This post was inspired by HubSpot co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) Dharmesh Shah and the ideas he’s put forth regarding company culture and how he’s creating a company he loves with The HubSpot Culture Code.
More than 52 percent of Americans are unhappy at work.
That’s insane! And what’s even more insane is that it doesn’t have to be this way. By using the same principles involved in constructing inbound marketing plans, we can build satisfying workplace environments that attract top talent and motivate current team members to do their best work. Or, as Shah says so concisely, “Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.”
Stick With Me, or Jump Ahead
For this post, I’ll run through the current state of affairs with regards to workplace culture and then dive a bit into the sociological reasons behind why it’s important to invest in the development of a company culture that promotes employee happiness. If you’d like to skip the background info and get right to the three-step solution, feel free to skip down to the sub-header titled “The Three-Step Inbound Marketing Approach to Creating a Happy Workplace.”
The Current State of Affairs
For the first time in history, many people are choosing to delay (or forgo) having families of their own and are choosing to live and work in locations that are not in close geographical proximity to their given (birth or adoptive) families.
These cultural shifts, among other factors, have resulted in a lack of both logistical and emotional support for a large portion of our population. In turn, this lack has given rise to the formation of Urban Tribes – family units comprised not of a person’s biological or adoptive family, but instead of those people who 1) live in close proximity to us, and 2) we choose to spend our non-working, free time with.
Urban Tribes are made up of our friends and neighbors – the people many of us have come to rely on to perform the duties (birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings, emotional support during difficult times, assistance moving to a new home, etc.) that used to be handled by our “real” families.
But what about the other people we spend our time with; the people we don’t necessarily choose to spend time with? What about the people we work with? (After all, most of us spend the majority of our time with co-workers – approximately 40 hours every week.) Now compare that 40 hours to the total number of waking hours we spend with our partners, children, given family, and fellow urban tribe members.
If it’s not less time, it’s definitely near equal. So why are we OK with more than half of us being unhappy at work?
Why Aren’t We Investing in Workplace Culture?
I’m not talking about benefits packages, vacation allowances, PTO, health benefits, a ping pong table or happy hour outings. I’m referring to the culture being cultivated on a daily basis – the way the energy in your office feels when you walk in, the way in which people speak to one another, the reasons behind why everyone is showing up to do their jobs every day (outside of the obvious financial motivators).
What I’m asking is: why are companies – and we, the human beings that work at them -spending so little time and effort cultivating a culture we enjoy being a part of? Why is it acceptable that 87 percent of Americans are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive”?
On average, we spend about 50 percent of our waking hours getting ready for, commuting to, actually working at, or thinking about our jobs. So why are we not more invested in developing places and environments that are more satisfying? Places where we feel engaged with the work and relatively happy to be there?
Unhappiness at Work Largely Due to Neglected Culture
In The Conference Board’s 2014 Job Satisfaction survey, more than 52 percent of Americans reported being unhappy at work.
And what would you guess is a more important factor in determining whether people are happy at work – “interest in the work” or “the people at work”?
Turns out, it’s the people at work that matter the most, with more than 60 percent of people reporting that if they like the people they work with, they like their jobs.
So hello – wakeup call people (me included!) – why aren’t we placing more emphasis on cultivating workplaces and cultures that foster happy, healthy relationships with the people we spend the most amount of time with?
The Three-Step Inbound Marketing Approach to Creating a Happy Workplace
Now that we’ve established a clear need and are through reviewing the challenge, here’s how I propose we apply the basic principles of inbound marketing to improve our workplace environments in three steps:
1. Conduct a Discovery Meeting (and Start With the Why)
Complete an in-depth discovery interview with employees and leadership – preferably conducted by an outsider so that people can feel free to speak candidly. The interview should address not necessarily interpersonal issues between specific team members, but rather a temperature check on how people feel overall when they come into the office.
In addition, the discovery meeting should focus on determining what it is that employees and leadership believe is the answer to the question, “Why do we do what we do?”
By diving into this question you’ll discover what it is people believe to be the company’s purpose for being, which is a good indicator in determining whether the company is or isn’t in line with the mission statement.
Hint: If the only answer you come across when fielding this question is “to make money,” you’re probably going to need to make changes in order to build a company where people actually enjoy coming to work every day and feel motivated to do their best, most creative and productive work.
People, by nature, are happier when they’re working to help others. Figure out how your company is of service to people and focus on that aspect.
2. Develop Buyer Personas
Then, as you would with any inbound marketing plan worth its weight, you’ll need to develop solid buyer personas. Begin by researching and studying the people at your office to really know who they are as dynamic human beings. Get past their age, job title, and education.
- What does a typical day in their life look and feel like?
- What motivates them? What do they value most?
- What causes them upset?
- What situations present challenges for them at work and at home?
- What makes them feel accomplished and happy?
3. Facilitate Prescriptive, Educational Resources
Finally, after you have a strong handle on the general landscape of what it is people believe your company’s purpose to be, as well as who your team members are on a more holistic level, you can begin to offer helpful, educational opportunities to bridge the gaps that may be contributing to workplace dis-ease.
When people are encouraged and coached to see one another as a valuable support system, rather than just as one-dimensional co-workers, they are more likely to feel invested not only in one another, but also in the work they’re contributing to the whole unit.
Not only that, they’ll have the tools they need to stay clear-minded and healthy while on the job. Creating a supportive, purpose-driven, empathetic work culture will result in a more motivated, productive and healthy workforce. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: employees, leadership, and customers.
It’s really as simple as that. By taking the time to:
- reflect on your company’s current purpose for being and overall office environment;
- understand your team members as human beings (and not just worker bees); and,
- provide educational opportunities that develop a work culture conducive to fueling professional growth…
you’ll reap the rewards that come with fostering a well-intentioned, mindful company.
The rewards for companies that invest in improving happiness levels at the office include increased productivity, a decrease in employee turnover, improved health, greater creativity, and an overall boost in personal fulfillment in a job well done.
We all know that inbound marketing is the most effective way forward with our digital marketing efforts, but I’d like to propose that applying those same inbound marketing strategies to our workplace environments is the best way forward in improving our overall levels of happiness at work and in our lives in general.
Image via Shutterstock.