Caring Counts

What makes people happier and more productive at work? The obvious answer would be a large salary. But science has proved again and again that increased salary does not equal increased happiness. Your staff will still be miserable, but they’ll just be sitting in BMWs instead of on bicycles.

There is one simple way to improve the happiness, retention and performance of your staff: by caring about them.

Share the love

Employees that feel they work in a caring organisation report higher levels of teamwork and job satisfaction. They take less sick leave. They are more engaged and more productive. Staff turnover is lower.

This culture of love might sound tricky to implement, but it’s not. It’s encouraging staff to work side by side every day with respect for colleagues. It’s espousing tenderness and compassion when needed, and acknowledging feelings when things go wrong. It’s not necessarily hugs on arrival at work and chocolate cake at morning tea. So, how do you develop this culture?

1)     Say it out loud

You state your expectations in your business principles. For instance, Zappos say it on their values statement: “We are more than a team though…we are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other.”

You act your statement out, every day. You as an employer are consistent in your mood and in your positive actions. You focus on enriching the ‘emotional culture’. What is the mood you want people to feel at work? Role model the behaviour you want to see. 

2)     Create caring business policies

Think about how you can encourage caring in your company policies. Can your staff forgo annual leave days and donate them to colleagues that need them? Does your bereavement leave cover more than just immediate family?

Consider unlimited sick or holiday leave

Some roles do require people to be at work, such as retail, so unlimited leave does not work for all industries. But for many office-based roles, the lines between work and home are blurred. Smartphones allow you to be accessible 24/7, and many people do not hesitate to dash off a quick email at 9pm. This is simply acknowledging and rewarding it.

The benefits of unlimited leave

Most Kiwis take an average of 4.8 sick days a year – that’s close to the amount that they are entitled to. Regardless if you give people five or ten days, that’s how many days they take – it’s an entitlement.

But if you trust people to gauge their own health, they will only take as much sick leave as they need. They won’t go into the office when they are sick, which reduces the amount of other staff getting ill. If something happens that requires a significant length of time off, they feel secure, knowing their job is safe and they can take the time they need.

Netflix, Virgin and LinkedIn all offer unlimited annual leave. At Inventium, their 15 staff were taking, on average, 19 days of leave a year. They changed their policy to allow unlimited leave, and that has risen to 27 days. However, sick leave has dropped from 2.45 days to 1.4 days.

3)     Be empathetic and consistently kind

Most importantly when changing the culture of a workplace, take the opportunities that are presented to you to be caring. Foster consideration in others. Buy your receptionist a coffee on the way to work. Ask your senior engineer how his grandkids are (bonus points for remembering names). Little things make a big difference. In her 2017 book ‘Radical Candour – Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott explains the four types of behaviour commonly seen in management.

Manipulative insincerity

This is when the person simply does not care and avoids engagement altogether. This is the colleague who has given up and no longer can be bothered doing their job. They spend their time on Facebook, pretending to work.

Ruinous empathy

This is when the manager cares personally but does not challenge poor behaviour in order to avoid confrontation. This desire to avoid upsetting the staff member simply enables them to continue their problematic behaviour and ends up hurting them more in the long run.

Obnoxious aggression

This is the opposite: happy to challenge poor behaviour but does not care about the person. These people are the wrecking balls of work culture. While they make people accountable, they can be abusive, insulting and very hurtful. They manage by fear rather than respect.

Radical candour

This is a mix of genuinely caring about people and being able to challenge things directly. If you think about a great manager you’ve had in your life, this is probably the balance they managed to strike.

How can you achieve radical candour?

It’s a simple, three-step process.

  1. Set clear goals. Make sure the staff involved are part of the process of setting their own goals. Make these goals tangible, with good examples of preferred behaviour. Clarify consequences of not meeting these goals. Set expectations.

  2. Praise people for good things. When you see positive behaviour, commend them immediately. Be consistent, regardless of your mood.

  3. Reprimand people for doing something wrong. Make sure it’s immediately following the poor behaviour. Tell them what they did wrong, and the impact that it has on the team and you. Remind them you support them and value them as people. Then, let go of any remaining anger or upset at them. They made mistakes, the behaviours have been addressed, and now you forgive them. Move on.

If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your business.
— Richard Branson

A few changes to the business can create big positive changes to the culture of the workplace. Many businesses offer relatively low-cost, feel-good perks like birthdays off, hams at Christmas, and weekly lunches to show they care. Others focus on practical benefits – health insurance, bonuses, and gym memberships or subsidies.

There’s no one formula for staff appreciation – it all depends on what you can afford, and what your people value. Making a sincere effort is the most important thing. The positive flow-on effects to your business are worth every cent you invest, encouraging happier, engaged, more productive staff. They’ll be the ones bringing the chocolate cake into work each day – because they want to, not because you told them to. Of course, there are more ways to show that you value your staff.

Want to find out more about improving your business? Get in touch with the Thrive team for help.