“When I hold you in my arms,
And I feel my finger on your trigger,
I know that nobody can do me no harm,
Because happiness is a warm gun.”
The safety and security of a loaded firearm was satirised by John Lennon in a song from the Beatles’ White Album. If happiness really is a warm gun we should all be in the armed forces!
Happiness is derived from innumerable different factors for every individual employee, so how do you make a group of individual employees, all with different motivators, happy?
The first two companies I worked for were not too hung up on the happiness of their employees. We were expendable, only there to make money for the company, and if anyone failed to “pay for their seat” they were out. This is not all that surprising seeing as these companies were a debt collection agency and a small B2B publisher who viewed their staff as easily replaceable. Neither could afford to invest in on-boarding or training to retain staff or carry any dead wood.
However, neither company was unpleasant to work for as, despite the cutthroat nature of their approach to underperforming staff, the formal and informal social events that took place fostered a sense of togetherness, and the top performers were recognised and rewarded. The difference between the top performers and the rest of the collectors/salespeople at both these companies was not how hard they worked, but their ability to sniff out the best prospects (or warm leads) and make time in between hitting their cold-call quotas to phone and close these deals.
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Nevertheless, only when I started working for a “proper” company, News Media UK, part of News Corporation, did I begin to understand what it meant to be valued as an employee. A company pension scheme, private healthcare plan, subsidised gym membership and other staff perks (such as free newspapers, which were not a thing back then) made it feel like a great company to work for, and the company invested in your development with a two-week induction programme and ongoing training and mentoring.
In theory this should have led to a level playing field where all “newbie” sales executives had the opportunity to prove their ability to the department managers. In practice, favouritism, nepotism (along with the other more deplorable –isms) led to certain sales execs being promoted ahead of better performers, or being assigned bonus-guaranteeing batches of accounts to manage.
Management was a private clique who held secret meetings and even socialised exclusively from their team members, and the editorial departments looked down upon the sales staff with disdain. This led to a feeling of disengagement from the decisions of management and lack of appreciation and recognition for the contribution of the sales staff to the print and online titles and success of the company. Many colleagues left to work for smaller companies for less pay with fewer or no benefits.
So how do you make your employees happy?
- Create an environment where they are able to perform to the best of their ability
- Foster a culture of collaboration, open-door management and promotion on merit
- Recognise their achievements, contribution to the company and ideas
- Reward employees equally in line with performance
Lastly, if you are managing a debt collection or staffing agency, or a sales team, make sure your employees have equal access to a steady stream of hot prospects because…happiness for them is a warm lead!