of a few things that are really important within each category.
So yeah fun is on the list, but that doesn’t mean you can shove a table tennis table in your break room and be done with it. I worked in two offices with table tennis tables and in one it was never used because everyone was so stressed working through their lunchbreaks and into the night that they never touched it, and in the other it got taken over by one group of guys who commandeered it every lunchtime and evening and no one else got a look in. One study showed that hardly anyone is bothered about a flashy Christmas party – only 11% of employees cared about that https://www.paymentsense.com/uk/blog/how-much-does-a-happy-workforce-cost-infographic-survey/ – one-off sprinkles of glitter don’t mean anything to anyone. If you want to incorporate fun, make it inclusive and meaningful.
Celebrating successes and milestones together in a way that resonates with your company and its values. Being playful and energetic in the way you communicate. Have fun with what you do – if you find a sense of joy in what you do, your staff and employees will share it. If you don’t have joy in your role as a business owner, you need to look at why and reconnect with the reason you do what you do. Volunteering or giving back to the community in some way can actually be a much better source of fun than an awkward paintballing tournament because it feels more rewarding and makes your team feel part of something. That goes for your outward facing communications and activities too – being fun and quirky can be great, Innocent do a phenomenal job at it, but there are ways to make people feel you’re a fun company in a way that is much more meaningful than topical cat memes.
Games tables and bean bag chairs being set aside, what perks do people really want? The most important employee perks to actual employees are ones that impact their health and wellbeing. Don’t forget that health incorporates mental wellbeing, not just physical health. People want long-term benefits that genuinely add to their quality of life. Health insurance and gym memberships all feature highly in staff wishlists.
Finishing early on a Friday is one of the most desirable perks, along with a more general flexible approach. A third of staff want flexible hours, and 20% of them are willing to take a substantial hit on pay to get them. Some companies have trialled a six-hour work day, with Toyota reporting an increase in happiness and a decrease in turnover. Unlimited holiday is something that employees are eager for and makes employers turn a funny shade of purple, but studies show that employees who have the option of unlimited holiday actually take less holiday time because they feel happier in their jobs and have more sense of autonomy over what holiday they take when. Simple things like mental health days – which is a terrible name, no one wants to say they can’t come in because of mental health, they are often better referred to as duvet days, which you can take whenever you need them – massively benefit the employee and increase their productivity as well as making them happier in their job overall. Work/life balance is vital and you will not get the best out of your team or yourselves if you work everyone until they drop.
82% of people are worried about the future of the NHS:
So medical insurance – and dental – is a big help. Gym memberships and other schemes to support your staff’s health also go a long way to improving happiness, and your staff’s health and wellbeing, which is also good for the business. Staff sickness and presenteeism costs the UK economy £77 billion a year (https://www.ablrecruitment.com/sick-staff-cost-uk-economy-77-5-billion-year/) so helping your staff to stay healthy, feel happy and, importantly, have time off to recover when they do need it will save you money. It’s really important to note that that figure also includes presenteeism – the lost productivity and spread of illness caused by people coming in even when they’re sick. Encouraging a culture where people come in no matter what is hurting your profits.
When it comes to safety as a driver of happiness, it might be more helpful to use the word security.
Pensions probably aren’t foremost in employees’ thoughts, especially for younger employees, but the older you get the more you begin to panic – especially if you’re one of the 31% of UK adults who will be relying on the state pension: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/oct/21/uk-retirees-state-pension-financial-future
Offering a decent pension scheme – not just the bare minimum – gives your employees a much better sense of security, and a feeling they can stay and grow with you as their life and needs mature.
54,000 women lose their jobs every year in the UK because of pregnancy or maternity – that’s unacceptable. It’s also a lot of skills and experience that businesses are missing out on. But becoming a parent isn’t just an issue for women. Men struggle with penalties because of new babies, and most new dads feel they don’t get enough time off and the experience of being torn away from their new baby to return to work has a negative impact on their mental health.
36% of UK workers say their employer does not do enough to support new parents: https://www.marketingweek.com/brands-gender-neutralising-parental-leave/
It’s good to think of providing security for your staff as an investment, not a cost. Supporting employees through different life stages and seeing time off – for children, adoption, bereavement, sabbaticals, etc. – as an investment in retaining the skill, knowledge and experience of that person reaps huge rewards for both parties.
So this is worrying – we trust random people off the street more than we trust the people we work for. Clear and honest communication is missing from most of our work relationships for a variety of reasons – we worry about admitting we don’t know something, we have unreasonable expectations of others or (more often) of ourselves that we feel a need to uphold, and sometimes we see knowledge as power or status so withholding it makes us feel more important. We need to let go of these things because we’re killing our relationships with our colleagues, our staff, our clients and our customers by not communicating honestly and positively.
The key to a good relationship is appreciation. We all want our contribution to the whole to be seen – we want to feel we’re valuable and want our successes to be recognised. Patrick Lencioni in his book The Truth About Employee Engagement boils it down to people knowing who you are, seeing impact from your work and feeling that you’re making progress in your role: https://www.tablegroup.com/books/signs
80% of workers said feeling appreciated was key to their happiness at work – ahead of salary with only 58%: https://workplaceinsight.net/feeling-appreciated-and-quality-of-workplace-are-key-to-employee-happiness/
79% cite lack of appreciation as the reason for leaving their job: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidsturt/2018/03/08/10-shocking-workplace-stats-you-need-to-know/#2bfb9e94f3af
I’m focusing on internal activities because, as we saw earlier, happiness comes from within, but don’t forget you can show appreciation for your customers as well with rewards and “surprise and delight” tactics. Often, the most meaningful action towards an employee or a customer is a simple thank you.
Self-respect at work comes from a mixture of finding value in your job and also feeling respect from your employer and colleagues
To feel good about ourselves we need to see progress – look at achievements we’ve made and see a next stage to aim for. But as a species we suck at setting goals. 70% of projects fail to meet their targets: https://www.inc.com/marissa-levin/the-one-aspect-of-goal-setting-youre-forgetting-and-why-it-matters.html Not only does that show we’re setting goals wrong, but it’s also pretty detrimental to everyone’s self-respect.
SMART goals so you know where you’re going and whether you’re on track
Making goals achievable and continually updating and evolving them is vital
Clarity around what’s expected of you and what you can expect from others is also a very important part of this.
One of the most important thing when it comes to goals is working collaboratively with your team to set them, then backing the hell off and letting them do it – no one wants to be micromanaged. Knowing the line between supporting someone’s development and not standing over their desk checking on every little detail is crucial.
I talked right at the start about how important purpose is to getting people to buy from you and making consumers and employees feel good about your company. Self-respect comes from a sense that the products you buy and the role you fulfil are contributing to something positive. But only 33% of people think brands are acting on their values (https://www.marketingweek.com/brands-disappear/) – whether you’re trying to attract consumers or retain employees, you need to have a purpose that is authentic to your business and that you can live with meaningful actions that will benefit your customers and your staff
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas to make your businesses happier, and richer, places.
Feel free to tweet me with any questions or comments because that will make me happy! Thanks.