Corporate Driven Happiness……

Here are my thoughts on achieving Happiness for yourself, your community and your environment…..My thinking is that governments around the world since the dawn of the industrial age have focused on driving economic growth at the cost of personal freedoms and environmental impacts. Governments are generally concerned about keeping people employed in order to ensure social cohesion and a tax base. Depending on whether the government is focused on left leaning or right leaning policies, the outcomes for personal welfare and happiness can vary eg. Canada vs US.

In essence the role of government as we see today is to provide security, basic healthcare, basic welfare and education. The concept of social & individual or personal happiness is not within the remit or KPI’s of most governments. Interest rates, deficits, surpluses, employment rates, crime stats etc are the KPI’s of most progressive governments today. Yes all these factors contribute to overall societal happiness and stability however do they impact us as individuals directly as much as the place where we work?

I believe that the greatest influence directly and indirectly on our own personal happiness is the place where we work. This is where we spend a fair chunk of our adult lives. In effect the largest corporation in the world today have a strong and direct influence on the happiness of its employees. Most corporations exist to provide a product(s) and/or service(s) to clients within a sector whether they are local, national or global. Corporations provide a return on investment to their owners or shareholders. In my personal experience and observation from working for 4 large publicly listed global corporations over the last 25 years is that the return to the shareholder takes priority over the customer and employee. So despite the marketing material most corporations priorities are like this…shareholders then customers then employees. A privately owned corporation has more scope to focus on customers and employee happiness in order to maximize their profits.

So if you work for a large public corporation you will have experienced a range of conditions based on how well (or not) the company is performing. If the corporation is performing well or better than forecast then the business has more capital to spend on innovation, new markets and employee satisfaction. However this is not the norm for most corporations doing well. Some will focus on making and exceeding the bottom line. This is largely driven by how the senior executives are compensated. So if profit is the key KPI then this will be achieved even if it means laying off employees. Bonus are typically linked to growth, profitability, NPS, customer sat, employee sat etc.

If a CEO is tasked with delivering a profit in challenging market conditions then employee reduction is the most efficient way to cut costs. There will be “optimisation” and “ rationalisation” programmes etc….what this means is that employees are constantly under pressure to deliver or potentially lose their jobs. The more with less culture! This kind of stress has a tremendous impact on our health and well being and ultimately on our happiness. So whats the point of having a house a nice suburb, 2 cars, kids, annual holidays if you are not happy. Work becomes a means to an end.

My experience and observation is that unhappy workers lead to unhappy customers and ultimately unhappy shareholders. However, on the other hand if a corporation is doing well then there is less scrutiny on expenses, hiring and a move to improve employee satisfaction. Managers are still measured on exceeding expectations which still leads to the effect of passing stress down the line.

Smart business owners know that happy employees, lead to happy customers and therefore excellent profits or returns.

Essentially in many modern corporations today employees are “corporate slaves” there to help senior managers deliver to their shareholders expectations at almost any cost to client well being. I am being harsh here but all those who have experienced this in their employment experiences will agree. Clients typically experience this in the form of low service levels and average quality products.

When revenue growth starts slowing down , management typically start using the many strategies taught at business school around, cutting expenses to maintain profitability. This inevitably leads to reduced employee satisfaction, participation and happiness. This in turn leads to lower service levels to customers and therefor further impacting the top line when they take their business elsewhere. This is the beginning of the slippery slope to corporate oblivion.

So…decisions at the top of the corporate ladder can effect the lives of its employees, satisfaction of clients and the corporate’s performance….kinda obvious I guess…

An alternative approach….

Let me propose an alternative approach or model….The current model is based on shareholder happiness and largely driven by KPI’s to senior managers that are in place to ensure this sometimes at the expense of customer and employee happiness.

My feeling is that the model should be flipped on its head…..a happy employee is a happy client is a happy shareholder !

I believe that using a “flipped” model can drive happiness more broadly in our communities and societies! Let me explain…..a happy employee is generally an engaged employee and typically will go above and beyond in their day to day jobs. There will be a sense of pride and belonging when people are in a happy work environment. A happy employee (H.E) is less likely to take time off of illness or stress. A H.E is much more likely to provide exceptional service experiences to their clients resulting in incremental sales. H.E’s are more likely to share ideas that will benefit their employers leading to amazing improvements in business processes, customer services levels and product ideas etc.

H.E’s lead to happy clients/customer (H.C’s). H.C’s are more likely to make return purchases, recommend their experiences to friends, family and through positive reviews online. All this leads to higher sales/growth, increased profitability and shareholder returns. Happy Shareholders (H.S’s).

The broader impact of ensuring H.E’s is to create a happy society. Happy societies tend to ensure their environments are looked after, lower crime ultimately a healthier and better quality of life for all.

In summary H.E’s lead to H.C’s to H.S’s!

Just my thoughts based on many years of experiencing the ups and downs of corporate life as well as a search for a better model for a happier, healthier society. Happy to get your thoughts…