Few would argue with the claim that employees are critical to business success. However, some question whether happy employees yield business success. 

But according to a recent article in The Economist, studies demonstrate the link between employee engagement levels and business outcomes, like customer loyalty, employee retention, productivity, and profitability. In other words, as the story says, “a contented workforce is a prerequisite for corporate success.”

As confirmation that this realization is taking hold, the Business Roundtable—comprising nearly 200 chief executives from some of the world’s most successful companies—recently updated its statement of purpose. Rather than focusing solely on delivering profits for stockholders, companies must advance the interests of all shareholders to drive success, the Business Roundtable now says. This means investing in their employees and cultures.

Organizational cultures reflect the way we work

Why this shift in thinking? Well, it mirrors the evolution of how organizations thought about people from the industrial era to the age of knowledge.

Today, most of our organizational success is predicated on the knowledge, creativity, and collaboration of our employees, and their interactions with customers. So it makes sense that competitive advantage is a function of the motivation and commitment of the people doing the work. 

The good news is that organizations and their leaders can influence their employees’ happiness with the right information and interventions. As the Economist article underscored, a well-run company may be hard to define, but we can recognise it when we see it. Workers will be well informed about a company’s plans and consulted about the roles they will play. Staff will feel able to raise problems with managers without fearing for their jobs. Bullying and sexual harassment will not be permitted. Employees may work hard, but they will be allowed sufficient time to recuperate, and enjoy time with their families. In short, staff will be treated as people, not as mere accounting units.

Three real-life examples: The power of employee engagement

We at Glint are always happy to see validation of our long-standing belief that business success is directly tied to employee happiness. It’s the very reason we exist: to help people be happier and more successful at work (which we know contributes to business outcomes). Three customers have recently demonstrated the unique and forward-thinking ways they’re doing just that.

Novartis transforms its culture

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan recently spoke to Business Insider about his goal to reshape his company “into the premier maker of cutting-edge new medicines.” What’s key to achieving that vision is the company’s ability to transform its culture, shifting focus to productivity and “building trust with society.”

As Narasimhan says, “I’d like to believe over time we’ll keep showing that culture drives performance and culture drives innovation. And the cultural transformation of Novartis will keep us at the cutting edge for years to come.”

To that end, he’s committed to shifting from a traditional culture to one he characterizes as “un-bossed,” with an emphasis on empowering employees to be accountable for decision-making. Hand-in-hand with this, the company is enabling 15,000 managers across the globe to create great team climates using ongoing feedback from their people and a focus on timely action.

DocuSign empowers managers to drive engagement

Much like Novartis, DocuSign is putting the power to engage in its managers’ hands. In Human Resource Executive, Chief People Officer Joan Burke describes the limitations that come with burdening executives with all the responsibility for improving engagement. Only when the company began including employees at the line-management level did it begin to see significant improvement in engagement, as demonstrated by Glint results.

Burke and her team are able to stay on top of the company’s progress and hold managers accountable by frequently asking employees how they’re doing and analyzing the trends. These insights have helped her make the case for continued pulsing.

“The traditional answer when HR is asked to justify the cost of a product is to say that, without the program, we would be in worse shape. But with the tool, we can actually measure the benefit of it by comparing rolled-up data quarter to quarter,” she says.

Bupa is driving action and change

Global healthcare company Bupa, which employs 80,000 people around the world, encourages managers to take action on survey results. The company relies on technology and a simple framework to embed the process in managers’ everyday activities. 

Through its “listen, learn and act” model supported by Glint, Bupa now focuses mostly on driving action and change. And its managers are able to do so with ready access to insights that enable them to move more quickly from understanding feedback to acting upon it.

“The technology and algorithms point you to two, maybe three maximum, things you can work on… things that are going to help see the biggest shifts in engagement,” says Bupa’s head of engagement Sarah Hood. 

By taking this approach, Bupa has evolved its survey process to become more of a two-way, ongoing interaction than a top-down, passive motion. I’m seeing our strategy moving from a listening strategy to a conversations strategy and really trying to drive capability in having that conversation,” she says.

Activate your commitment to your people

Any organization can believe in the value of employee engagement. But as these examples show, it takes a forward-thinking organization with a commitment to its people to make sustainable improvements to employee engagement, and ultimately drive culture change and business outcomes.

For more employee engagement inspiration, check out more Glint customer stories.