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Happy Employees are Good for Business

01-18-23 Chris Wagenheim

While treating employees with kindness and meeting their needs might be the right thing to do—we certainly think so—did you know that it’s also proven to be good for business? Evidence suggests a happy employee is a productive employee and organizations that take care of their people dramatically outperform those that don’t.

As a place of employment, Sparkbox is ethical and empathy-driven; this comes with certain C-suite responsibilities. Namely, Sparkbox continuously commits to supporting employees by fostering an effusive culture, providing a living wage (replete with wellness benefits), and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. In short, Sparkbox aims to do right by its workers.

I can attest to this. The distinct lack of empathy—and in some cases, ethics—at other jobs drove me away. I quit more than one job in my search for a Sparkbox. In fact, I turned down a higher-paying job to come here. Throughout the interview process, Sparkbox made it clear that they were serious about treating employees like persons (not commodities).

I had a feeling it was the place I was looking for. I was right.

Ok. So. What’s the point? This: While I think we can all agree that treating employees fairly is the right thing to do, it’s actually good business. I can show you.

Happy Bees are Busy Bees

Multiple studies have come to the same conclusion—when workers are happy, they are more productive. The opposite is also true—when workers are unhappy they are significantly less productive.

One set of experiments from the Warwick Department of Economics found that happiness made people 12% more productive. Happier workers simply use the time they have more effectively. This same study also found that unhappiness has an equally deleterious effect on productivity, ultimately causing a dip greater than 10%: “one possibility is that background unhappiness acts to distract rationally-optimizing individuals away from their work tasks.”

There is a growing body of evidence that supports similar claims. The Queen’s School of Business and Gallup have both found that disengaged workers have higher rates of absenteeism, have more accidents, and make more errors.

On the other hand, organizations with highly engaged employees receive 100% more applications from job seekers than companies with disengaged employees.

Sparkbox’s own Operations Team regularly reports high job happiness among employees. They should know, they conduct regular pulse surveys—with incredibly high participation rates—that show consistently high satisfaction within our organization.

This Means More Honey

In 2015—before COVID-19, quiet quitting, and the Great Resignation—one researcher proposed something rather radical: an index to help investors assess business value based on employee health and safety. He argued—with some certainty—that companies with happier, healthier workers simply perform better.

While this research acknowledges that measuring wellness is complicated and physical health has the most noticeable ROI for companies, an integrated method is pivotal to overall success. This means tending to the emotional, social, mental, financial, and intellectual (in addition to the physical) health and well-being of employees. Oh, and remember The Queen’s School of Business and Gallup studies? They found that organizations that have poor engagement scores report lower productivity, profitability, job growth, and share price over time.

Businesses that address employee wellness holistically not only get first crack at talent (I chose Sparkbox for this very reason) but they experience increased sales and make more money—companies on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” historically enjoy higher stock prices, for example.

Your Clients and Customers Care

Your customers and clients care how you treat your employees.

Two independent reports found that the treatment of employees ranks as one of the most important concerns for consumers. In fact, the 2017 Trust Barometer, by Edelman, concluded that the treatment of employees was the number one factor in building trust with consumers. This was reiterated again in 2022 when a new study found that 47% of respondents would trust a brand more if employees were treated well. This was only nine points behind (56%) customer treatment. And in yet another study, 61% of all respondents were “more likely to shop with a company that treats its employees well”.

All of the above studies suggest that word-of-mouth is incredibly important when it comes to consumer perceptions. From friend and family recommendations to online customer reviews, personal connections make a big impact. At Sparkbox, we know firsthand how this kind of ripple effect works. After years of great work and great friendship, we applauded a fellow Sparkboxer’s transition to a big role at an even bigger company. Since then, he’s introduced us to his new company and we’ve had the opportunity to bring them on as a client.

Here’s How to Create a Happy Workplace

Hopefully, by now, the evidence is clear: Treating workers well, in addition to being the moral and ethical thing to do, is good business. So how do you get to a place where your organization can realize the upside—or double down on the benefits—of a happy house?

Consider this:

Value Actions that Promote Wellbeing

In a study spearheaded by UNC Kenan-Flagler, the role of a manager (and the behaviors they model) is integral to the overall happiness of those that work with them. These are actions and behaviors that promote transparency in decision-making, encourage employees to be part of wider decision-making processes, solicit employee feedback, recognize individual efforts, and demonstrate kindness and respect.

In order to promote these behaviors, companies have to genuinely value them, reward their successful outcomes, and integrate them into their culture, processes, and hiring materials. An organization that rewards and values actions that promote well-being as much or more than technical acumen will produce employees that will create the time to work on, promote, and develop them. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Be conscientious about time management: Make sure you (as a company and an organization) dedicate time to both technical tasks and tasks that promote well-being

  • Provide the time to do the work: Make the implementation and promotion of positive behaviors part of your day-to-day—make it part of your company culture

  • Make real, actionable plans: Treat tasks that promote well-being like you would any other work tasks; by creating actionable plans for execution and progress measurement

  • Adjust company policy: As a company, hardwire employee well-being and happiness—and steps toward achieving these goals—into your organization

  • Include language in hiring materials: Make materials that reflect your company’s dedication to positive behavior and fairness—you will reap what you sow

Treat Employees Like Customers

The phrase, “the customer is always right” is not meant to be taken literally. Instead, it suggests that companies should always take customer complaints, criticisms, and feedback seriously. Historically, this leads to brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. What if companies did that for their employees? This is the concept behind Forbe’s suggestion that companies treat their employees like consumers if they want to boost worker happiness. Here’s how to do it.

  • Take Your Team’s Temperature: Take the pulse of your employees’ needs and wants—you shouldn’t think about this like a list of demands in a hostage situation, but an open dialogue that will give you a window into the lives of the people that work for you

  • Leave the customer experience card right there on the table: Don’t make it hard for your employees to give you feedback—data is data, and the more you have the better informed you’ll be to make decisions that positively affect the happiness of your employees and your organization at large

  • Don’t hide your prices: According to a Peakon study on why employees leave their jobs, workers don’t necessarily quit because they aren’t getting what they are worth, they quit because they don’t think they can even bring up the topic of pay

  • Take Feedback Seriously: An employee that feels as though they are seen and heard is a happier employee—happy employees make happy organizations

  • Build brand loyalty with your employees: Just like consumers, employees want to be trusted and respected—throttle back the micromanaging and invest in workers by providing them with the skills they need to do their jobs without so much overwatch

You Can Do It

While there might be some states (and some countries) that have stronger worker-rights legislation than others, it is possible to have a happy workforce without governmental oversight. It may also seem as though targeted organizational change can only happen at Fortune 500 companies with seemingly unlimited resources. Again, not true. Sparkbox is a case in point.

I came to Sparkbox—over other company offers—because of how they treat their employees. I am staying at Sparkbox because I am happy. I feel heard, seen, compensated, valued, respected, and a part of the whole. I am happy here because Sparkbox is genuinely dedicated to making this an authentically enjoyable community of professionals.

Our partners and customers must feel that—after all, when Sparkbox partners with you, we are your employees and we are happy. Just think about what that means for you.

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Katie Jennings

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