Are your staff happy? If you don’t know the answer to this question then low emotional employee wellbeing among your workforce may well be negatively impacting your bottom line. Employers who take an active role in promoting employee wellbeing improve their profits, a fact that’s particularly relevant in retail, an industry where the majority of staff are likely to be customer-facing and where staff attitude has a direct impact on sales.
The benefits of having happy staff have been proved many times; a 2008 Gallup poll in the US found retailers with happy employees generated an extra $21 per square foot than average, which totted up to an extra $32 million profit for a chain. A study by Professor Daniel Goleman, author of the book Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, found that a 2% increase in how happy employees were correlated with a 1% growth in revenue for a company; between 1994 and 2009, a Wharton Business School study of the Fortune Magazine 100 best companies to work for in the US showed a 2.3% increase in performance compared to companies not on the list.
And it’s not just your bottom line that reaps the benefits of happy staff. There are less tangible advantages, including increased talent retention, heightened creativity and sick leave reduction.
And there’s strong evidence that the costs of implementing an employee wellbeing programme are outweighed by the financial benefits. One 2007 study compared the cost of a wellness programme with the gains from reduced sick leave and improved productivity and found an annual return on investment of more than 1:9.
But how do you help employees be happier? The obvious answers might be financial and social perks, but the companies that top happiness lists go beyond just perks in their quest to increase employee wellbeing, embedding happiness in the company culture, in work practices, policies and even brand values.
1) Financial Support
Offering staff a generous financial package – industry-competitive wages, bonuses, profit-shares, pension schemes and flexible holiday allowances – is an obvious way to promote wellbeing. If people feel fairly treated because they’re paid what they think they should be, they’re more likely to stay with you. They also feel valued, which helps combat stress and enhances performance. Retailer White Stuff, ranked 89th in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for 2015 list, offer a share option scheme to employees who have been with the company two years or more. Employees on the scheme received an unexpected payment in 2014 in recognition of their service. White Stuff saw a sales increase of 13.6% in 2015 and opened nine new stores in the UK.
2) Stress Management
Staff who experience high levels of stress are more likely to take sick leave and more likely to leave a company. A direct correlation has been found in more than one study between absence rates and poor managerial support. Stress also impacts motivation and productivity. Putting in a stress management programme can show tangible results in productivity; a 2008 study of two call centres in the UK found that implementing a wellbeing intervention saved the companies £105,164 in absence costs.
Fashion retailer Fossil Group, also on the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for list, ensures staff work reasonable hours to reduce stress and keep a good work-life balance. Staff are encouraged to finish early on alternate Fridays in the summer, and the head office is strict on not allowing its staff to work after 6.30pm. Shops are closed between Christmas and New Year, with staff being given paid leave over this time.
Car retailer Motorpoint prides itself on encouraging a creative and mindful side in its employees; their internal photography competition asked for images on the theme of ‘the beautiful ordinary’ to encourage staff to stop and notice the small things around them. 78% of their employees believe their job doesn’t impact their health.
3) Feedback and Involvement
If you want switched-on, creative employees bursting with ideas on how to improve your business, they need to feel able to communicate with management, and that their views are taken seriously. There’s evidence this is beneficial to companies; a 1999 study found that happiness boosts creativity and mental flexibility, making it easier for people to come up with new ideas.
At car retailer BMW’s headquarters, walls are painted black and employees are encouraged to chalk ideas up which will be considered for future development.
4) Sharing Company Vision
Happy employees don’t just take less time off; they can actively boost profits, especially in a sales environment. Sandwich chain Pret a Manger is a vocal proponent of staff happiness, putting a recent 16% sales increase down to positive staff attitude. They encourage engagement and pay a bonus to branches whose staff smile at customers, aligning staff attitude with Pret’s brand.
Staff are crucial for communicating your brand to customers, and getting them on board with company vision and brand values makes this more effective. Cook, the frozen meals retailer, ranked 44th in the Sunday Times list, regularly discusses company vision with staff and shares their annual report with everyone who works for the company.
5) Flexible working
Offering the opportunity for flexible working patterns can reduce stress and increase staff retention, as people are able to adjust their jobs to fit around life changes. Retailer The Perfume Shop, another Sunday Times list entry, offers its mostly female workforce flexible working to smooth the transition back from maternity leave; around 5% of its workforce are on maternity leave at any one time. Their return rate for mothers is 70%.
6) Valuing Employee Wellbeing
Showing employees they are valued goes beyond attractive pay packages. Lingerie retailer Bravissimo gives staff Christmas and birthday presents and rewards long service with gifts or unpaid leave. Teams are allowed a budget for fun activities outside work. The Sunday Times ranks the company second in the UK for staff finding work fun rather than draining.
Cosmetics retailer L’Occitane specifically praises staff in regular internal bulletins and offers rewards as bonuses. 81% of its staff love working for the company.
7) Ethical Practices
Getting staff to feel positive about the company they work for can increase job satisfaction. Ethical company practices and projects such as supporting voluntary work in working hours and donating profits to charity are popular ways of achieving this.
Beaverbrooks the Jewellers, 19th in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for list, places local community involvement at the centre of its business. They donate 20% of its profits to a charitable trust. Fundraising by staff for local charities is matched by the company and staff can take paid company time to do voluntary work.
Food retailer Cook offers a discount to local community groups and gives waste food to a charity for vulnerable people. The company also offers career opportunities to former prisoners. 79% of its staff believe the company has a social conscience.
8) Promoting Personal Growth
Supporting staff in their career development is also a driver of staff retention and job satisfaction. L’Occitane offers skin care training to all staff and encourages career progression for managers through workshops. 84% of staff believe they contribute to the success of the company.
At The Perfume Shop, staff are trained to be fragrance experts; the company runs a perfume school which can lead to an external qualification and recognition as an ambassador for the brand.
 Bond, F. W. (2012). Enhancing the effectiveness of transformational leadership with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Manuscript in preparation.
” Employee Wellbeing “: Pret a Manger, http://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb/random-acts-of-kindness