Employees are your most valuable assets regardless of the type of business you run because employees determine your ability to satisfy customers, their efficiency impacts costs, and their engagement with your company sets the boundaries of performance and innovativeness. Given the impact of happy, productive employees on your bottom line, it’s surprising the number of firms who treat employees as replaceable cogs in a very large wheel rather than recognizing they have a choice when it comes to employment opportunities [source]. Keeping your best employees happy, offering training and support to underperforming employees, and motivating everyone to work together toward the organizational goals is challenging, but necessary for success.
The role of your most valuable assets in marketing
You may wonder why a website devoted to the intersection of marketing and digital devotes time to discuss keeping employees happy. As mentioned in the introduction, employees are your most valuable assets when it comes to key elements of marketing success including:
- customer satisfaction
- brand image
- influencer marketing
From a marketing perspective, employees are so valuable to a firm we think of them as internal customers; equally important as external customers to the success of the firm.
According to HBR, internal marketing is important because:
First, because it’s the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising. In some cases, this is because they simply don’t understand what you have promised the public, so they end up working at cross-purposes. In other cases, it may be they don’t actually believe in the brand and feel disengaged or, worse, hostile toward the company. We’ve found that when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity.
Think about it. The average employee spends 40 hours/ week at their job; more if they’re in management where 60 hour weeks are common. That’s more time than they spend in almost any other activity, except sleeping. Forcing employees to endure a workplace without intrinsic benefits beyond the extrinsic benefit of a paycheck yields employees who simply go through the motions.
Moreover, employees who don’t have intrinsic motivations require extensive monitoring to ensure they perform their jobs in an acceptable manner. Monitoring costs money and often acts as a challenge for employees who are disengaged from their jobs. Instead of following the rules, these employees spend time and energy finding ways around monitoring, further decreasing efficiency and effectiveness.
Now that I’ve convinced you of the importance of your most valuable assets, employees, let’s delve into tips for keeping employees happy especially in a post-COVID world.
A supportive corporate culture
Treating employees as less than your most valuable assets represents a corporate culture that’s bound to hurt performance. Simply paying workers, even paying them well, for their time doesn’t create a supportive corporate culture. Instead, a corporate culture that promotes employee engagement– a recent study shows only about 15% of a workforce is engaged, while 18% are actively disengaged, a situation very detrimental to the long-term success of the organization.
A supportive corporate culture starts with hiring the right people, people who work well with others, and respect each other, as well as people with the right skills to perform at a high level. Next, provide employees with opportunities to solve problems rather than always stepping in to solve them. Often, employees are in a better position to see a problem and better able to find a solution than someone at a higher level who doesn’t have first-hand experience in the area.
Here are other elements necessary for a supportive corporate culture:
- Opportunities for contribution and advancement
- Attention to hygiene factors
- Sufficient motivating factors
- Role clarity
Let’s take a few moments to discuss each element of a supportive corporate culture.
Opportunities for contribution and advancement
Employees look for opportunities to make a contribution to the firm and, as recognition for their contribution, to advance within the firm to take on more responsibilities. Start by giving employees meaningful work and encouraging them to take on additional responsibilities for additional pay.
Yeah, I get it that working in an Amazon warehouse isn’t exactly exciting, challenging work. But, it needs to be done. However, robots are much more accurate and faster when it comes to the drudgery of picking and packing orders. Employees resist efforts to employ more robots, even though they hate doing the work because it means they lose their income. The result is employees who hate their jobs and a company with higher costs than an optimal solution (BTW, experience from other industries facing the challenge show that firms only delay inevitable trends toward mechanization and may experience worse outcomes). A solution involves giving employees more responsibility and training to supervise new employees and, ultimately, work with the robot workforce of the future.
Training is a necessary element of a supportive corporate culture as making an investment in the employee’s future shows your commitment to them and respect for them as an individual. As we’ll see later, training supports the ability of employees to contribute to company goals and grow.
Life doesn’t always revolve around work for everybody. In fact, we’re all different when it comes to the amount of work we let take over our lives and then what we choose to do with the rest of our time. That goes for your staff, who all have lives of their own once they step out of that door. It’s important to allow flexibility, where possible, as life isn’t always going to obey the working hours of Monday to Friday.
Many modern companies offer opportunities for flexible work, especially during the pandemic, where COVID forced most employees to work from home where kids and pets were also trapped. Some families managed this by staggering how parents worked with one parent taking an early shift, for instance, while another took a late shift. Given the experience of a distributed workforce changed the thinking at many organizations that required employees to occupy a central location (an office) during standard work hours. Post-COVID, we will see more employees living and working remotely, especially moving from high cost-of-living areas to lower-cost areas of the country.
Attention to hygiene factors
Emanating from Hertzberg’s work on motivation, hygiene factors refer to elements important for employees’ satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with their working environment. Elements of this factor include:
- working conditions
- job security
- working relationships with peers and supervisors
- company rules
- working conditions
While these factors don’t contribute much toward keeping employees, failures to provide for sufficient hygiene factors create dissatisfaction that leads to poor performance and, ultimately, turnover. Turnover represents an avoidable cost to the organization, especially with turnover causes the loss of your best employees or results in high costs to train new employees. Turnover also sometimes results in the loss of organizational learning.
Sufficient motivating factors
In contrast to hygiene factors, motivating factors seriously impact the performance of your most valuable assets, your employees. Without sufficient motivating factors, employees just do the minimum, which shuts down innovation, increases costs, and decreases customer satisfaction.
Examples of motivating factors are:
- opportunities for advancement
- personal growth
- acknowledgment for positive actions
- increased responsibility
- shared decision-making
Increasingly, companies provide greater incentives to retain a skilled workforce. For instance, tech companies offer free meals and snacks, relaxation and entertainment options, and additional benefits such as a truck accident lawyer or other types of legal advice, daycare, on-site healthcare, etc.
We all want to understand the expectations employers have for us, the performance level expectations, and how our role fits into the broader scheme of things in achieving organizational goals. That’s role clarity and achieving it goes beyond publishing job descriptions to periodic evaluations.
Achieving a positive corporate culture requires as much consideration and planning as meeting the needs of your customers. But, with a positive corporate culture, you get the most from your most valuable assets, your employees.
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