What a heart-warming article by James Timpson. The firm we go to when we need spare keys and re-heeled boots, cares as much for its staff as it does for our feet. The company a has trained counsellor, who helps employees deal with issues such as mental health and drug and alcohol issues, and a financial health first aider who has helped more than 180 staff with money problems.  But the best job title must go to the Director of Happiness, who doesn’t dish out sweets and jokes, but helps employees in crisis find the support they need.

If you are a small business owner you could understandably dismiss this as a gimmick you can’t afford. But you can’t deny that worried, unhappy staff are unlikely to be working at the top of their game.  James Timpson receives weekly sales reports on his 2100 shops and believes that 90% of the time, sales fall because one of their staff has a problem outside work.

 Staff are your most important asset, but you don’t need to employ a Director on a five-figure salary to keep them happy.  There are small, inexpensive steps that all businesses can take to look after their staff and demonstrate they are valued. This is particularly important now, as employees start returning to work after a period of furlough or a year working at home.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. You will probably have lots more.

  • Arrange return to work interviews after periods of absence. These can often highlight potential problems that need to be addressed. Repeated short-term absence may be caused by stress for instance, or an underlying disability. A high level of absence in one department may indicate a poor working environment.
  • Hold regular appraisals / one-to-one meetings. These allow staff to talk about issues that may be bothering them and gives you the chance to recognise their hard work. Just saying “thank you" can go a long way. Frequent positive feedback keeps people happy longer than a single larger reward.
  • If you are brave enough, conduct an employee satisfaction survey. This can be done anonymously and voluntarily. Invite your employees to share what they like and dislike about their jobs and their work environment. You can ask questions like, “Do you feel you have the resources necessary to do your job?” or “Are you satisfied with your involvement in decisions that affect you at work?” or “What might we change to increase employee satisfaction?” Alternatively, install a suggestion box so staff  have the opportunity to provide ideas for a more positive working environment.
  • If possible, allow staff to customise their space with photos, pictures etc. This will help your employees feel like they belong there and will be particularly important when they return to work after many months of working at home.
  • Trust your staff and involve them in decision-making whenever possible.  Staff who feel trusted are more productive and innovative.
  • Help staff grow and develop, either by giving them new responsibilities or challenges, or allowing them to take courses to learn new skills.
  • Provide the occasional gift or card. It will mean a lot to your employees if significant birthdays or work anniversaries are marked (I’m speaking from experience here – thank you #carbonlawpartners!). Perhaps you can arrange a monthly draw a for a restaurant gift card or an extra day’s holiday.
  • Finally, bring food! We all respond well to the odd treat so show your employees you appreciate them by bringing in a few packets of Percy Pigs or chocolate biscuits.