Jenn Lim will be a featured speaker at the Insights Leadership Conference, September 26-28 in Palm Beach. This article was originally published in Inc. Magazine, it appears here with the permission of the author.
When Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com) and I launched the book Delivering Happiness in 2010, we looked at it as if it was a startup: put the time, resources and energy into making it successful, see what happens, then go to the next phase.
I was about to go onto the next thing when something happened. We released the book, then did a cross-country bus tour while it was being translated into 20 languages. The bus became a plane and suddenly I was touring the world, sharing a message that became an unexpected tipping point.
No matter where people were born, how old they were or where they were working, they were drawn together by a concept. The fundamental shift was this: People were deciding to prioritize sustainable passion/purpose/happiness in their company and personal lives.
All of this is why Delivering Happiness exists as the culture company we are today. We all think different--it's about time we work different too.
It's no longer a newsflash that both culture and purpose positively impact your profits (e.g. decreasing turnover by 51 percent and increasing profitability by 22 percent.)
Happier employees = happier customers = profitable company (+ meaningful lives)
We know this to be true, but the most pressing question is this...
How do you create a culture that can make this happen--sustainably--with measurable results and positive ROI for long-term gain?
To answer that question in the simplest form:
Over the last several years we've seen the world's appetite for culture mature from "Culture 101" to something that keeps C-level execs up at night.
Innovators of today's workplaces get it. To attract, retain and engage the people that make the biggest contribution to your company, culture is king.
But the unanswered question remains the same: How do I sustain it?
If you've been asking the same question, kudos to you. Not many are honestly asking the question, and the reality is even the Zappos, Googles, and Whole Foods of the world don't have it figured out either.
So the good news is that you're not alone. And even though no company has nailed sustainable culture, we've been able to answer the most common questions on how to get there.
1. What's the biggest challenge companies have with implementing culture?
The answer to this is also the most common mistake I've seen companies make: lack of commitment.
Those new to culture oftentimes launch a big-budget, well-intentioned initiative--thinking the rest will take care of itself--but most of the time it turns into the sound of crickets a couple quarters later.
Engagement surveys are a step in the right direction. But typically, once they're reviewed, companies lack an actionable plan to (transparently) celebrate what's going well and tackle what's not going well.
Even companies that launch with an amazing culture let it go by the wayside once other priorities take its place.
If you're serious about culture, be real about what it is (Hint: It's no longer a free massage or a foosball table in the rec room) and commit to it for the long-term. Otherwise, you might as well not have initiated anything at all.
2. How do you convince naysayers that culture (and happy employees) matter?
People sometimes associate happiness with rainbows and unicorns. Which is why it's important to define exactly what culture and happiness mean from the get-go.
For us it means:
- Having strong values that your team/talent/employees truly live by
- Being guided by metrics and science to maximize individual + team productivity
- Having a higher purpose that your employees + customers + the world (our Me/We/Community model) are inspired by
Once these things are in place and your entire company is aligned to them (that means everyone, not just your HR director or enthusiastic employees) then proof is in the positive-ROI pudding.
Studies done by HBR and The Economist all draw the same conclusion we've found--there's an economic value to happiness. No matter your company's size or industry, happier people in the workplace amount to increased retention, sales, productivity, creativity and--ultimately--profits.
With commitment, there's really no excuse why that couldn't apply to your company as well.
By using tools, surveys and measurement, companies can start showing the correlation between happiness and productivity, engagement and profitability.
At that point, the biggest naysayer can't say nay anymore.
3. This all makes sense--but what do I do next?
Take a step back and prioritize what's most important to you and your company.
We have an exercise called "Happiness Heartbeat" that makes it simple--plot the highs and lows of your company's life. Then ask yourself: What values were there or not there; what people were present or not present?
Our belief is that sustainable happiness and successful companies don't just come from the highs--they come from the lows as well.
Once you've honestly looked at that, aligned your purpose and values across the company and created a measurable plan that you're living then...