When it comes to the bottom line, do you control the numbers or do the numbers control you? Most if not all business owners will answer:
“The former, but there are a lot of factors that influence where we land in terms of profits.”
I think it would be tough to find a business owner or executive who says they are completely controlled by the market. We prefer to think of ourselves as influencers in the world, as movers who proactively determine our share of the market.
But the focus on market share is disingenuous. If we are focusing exclusively on the numbers, if we’re looking at revenue and profits as the primary indicators of success, then the numbers are controlling us, no matter how much we’d like to say we are in control of the numbers. When we use numbers as the watermark for success, we are always subject to the watermark.
The immediate objection is that we’ve got to have some concrete way of knowing where we stand. And we live in a capitalist system. If you don’t care about the bottom line—indeed, if you don’t compete at the top level to hit the mark—you will fall behind those who have their ‘eyes on the prize’.
Stop. What is it that you are actually in control of in this world? Are you in control of the competition? Are you in control of the market, the regulating factors? Are you in control of your customers? Your employees? No. In reality, what you control on a daily basis is your interactions with others. You control what you say and do to influence others. After that, the bottom line takes care of itself if you’ve interacted with others effectively.
Value Your People
People like it when they feel valued. People want you to communicate with them in a way that shows you value their opinion. According to the above infographic from TSheets, “management transparency is the number one contributing factor to employee happiness.” According to a survey on communication in the workplace, when people don’t like their jobs,sixty-two percent of the time it’s because of poor communication from management.
Transparency shows people you respect them enough to be completely open—you value their opinion enough to share business details, and you’re encouraging their feedback and problem-solving abilities.
Recognizing employee output and input is another way to show you value them. In a poll from Globoforce, a social-recognition software company, eighty-two percent of employees said being recognized for what they do at work makes them more satisfied.
Recognition can come in whatever form you find appropriate, but try following the 20/30/50 rule: Twenty percent of the recognition from the organization, thirty percent from peers, and fifty percent from supervisors. If about seventy percent of recognition isn’t coming from the top and from supervisors, employees aren’t getting enough. Instituting programs and activities that facilitate peer-to-peer recognition will help with the other thirty percent.
Give Them Meaning
Where do you find meaning in your life? When an activity means something to you, when you actually care about it, you do it better. And, we tend to find the most meaning in things that affect us directly.
Employees are constantly interacting with each other, to the extent that co-worker relationships impact happiness twenty-three percent more than manager-employee relationships. To jive with that, seventy percent say having friends at works is crucial forhappiness. It’s important to foster positive employee relationships. Give them plenty of chances to nurture relationships at company get-togethers and volunteer programs. Acknowledge friendships in your interactions instead of distancing yourself. Laugh with them, chat with them, have a drink with them after work. They’ll associate the meaning inherent in friendship with your business.
Although around seventy percent of employees feel work friends are crucial, seventy percent are also “disengaged” at work. This stems from a lack of meaning, a sense that what you’re doing is abstract and disconnected from what matters to you.
We throw money and extrinsic rewards at people to encourage engagement, but what about intrinsic motivation? That’s where gamification comes in. We love to compete and take on challenges, build confidence through completing checkpoints, and earn rewards that will help us achieve in the game. At its heart, gamification for business emphasizes fun—there are plenty of points at which you get to revel in the realization that, “Wow, I did it, this competition is fierce but I did it.” The game gives you lots of feedback as you’re going, and when you achieve something, you know it. Checkpoints are regimented but how you hit them is a matter of your own creativity, innovation, and teamwork.
The primary goal is engagement in the game—it’s a short-term goal, and requires one to be mindful of the immediate interactions. Secondarily, there are checkpoints and a score to tell you how you’re doing, along with consistent feedback to encourage or discourage behaviors. The feedback should be direct. Listening to feedback should achieve short-term results. Finally, an extrinsic motivator, a reward, unites the short-term with the long-term. If you do well in the here-and-now, and are continually marking progress, you will achieve a desired result.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, a business does have to be concerned with numbers. But it’s a positive focus that hits the numbers. Columbia University found that companies with a positive culture have a fourteen percent turnover rate vs a forty-eight percent turnover rate for companies with negative culture. Companies with satisfied employees outperform the competition by twenty percent. A company with engaged employees outperforms one with disengaged employees by two-hundred percent.
You can tell how successful your company is by looking at your employees’ faces. Don’t tell them to smile. Encourage them to smile through your interactions and the atmosphere you create.
If your bottom line controls you, you control nothing. You can control your interactions with others and your employee morale, impacting your bottom line.