Monday, July 9, 2012

A Positive Workplace Means a Positive Bottom Line

Note:  This is the first in a series of articles I've written for Bluestone Coaching on using positive psychology in the workplace.  I will be posting the rest of the series weekly.

Photo by Ambro
As a manager, you’re always thinking about the bottom line.  How can we increase profits?  Reduce spending?  Bring in new customers?  Keep current customers?  You probably look for solutions in marketing campaigns, sales, or budgeting, but the first place you should look is your greatest resource:  your staff.

Everyone knows that happy employees are productive employees, but studies have shown that happy employees also make for happy customers, increased profits, and lower employee turnover.  The proof is in the numbers:  Companies who promote a positive workplace have been found to earn an average of $80,000 to $120,000 more per month than those that don’t.  That’s an increase of up to $1 million or more per year just for keeping your employees happy!

So what makes a happy employee?  The Gallup Organization found that employees perform best when certain basic needs are met; meeting these needs is called employee engagement.  Engaged employees are more cooperative, punctual, and efficient, not to mention more creative and productive.  Basically, when your employees are happy, they can think freely, get more done, and do a better job, which means more success for the company.  Increase your bottom line by following these rules of engagement…

Rule #1:  Employees aren’t mind-readers.
The first rule of engagement is to provide your employees with clear expectations.  Gallup found that employees perform best when they know what is expected of them.  Setting clear expectations is one of the simplest things a manager can do, yet many assume their employees already know what they want, or claim they are “too busy” to tell them.
Managers, don’t expect your employees to read your minds.  Avoid extra work and unnecessary stress by making sure they know exactly what you want them to do, and exactly how you want them to do it.  The Business Journal provides these tips for making your expectations known:
  1. Hold an annual planning retreat.  Get together with your employees either off-site, or in a conference room.  Discuss your department’s goals for the year, your priorities, roles, responsibilities, and action plans.  Identify problems and brainstorm solutions.  This will provide a common understanding that will help set expectations throughout the year.
  2. Hold quarterly update meetings to share business financials and progress on goals, and to discuss priorities.  This will ensure that your employees are always heading in the right direction, even as the business grows and changes.
  3. Meet with employees one-on-one.  This gives them an opportunity to ask questions and discuss problems openly with you, so they will not have to approach you while you are “too busy.”
  4. Use a standard template for expectations when you delegate projects.  Describe the outcome you want, include criteria which must be met, reasons why, and the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved.
Rule #2:  Invest in the right tools.
The second rule of engagement is to make sure your employees have all of the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs.  Gallup found that employees who are not provided with the right tools often focus on just “surviving” instead of helping the company succeed.  Gaebler Ventures says that making a small investment in the right tools can lead to big savings in the long run.  Without the right tools, employees will take longer to complete tasks, and the quality of their work will suffer.

How do you know which tools your employees need?  Gaebler says to go straight to the source:  talk to your employees.  Ask them what is difficult about their jobs and what can be improved.  Ask them for ideas on how to improve the situation.  It can be something as small as a few more pens and pencils, or as big as a new copy machine.  Gaebler recalls a bakery who simply needed to use an icing drizzler instead of a spoon to greatly reduce their amount of defective cookies.  Making one small change can make a big difference in your bottom line.

Happy employees make happy managers.  Meet these basic needs of your employees and you will improve their job satisfaction, and boost your bottom line.  For more information about using positive psychology in the workplace, visit http://www.bluestonecoaching.com.

References
Goldman, A. (2011).  Productivity Tools for Employees.  Gaebler Ventures.  Retrieved from http://www.gaebler.com/Productivity-Tools-for-Employees.htm
Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., and Keyes, C.L.M. (2003).  Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes:  A review of the Gallup studies.  In C.L.M. Keyes and J. Haidt (2003).  Flourishing:  Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 205-224).  Washington, D.C.:  American Psychological Association
Lloyd, J. (2004 June 6).  Tips for setting expectations with employees.  The Business Journal.  Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2004/06/07/smallb3.html

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