“An army marches on its stomach.” The old aphorism has highlighted the importance of focusing on the basics ever since Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly uttered it hundreds of years ago.
When it comes to small businesses, one could adapt the old adage into something like “a business marches through its employees.” While things like high-minded strategy, supply chain management, and cutting-edge tech may quarrel for a business owner’s attention, if employees are left out of the equation, it can quickly have a negative effect on your business’s success.
Here is why prioritizing not only employees but their happiness is a key to helping your small- or medium-sized business (SMB) thrive.
Why Happy Employees Create Healthy Businesses
It doesn’t take much exposure to a positive work environment to realize how powerful the impact of happy employees can be. On the one hand, if a company is feeding into an environment of general unhappiness, it can lead to classic toxic workplace concerns. For instance, things like poor morale, low productivity, and a lack of interest can all have negative effects on a company.
In addition, stress levels can skyrocket. 74% of workplace stress comes from either workload or people issues, both of which are directly connected to an employee’s overall happiness. And then there’s the concern of turnover. Unhappy employees have no reason to stay at a company, and if they leave in dissatisfaction, it translates to higher turnover rates and much more time invested in posting job listings, interviewing candidates, and training new hires.
On the other hand, happy employees lead to a slew of different positive benefits for SMBs as much as for any other organization:
- Happiness leads to success: A happy workplace harbors a sense of collective success.
- Happiness fosters positive attitudes: Happy employees have better attitudes and are more willing to support and work with one another.
- Happiness creates loyalty and respect: If an employee feels respected and cared for by their employer (e.g. happy), they will reciprocate with a natural sense of loyalty and respect.
- Happiness encourages involvement and risk-taking: A happy employee isn’t afraid to get involved and make mistakes in the name of bettering your company.
- Happiness cultivates creativity: If an employee isn’t burdened by things like stress and poor morale, it frees them up to innovate.
From greater involvement and innovation to an overall sense of collective success, there are many reasons that SMB owners should invest in their employees’ happiness above everything else.
How to Prioritize Your Employee’s Happiness
Of course, understanding the importance of employee happiness doesn’t automatically translate to, well, employee happiness itself. If you want to shift your focus towards a culture of workplace happiness, here are a few suggestions for ways to get started.
Enable Development and Growth
If employees feel stagnant, under-equipped, or under-trained, it can lead to feelings of stress and unhappiness. However, if you take the time to both properly train and provide tools and resources for your employees, you enable them to thrive, regardless of the specific task that they’re assigned.
Communicate and Recognize
An absent leader isn’t a leader at all. If you want to keep your employee’s morale up, make sure to establish open communication with them on a regular basis. Don’t stop there, either. Encourage them to communicate with each other as peers and create a culture of recognition in which employees are recognized for their accomplishments.
Hand in hand with communication, if an employee feels that their boss hasn’t truly heard them, they can grow apathetic and even bitter. In order to combat this tendency, demonstrate empathy to your team members by doing the following:
- Showing that you understand their perspective.
- Practicing active listening.
- Being vulnerable with your employees.
- Avoiding assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
Proper empathy from a manager can empower an employee, even when they don’t get what they want, as it helps them to feel heard and valued.
Benefits and Perks
Benefits and perks are incredible tools for employee happiness. For instance, there are many unique employee perks and benefits that are perfectly accessible for an SMB, such as the following:
- Creating a pet-friendly office.
- Providing unlimited vacation time.
- Allowing for flex time and remote work options.
- Equipping employees with tech hardware and software that are paid for by the company.
These show that you’re willing to go out of your way to give your employees something better than they could expect at another workplace.
As an SMB, you may not have a clear set of benefits and perks for your employees yet. If this is the case, look for a template that can help you flesh out what you’re offering and then consider any changes that could help foster happiness within your workplace.
As you go about assembling marketing strategies and creating the perfect retail experience for your customers, it’s important to remember your employees as well. If you take the time to invest in them, listen to and empathize with their concerns, and provide them with quality perks and benefits, you can cultivate a happy professional environment and ultimately enjoy the benefits that come with high morale in the workplace.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects and with over 8 years of professional writing experience, she has taken a particular interest in topics related to Business, Marketing, SEO Best Practices, and Productivity. You can follow Jori on her Twitter and LinkedIn.