Glasses toasting

Most entrepreneurs have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and a burning motivation to go out and get it. They’ve quit the nine to five to follow their dreams and many say they feel a real thrill in making things happen - now if only they could get their employees to feel the same way…

When you’re running a small business and leading a new team, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about you.

And while all of us know the importance of customer insight, there’s a temptation to assume in a small business that you instinctively know your workforce.

There’s a temptation to expect that the people you hire feel exactly as you do, that they share your passion for product and profit, and they understand your vision 100%.

And when things aren’t working quite as you expected and your team aren’t meeting you pint for pint with their blood, sweat and tears? Well, there’s a temptation to think that it’s down to a character flaw on their part rather than a missed trick on yours.

Most of us know that happy people work harder. They provide better service and are more effective. And while there are those that would argue happiness is a personal responsibility, it’s worth remembering that as a business leader in any capacity, other people’s wellbeing is something you need to invest time and energy in too.

In short - it pays to make people happy, and the most effective organisations know their employees’ emotional health and safety is as important as their physical care.

So how do you make happiness happen? Here are our top tips for building a happy team:

  • Listen and understand
Taking the time to understand your organisation from your employees’ point of view and how their working experience is different to yours is a vital first step. It will not only make them feel better valued and understood but it could pinpoint new business opportunities or unexpected risks too.
  • Be flexible
Flexible working allows a bit of give and take for when, where and at what times people work, while a general feeling of choice and control is vital to employee motivation. A bit of reciprocity goes a long way and means your people will be more effective on the clock and more responsive when they’re not.
  • Be positive
Every business has good times and it’s important to celebrate success and recognise everyone’s contribution. Research shows that feeling valued and part of a team is more motivating than money alone, so focus on the strengths in your team and encourage people to build on these. And when you do need to overcome obstacles, be supportive, appreciative and constructive to build a positive culture and a great place to work.
  • Trust is a must
Hire effectively, surround yourself with great people and talk clearly and honestly with your employees to build mutually trusting relationships. Involve them where appropriate, even in difficult situations and walk the talk when it comes to fairness and decency.
  • Remember your responsibilities
You can’t build a happy workforce without the right foundations. Look after your people, pay them fairly and make sure they know that they’ll be kept safe at work and cared for should they get hurt.

Keep your working environment pleasant, clean and hazard free. Think about your duty of care, protect yourself and your people, and remember that employer’s liability insurance is generally a legal obligation for anyone with staff, contractors, sub-contractors or interns.

By Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance