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Why happiness is the corporate currency

By Stacey Epstein June 21, 2021

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Happy employees are more loyal, innovative and healthier and those benefits extend to happy customers, says Freshworks' Stacey Epstein.

Stacey Epstein

About 15 years ago I read an FT opinion piece with the headline, The hippies were right all along about happiness. It was written by a professor of economics and concluded that happiness, not economic growth, ought to be a more sensible target for national economies, particularly for the next generation. He spelled out some strong arguments backed by solid research. I remember thinking at the time that it was dead on, but unlikely to translate to little more than lip service in the corporate world of 2006.

A lot has happened since then. Attitudes about the workplace and indeed the employee and customer experience are vastly different now. In fact, they’ve been steadily changing over time. Although the pandemic forced every organization to push their reset button globally, there’s been a quiet and noticeable shift happening in the background for years. COVID has been a timely tipping point in the acceleration of that transformation. It prompted many of us, myself included, to resign from thriving roles seeking something more. My friends and I refer to it as ‘the great resignation’.

For Girish Mathrubootham, co-founder and CEO of Freshworks, the recipe for building a great company was simple: happiness. And it was codified in the company culture: creating a happy work environment, building amazing products, and ultimately delighting customers. In my 30- year career in Silicon Valley, I’ve never worked for company that has had happiness as a primary objective. And I must tell you, it’s refreshing (pun intended). And when I look around – particularly in the throes of this people-first corporate shift – it’s clear that happiness is finally being considered a form of corporate currency by forward-thinking companies.

Happy organization, happy customers

Research shows companies with happy employees out-perform competitors by 20%, are 12% more productive, 65% more energetic and take 10 times fewer sick days. Likewise, happy salespeople drive 37% more sales.

According to Deloitte, happy employees typically care more about your company, are driven to help you succeed and feel more invested. Happiness also leads to higher engagement so happy employees are also more present, pay more attention to customer needs, and are more aware of your organization’s processes and systems. Happy employees are also more loyal, innovative and healthier. Many of these same benefits extend to happy customers.

For a long time, work and happiness weren’t strongly associated with each other. Work was a place where you were meant to come in, get the job done and leave. Happiness was for your free time. Yet none of the findings I’ve mentioned above are new. The difference is that we’ve now reached the point where we are formally recognizing the currency of happiness in commercial terms. Lockdown helped of course, triggering a global rethink – from happiness to hybrid working to simplifying systems and processes. It’s clear that happiness begins and ends with strong internal relationships and genuine communication, which is exactly what Freshworks set out to address.

Of course, we are not the only company embracing values such as happiness, empathy and well-being. There’s plenty of evidence that shows what most of us have known all along - that these values are now essential for building long-lasting customer and employee relationships. The difference is that we’ve acted upon it and built an entire cloud-based product portfolio around it so organizations can benefit from better CRM, customer experience, HR, Sales and Marketing and IT management.

We take happiness very seriously. Everybody wins and it’s something we want everyone to know more about. That’s why we’ve created a European-wide online and face-to-face event dedicated to helping you learn and apply practical insights around the currency of happiness.

Our ON Festival, includes keynotes from experts, such as Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught Harvard University’s ground-breaking course on how to be happy, the most popular course in the history of Harvard University; Netflix Founder and start-up CEO Marc Randolph, who shares the unlikely story of how a handful of dreamers with no money and a bad idea, eventually brought down Blockbuster. We’ve got insights from the former Global Marketing Director of Airbnb, CEO of Tony's Chocolonely, who set up his business with the stated goal of eradicating slavery from cocoa farms; and, of course, our very own CEO Girish Mathrubootham, who’ll be talking about how culture built a great company thanks to happy employees and happy customers. There are also a slew of other speakers giving gems of insight.

I’d strongly urge you to logon and listen to learn more about the people-first approach to business strategy. A true people-first culture requires a shift in attitude, behaviour and actions at a fundamental level.

The faster companies embrace and embody these new values, the easier they will find building authentic human connections. Happy employees lead to happy customers, which leads to company growth. Even the performance driven culture of 2006 should appreciate that.

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