According to a new article from Virgin.com called “The way we work: is it working?”, 87% of the world’s workforce are not engaged with their work.
This is tragic, and it’s something very close to my heart.
We all need to feel that we are doing work that has some purpose, where we can express ourselves, where we can be creative, where we can be in charge of our own work and not micro-managed and where we will receive support and training to become as good as we can.
This is the basis for happiness at work (#happinessatwork).
In the 21st century, we need to concentrate on this. Why?
Well, first and foremost because any employer, and in fact anyone who has responsibility for people, has a deep moral responsibility for their wellbeing. Organisations need to put the people first. Yes, first.
You are probably thinking, “yes, but this is not some kind of human wellbeing charity, we have to make money, that’s the first objective”, and yes, of course you have to be profitable, but people, YOUR PEOPLE, are KEY to profitability in today’s organisation, more than ever before, not just for the labour they bring through their core “job description” duties. We have to look far beyond that now.
This is because there are a thousand organisations with the same job descriptions, products, services and even prices. And here’s the rub – nowadays it’s all TRANSPARENT, public knowledge thanks to the internet. The old protectionism and price-fixing is dying. We can compare products, services and prices at the touch of a button, and you know what – a lot of them are, when it comes down to it, pretty much the same from company to company, little more than commodities.
You may wear the “cheapest” crown for a while (probably at great cost in the short term); you may even be the gold medal holder for the quickest service or the most innovative technical feature or whatever. Don’t rest on those laurels for too long though – you will soon be undercut or overtaken.
changing the very look, smell, taste and feel of your organisation
But there is one way in which you can differentiate yourself – a way that no other company can ever truly emulate – and that’s through your people. Think of your company as a “company of people” – a truly unique group of souls all working together towards common goals. In this climate of transparent pricing, “same old same old” products and commoditised services, your people are the KEY to your organisation’s identity, and to its success. You need to nurture them, grow them, encourage and enable them all to unfold their wings and fly.
This does not just mean having a compassionate leave policy or a respect and dignity policy, and it certainly doesn’t mean having more HR forms with tick boxes filled in at, say, the monthly chore of a one-to-one meeting that nobody really knows the purpose of. Creating happiness at work begin with ripping up the old rule book and saying goodbye forever to that Dickensian, authoritarian, top-down management style. It means changing the very look, smell, taste and feel of your organisation, starting with the very top people taking a strong lead and following through with leadership coaching and policies that result in your people living the very best working lives that they can.
If you need to know how to begin, you could do a lot worse than looking at Virgin’s “Pulse Disruptors” website for some inspiration and practical advice.
Put your people first, your customers second and your shareholders third
Put “your people first, your customers second and your shareholders third”, as Virgin tweeted on Friday, and you will find that job descriptions become almost irrelevant as your people grow into their UNIQUE roles, doing their own special thing, contributing more than ever, with the result that your organisation will be not only happier, not only more profitable, but also a living, vibrant, human workplace. More than that, it will have its own unique identity, treasured, respected, loved. Customers will be less concerned with comparing your price, because they will love your vibe, your ethos, your culture, and they will WANT to be associated with all of that.
In short, happiness at work pays, whether you truly believe in it or not. Do it for the money, if nothing else – your people will love you for it.