When you’re running a bustling business, it’s easy to become distracted. Particularly for entrepreneurs the focus is usually on production, delivery, and customer service and retention. The stuff that makes the money.
Yes, operational efficiency is a competitive advantage. And yes, customer experience is a key differentiator. However, without a good employee experience (the experience your staff has at your company, day in and day out) none of it matters. If you want to grow a healthy organization, developing an extraordinary culture and fulfilled workforce must be top priority.
Happiness is contagious. If your end goal is customer satisfaction, then start with the people that are responsible for delivering it. Make sure they're satisfied, and the rest takes care of itself.
Here are five ways that Internet Creations invests time, money and energy into the well-being and happiness of our rapidly-growing, 40-member company.
1. Offer Flexibility to Cultivate Productivity
Life requires flexibility—so work should, too.
I try to treat people the same way I would want to be treated. Would I occasionally like the flexibility to work from home and have people trust that I’ll do a good, fair job? Of course.
We hire good people and we don’t micromanage them—and we’ve found that the flexibility we provide them is reciprocal.
We have implemented programs and guidelines around flex time and work from home, and additionally, the flexible work environment we offer extends to providing employees with time to decompress via social activities including offsite team building events, volunteer opportunities and in-office celebrations (or what we like to call, “pop-up fun”).
2. Be Intentional About Culture
We have discovered significant value in our recent investment of The IC Way, an aggregate of 29 behaviors / fundamentals that result in high performance. We derived these fundamentals by observing our employees’ strengths, and looked beyond our office walls to identify additional positive behaviors that aligned with our core values. The IC Way is comprehensive and covers several areas of focus including approaches to problem solving, quality assurance, empathy, delivering on commitments, as well as keeping things fun.
Each week, we focus on a new fundamental. For example:
Fundamental #22: Do The Right Thing, Always
Demonstrate an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in every action you take and in every decision you make, especially when no one's looking. Always tell the truth, no matter the consequences. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize, and make it right.
As a management team, we believe our business goals are successfully achieved and supported by being intentional about our culture. We also evaluate our decisions in the interest of being aligned with the fundamentals set forth in The IC Way. As we continue to scale our company, this program enables us to communicate what’s expected and gives our people the assurance that they are part of a team that is dependable, forward-thinking, and aligned.
3. Provide the Best Possible Benefits
We invest heavily to encourage health and wellness, retirement savings, provide great insurance, and support growing families. Recently, we rolled out a Paid Family Leave program that we are proud to offer our employees.
Harvard Business Review recently published an article citing research that illustrates the value of a strong benefits program for today’s workforce.
It's burdensome enough for an employee when they get sick. One way we can support them in this situation is to make the financial impact an easier pill to swallow. For example, we can make “quality of care” a lot better by providing great insurance plans at an affordable cost to our employees.
We are proactive about wellness, too: Everything from offering free access to our on-site gym to providing a standing desk to anyone who wants one. We also encourage group activities and physical fitness—even if it's just going for a walk, and some members of our team organize spontaneous plank and wall-sit sessions.
4. Use Best-In-Class Technology
Early in my life, someone said to me, “I often regret spending less and rarely regret spending more.” We consider that philosophy in every investment we make.
We empower our workforce with fast computers, ergonomic chairs and workstations, as well as software that saves them time and reduces repetitive tasks.
5. Promote Knowledge Sharing and Professional Development
Silos can be the death of growth—which is why we work hard to knock them down.
It's not just telling people to be more collaborative, but pointing out the benefits of collaboration and showing where it’s made a significant impact.
For example, we encourage people to have direct knowledge-sharing conversations with their colleagues, but we also show them that taking that exchange to Salesforce Chatter (our internal social network) benefits the whole company by putting that knowledge online for others to find. We are all eager to help one another, and tapping into knowledge across departments makes a big difference and also helps us to spread ideas. The IC Way #12 is Share Like a Mentor.
As we grow, IC is committed to investing in more learning and development programs for our staff including leadership training, and we have always offered developmental programs like Lunch & Learns and opportunities to earn Salesforce and other professional certifications.
We encourage team members to engage in their own training as well to move beyond the “status quo” and to stay current with what's going on in the broader world. For a company of our size, we've already done a lot. But we’re starting to ramp things up beyond what even larger companies typically do.
Virgin’s Richard Branson often says, “You should train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough that they don’t.” That’s our approach. We know that if we invest in our people, they might leave. But we also know that if we don’t invest in them, they’ll definitely leave.
For Internet Creations, Valuing Employees Makes Good Business Sense
Simply put, investing in our employees is not only the right thing to do, but also makes good business sense.
The fact of the matter is, we all have to do things at work that we don't love at times. But if the day-in, day-out of your job requires you to work in a way that’s unpleasant or just not enjoyable, you simply won’t be happy, and the bottom line is this:
Happy employees mean happy customers.
It’s not just happiness that’s contagious. Misery is too, and as a business we need to make sure that doesn’t spread. The easiest way I know of doing that? Investing in the happiness of our people.