10/08/2015

By Jason Stockwood, Chief Executive Officer, Simply Business


I’ve long believed that any successful company has people and culture at its heart, and that this approach isn’t just good for employees – it’s also best for business.

According to a recent white paper from Marketing Innovators, companies in which people are happy outperform their competitors by 20 per cent. In a separate study in Harvard Business Review, satisfied employees were found to solve problems faster. We see this every day in our London and Northampton offices – we give people problems to solve, rather than work to do, and they are solving those problems ever faster since the adoption of our full-scale people-first strategy.

Happy people also save you money on recruitment. Clearly, when people are satisfied where they’re working, they’re less likely to leave, and employee churn is reduced. Columbia University recently found that job turnover in companies with a strong working culture is just 13.9 per cent, rising to a massive 48.4 per cent in businesses with a poor culture. Recruitment is a key expense, but by investing in culture this can be significantly reduced. I want to build a company that I want to work in, and everyone in the organisation has chipped in to do the same. This has helped us to build a company that is about more than work, but that is also productive and efficient.

But in fact, the way businesses measure efficiency also needs to change. In a post-Fordist landscape, it’s no longer appropriate to judge productivity on the number of hours your employees spend at their desks. The world has moved on, and businesses need to do the same. I don’t want to dictate how our people should go about solving problems – we’re just interested in giving them the tools to ensure that they can solve them effectively. So, rather than keeping a hawk-eyed lookout to see who’s in when, we look instead at output. This requires a level of trust, but that in itself is also beneficial. People who feel like they are trusted are more likely to engage with their work. Trust is a key but too often forgotten factor in building a successful culture, and ultimately building a successful business.

Part of that trust is also about allowing employees to switch off. The concept of the work/life balance is outmoded. Instead, there is life, and it needs to work for everyone. In practical terms, this means encouraging our people not to check their emails at all hours of the night, giving them space to get away from work, and encouraging them to take all of their annual leave. We’ve adopted a policy in which employees can choose to have their emails automatically deleted while they’re on holiday. That time is sacred, and it shouldn’t be compromised by the pressures of the office.

Ultimately, I’m interested in building a business that doesn’t just turn a profit, but that helps develop and satisfy the people working in it. For me, that is the most important goal that a CEO can have.