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How to make your workforce happy

A happy workforce is a productive workforce, but what can you do to put a smile on your employees' faces? Martin Leuw shares his secrets. 
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Having a happy workforce makes sound business sense. Recent survey findings show that those organisations with the most engaged workforces significantly outperformed their peers throughout the recession, despite having also had to restructure and downsize over the past two years.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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Last week, Wayne Clarke, managing partner of Best Companies, gave a presentation to our top 100 senior managers at our Leadership Forum. Wayne is responsible for compiling the Sunday Times annual survey of the Best 100 Companies To Work For and is a truly inspirational and passionate speaker and entrepreneur.

I met Wayne just over a month ago when I was invited to an Art of Engagement workshop run by his business in a huge warehouse in Milton Keynes. It was a highly innovative, themed, interactive learning event – we actually sat on see-saws, to try to assess the “work/life balance” and “fair deal” for the employees in the case studies we were given!

My main “takeaways” from both sessions were:

  • The evidence shows that there are eight key areas that impact employee satisfaction the most, in order of priority: my manager, leadership, my company, personal growth, my team, giving something back, fair deal, wellbeing. This year, my manager has overtaken leadership as the most influential factor;
  • When people leave an organisation voluntarily, seven out of ten do so because of the relationship with their line manager. This highlights the importance of listening, coaching, sharing information and above all else, better communication. All good common sense but, when people are busy, too often forgotten;
  • The best businesses, regardless of their size, have established a common purpose (in language that everybody gets, can remember and will buy into); a set of guiding principles and an outrageous ambition (I like that one). It was clear from the audience at the workshop that, while most of us have some or all of these in place within our organisations, the extent to which these are understood and communicated can vary greatly;
  • There is value in benchmarking this area of your business through running small workshops with employees to get their feedback, suggestion boxes or conducting your own web survey using an online tool such as survey monkey. You could even enter the Sunday Times Top 100 survey, who have an established set of tried and tested questions, and benchmark against the other companies who will have answered the same questions; and
  • Focus. We can’t do everything at once, so choose the three things that, based on your survey results or feedback, will make the biggest difference to your organisation. Do them really well and, where relevant, give them a memorable theme.

Above all else, you can get faster, more effective results by having a framework and structure. As employers, this is down to us. This is one of my top personal objectives for the year ahead.

After a challenging couple of years and an Emergency Budget that, whether we liked it or not, we can’t change, what could be better than focusing on something where we can simultaneously have a positive impact on people’s lives and the performance of our businesses?

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