Historically, business has not been known for being the kindest and most supportive industry on the planet. There has certainly been no shortage of businesses over the years who have been pulled up on their less-than-ideal practices. And in years gone by it was often thought that you needed to be ruthless in order to succeed.
But things are changing. Surveys have shown that people value kindness above all other qualities in all their relationships, including business ones, and that most would prefer a kinder boss over a pay rise. And that’s not to mention all the challenges that the last couple of years have thrown up in terms of running a business, flexible working, mental health, childcare and work/life balance.
In addition, social media and websites such as Glassdoor mean that dissatisfied customers and staff now have a very accessible and public outlet for their concerns, and there is a growing expectation that business practices will be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
As such, there has been a shift. More and more businesses these days are embracing a much kinder, more collaborative and more supportive way of working, and are reaping the many benefits. In order for businesses to succeed, both in terms of attracting and retaining customers and clients, and in terms of attracting and retaining staff, they must adopt a kinder approach to, well, doing business.
Why It Pays for Businesses to Be Kind
A more positive working environment can bring benefits to businesses, customers and employees alike.
If employees feel they are listened to, and their concerns and opinions are taken seriously, they will feel a lot happier and more comfortable at work. Celebrating success and milestones shows them they and their contributions are valued. And happier employees are more creative, productive and motivated to succeed.
Improved Employee Retention and Recruitment
Similar to the above, employees want to feel valued. If they do, they are more likely to stay. They may also recommend a business as a good place to work online, leading to more people wanting to work there, and a larger, better-quality and more diverse recruiting pool. If they don’t they’re going to leave, and remaining employees could bear the brunt of this.
More Satisfied Customers
Happy employees are more motivated to succeed, and that includes delivering better service to clients and customers. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat customers and act as advocates, recommending a business to friends, family and other prospects.
There has been an increased focus on mental health in the media of late, which can only be a good thing. People are more and more aware of mental health issues and the imapct they can have. With so much time spent at work, a negative environment can seriously affect employees’ mental health and lead to stress and anxiety. But a kind, open, positive and supportive environment, where staff love coming to work every day will improve mental health and wellbeing.
What Does Kinder Business Look Like?
While the practicalities may look different for each company, in terms of technologies, processes and systems, the general principles of kinder business remain the same.
Supporting and Celebrating Staff
Recent events – and an increasing emphasis on mental health and wellbeing – have demonstrated that it’s not only possible, but important, to allow employees flexibility in terms of where they work, when they work and how they work (where this is appropriate, of course).
It’s also important to make employees feel valued. Celebrating successes, milestones and life events with staff is vital. As is listening and offering support where needed, as well as open communication at all levels. And even little things like checking in with remote staff, or just making someone a cup of coffee can make a world of difference to morale.
Diversity and Inclusion
Many businesses still suffer from a lack of diversity, particularly at senior levels. A diverse workforce encourages different perspectives, leading to greater creativity and innovation. Studies have also shown that there are benefits in terms of faster problem solving and better decision making in diverse, inclusive workplaces, which in turn lead to better business performance.
Supporting the Community
It’s also important for businesses to engage with the local community. By sponsoring local charities, events and initiatives, companies can support the communities that their customers and employees are part of and demonstrate that they themselves take pride in their local communities.
Employees and customers alike want businesses to be greener. Employees feel safer and more comfortable working for such businesses, and getting them involved in initiatives can help to boost morale. While for customers, greener businesses seem more trustworthy, and make them feel as though they themselves are doing good by buying from them.
While in some cases, businesses may need to make an investment in overhauling processes or adopting new technology, for example, in many cases the journey towards better and more supportive business practices begins with a few simple steps and a change in policy. Listening to what employees (and customers) want, practising and encouraging open communication and managers leading by example are all good ways to work toward a business to be proud of.