by Ken Vincent, Featured Contributor
A FEW months ago I found a country where the stated national policy is that the happiness of its citizens is more important than the GNP. Actually, that isn’t quite true, the country found me.
In any case, I began to wonder how that would work. I could only envision everyone laying around the patio or pool, nibbling tasty tidbits, sipping their favorite beverages, engaged in pleasant conversation with friends and family. Children romping around in the back yard playing games. Sunny sky and balmy weather. No health issues, no child with a skinned knee, no worries about some country being in revolt, no homeless or hungry people, no crime. Hmm, rather like heaven on earth.
The more I pondered this, the more I wondered how that could possibly work. Who did the mundane things like cleaning the house, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn? Who made and provided goods and services to this happy citizenry? Did they all love their jobs, or did they even have jobs?
So, I began to do some research. What I found was the government didn’t guarantee the happiness of its citizens. It just said that was a top priority. It didn’t guarantee that anyone would like their job, or even have a job. It was simply a statement of what was important and that everyone had a right to pursue what made them happy. Yes they worked, and no they didn’t all like their job or their boss. But, they were free to change that if they wanted. They were faced with the same issues that you and I deal with daily. It was really a state of mind, not a universal reality. It was a point of reference for actions contemplated by government and businesses.
I don’t see many countries that embrace, much less follow that concept. I don’t even see many companies that say the happiness of its employees is more important than profit, though most admit the two are closely linked.
The core issue is that every company has to strike a balance between happy and engaged employees and profit. If you don’t have both, then at some point you will have neither. Most developed countries today have high unemployment, high under employment, and a very high percent of those employed that don’t like their jobs or their boss, and are not really engaged in the effort.
So the question becomes where do you draw the line between making profit and having happy employees. Where do you say we can’t afford that even if the employees want it? Where do you say I have to take that action to make enough profit to pay the debt service or show a return to investors even though the employees won’t be happy?
Outside economic factors, employee demands, government regulations, customer desires, and actions of competitors are constantly changing. It is rather like trying to build a house on shifting sand.
How do you strike a balance? How do you stay nimble enough to meet the constant ebb and flow of these factors? Where is that line between doing what employees want and what investors demand?