With the UAE government launching a Ministry of happiness last year, positivity is high up on the agenda in the region. The difference employee happiness can make to business organisations can be measured in increased productivity but also increased brand recognition.
Happiness boosts productivity
So what can SMEs do to be happier places? Khurram Qureshi has identified three key areas. First is office design. It sounds obvious but SMEs should ensure their offices are simply nice places to work in, with enough space and light, proper temperatures etc. "You may be the world’s ‘happiest’ brand like Tic Tac or McDonalds if your employees have to work in a dark, sweltering hot or freezing cold place they are unlikely to stay”. Second is communication with digital tools. “So how the management communicates. I strongly advise using digital solutions to enhance communication, like using videos for training rather than tedious manuals". Qureshi strongly advocates the use of social media. "Every employee has a mobile phone, so even SMEs with a lack of resources can build their own brand on social media. Social networks are a place where businesses can easily communicate their performance targets, increasing transparency and visibility, wish an employee a happy birthday or even have the CEO tweeting. And the beauty is, this goes across to the customer," he remarks. Being communicative is very important, because employees need recognition to be happy, he says. Finally, focus on wellness, the creation of sports or health programmes for employees helps improve their health and makes them feel better physically and mentally.
Businesses influenced by “tech culture”
The happiness consultant argues that lack of modern technology and proper training will also lead to younger employees quitting their jobs because Millennials - “the Connected Tribe” - will not hesitate to leave the organisations they work for if their needs are not being met. This is a risk SMEs simply cannot take. Amid the global war for talent, they need to develop a positive image to attract the new generation of employees.
The world’s largest tech companies are an inspiration. At their headquarters the dress code is relaxed, the food and drinks are free and recreation opportunities abound, from pool tables to games consoles or yoga. AirBnB employees can bring their dogs to the office and Facebook staff get up to US$20,000 worth of family planning benefits. Google meanwhile will take care of your laundry.
This new work culture is spreading to other industries including smaller organisations like SMEs which are now trying to offer more creative and stimulating environments. Loft-style space, flexible, open-plan, co-working environments, cafeterias and informal meeting areas to reflect the café culture of the Millennials are a big trend. Didn’t Apple founder, Steve Jobs, famously say: “ideas don’t happen in the boardroom, they happen in corridors”?
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