My namby-pamby happiness revolution

I received an email some years ago that accused me of running a ‘namby-pamby’ revolution. In fact, there was a lot of debate about this on SmartCompany at the time.

Naomi Simson, WAKE UP! People go to work TO BE PAID, VERY few (‘cept maybe some women) want ANY so called ‘thanks’ for doing what they are paid to do. OH! I forgot, we are now in the 21st (oops, the ‘touchy-feely, namby-pamby’) century. THIS attitude is one of the major problems in the world today. Management have THEIR job, also. That does NOT include holding the hands of people with self esteem problems. If the employee’s WEREN’T doing a good job, they’d get fired! I suggest you find a job that has some meaning.

Our new purpose at RedBalloon made me pause and think back to this email – because once again, we’re calling ourselves revolutionaries:

RedBalloon has started a happiness revolution. We believe everyone deserves to have fun, feel good and be happy. We believe happiness starts with a drop, becomes a ripple and creates a wave. And we believe happiness is amplified when shared. Put simply, we are in the business of fun and are passionate about giving people more good times.

That’s what we believe in; it’s what we’re passionate about. And ‘namby-pamby’ or not, we stand by our promise to make more people happy.

I often reminisce about that email – it’s almost a yard stick that assures me we’re heading in the right direction when it comes to the customer and employee experience we provide. Now, more than ever, with job uncertainty at some of the highest levels we’ve seen, people need to feel appreciated, recognised and noticed for who they are and the work they are doing.

Let’s get this straight – I’m not saying we all have to stand around in a circle, holding hands, singing Kumbaya. I’m talking about the little things that show your employees they matter – a card on their birthday; asking them how their child/mother/father/dog is going; knowing how they like their coffee.

Look after your people now and they will be with you for the long haul: when the fog lifts and the economy strengthens again; when the job market gets tighter and their skills are in high demand; they will stand by you, because you stood by them.

According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, loyal and engaged employees are more aligned to customer’s needs and generate 37% higher sales and 31% higher productivity on average. This drives customer loyalty and, in turn, profitability. RedBalloon was initially an experiment to see if a company could be successful by putting the focus on great customer service, and behind the scenes, great employee engagement to drive this customer experience.

I fundamentally believe that if your people are happy, this will trickle through to customers. It makes sense. Happy employees are more likely to go above and beyond; they are productive; and far more likely to stick around over the long term. Retention is one of the biggest issues facing businesses right now, and with the cost to replace someone estimated at 150% of their salary, simple maths demonstrates the return on investment of employee engagement.

The principles behind building a strong and enduring brand are all about building great relationships – with your customers, your suppliers, your clients and especially your employees, as they’re the greatest brand ambassadors you have.

The 2010 Dream Employers survey concluded that the top 20 companies on the list had been selected in 41% of cases because of their brand or company reputation. It was the most appealing of all reasons for choosing an employer – from a list which also included work/life balance, culture, pay and benefits and equal opportunities.

Why? Because brands are built in the hearts of our customers and employees through the relationships they have with that organisation. Every touch point adds or detracts from that relationship, because a brand is not advertising, but how people experience and feel about an organisation. It is the people they meet, the stories they hear, what they see on social network sites that form opinions about a business. People question if they can trust or believe the story. And it is no different in building an employer brand.

This can be looked at entirely as a question of commercial return. I really like the people I work with; the RedBallooners. I am interested in what drives them and what they are passionate about; I love discovering what journey they are on and what is important to them. This cannot be faked. I like people. The first step to being an effective manager is to like people. And be truly interested in them. If you’re a manager and don’t like people, perhaps you’re in the wrong job.

Sir, thank you once again for your contribution, it is greatly appreciated. To see that there are people who are still well entrenched in the past. Your business may well thrive without the ‘namby-pamby, touchy feely’ acknowledgment of people. But I am not alone in seeing great commercial returns from listening to my team, and responding in the same way I do with my customers.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.

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