If you google “workplace culture,” you’ll find hundreds of articles and resources on why it’s important, how to build a better culture, and tons of examples of companies that are “doing it right.” But when you pull back the curtain on employee happiness, the truth remains that 16% of millennials are considered “actively disengaged” and likely to do some damage at work as a result, according to Gallup. As leaders, we should ask ourselves, “What can I do to help cultivate employee happiness in my business?”
While the reality is that most people do not dream about being in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., what if they were able to make steps toward fulfilling their personal goals while meeting the goals and necessities of the business? This may seem taboo, but I believe there’s something here.
When co-founding my e-learning company in 2012, the No. 1 goal I knew I wanted to embed into our culture was employee happiness. I asked myself, “What do people need to be happy?” With this top of mind, my co-founder and I developed a culture that allows employees to feel like they don’t have to hide plans to travel — or maybe even start their own company one day — from their bosses.
This leads us to one of the most important pieces of designing a business with a focus on employee happiness: Leadership must be 100% committed to this vision, and have a willingness to see people succeed at what they love doing.
With this commitment, we then adopted a management philosophy supporting this vision called Positive Leader, developed by Paul Fayad (my father and business partner) and Chak Fu Lam, which helps businesses design a positive work environment that promotes creativity, happiness and positive thinking. Here are five takeaways we’ve gleaned from this experience.
1. Hire For Culture Fit
We realized that personality was as much a part of the hiring process as education and experience. We use a personality assessment called the Positive Assessment Tool (PAT) that allows us to hire individuals with who have high amounts of empathy and compassion, embodying a service attitude. We call our team members “rowers,” because they are constantly in motion, steering the company in the right direction.
2. Prioritize The Onboarding Process
This is where you get to know an employee, and they get to know you. This window of time filled with enthusiasm is often squandered and neglected by businesses. We’ve found great success in pairing our new hires with mentors. It’s also important to make sure you take this time to educate them about whatever else they need to be successful, such as your company’s culture, policies and products.
3. Use On-the-Ground Leadership
To put it simply, being an “on-the-ground” leader means being both visible and available to your team. To understand what employees want and need, you have to be around — which is why we work alongside our teams in all three of our offices across the country. We make ourselves available via office hours every day, and also conduct weekly one-on-one meetings with leaders on our team. Never underestimate the impact of employee facetime.
4. Be Transparent When You Communicate
Communication is the “make or break” component of every company: communicate too sparingly, and your employees will feel like they have no say in the company. Unless you’re dealing with personal, private information, there shouldn’t be an element of secrecy in the company. You either have transparency or you don’t. Transparency only works when everyone is on board and comfortable being open with their communication.
In one-on-one meetings, we not only set company and department-specific goals, but we have employees write out their personal achievement aspirations so we can understand what gets them excited. We also have found great success in our monthly all-hands meetings for company-wide transparency, and Slack communication for the day-to-day transparency.
5. Look Towards The Future
One of the most important elements of our company’s culture is that it gives employees the freedom to be able to create and shape their future. This includes reinventing their job duties and responsibilities.
Throughout my career, I’ve made it my personal mission to seek out what it means to be a leader and develop a culture where employees don’t drag their feet every morning to wake up. Now more than ever, we’re choosing to embrace the dreams and goals that employees have outside of the office, and empower them to work towards those and apply them to their work for us. This is what will open up the floodgates for engaged, fulfilled, and happy employees contributing to the success and future of your business.