Imagine you’re looking for a job in insurance. As luck would have it, you get two job offers at two different firms. Since we are already in the land of hypotheticals where anything is possible, let us assume that these two firms are right next to each other. In fact, the buildings are entirely identical. There is only one observable difference between the two, and that is that both companies appear to have hired a different interior decorator.
A tale of two locations
The building on the left, Insurance Company A, has gone for a look that might have been sleek and modern for a dentist office in the 90s. They have dropped the particle board ceilings to eight feet, and rolled out some pilly brown carpet in the hallways. The walls are a dust coated cream with rubber trim at the base. The lighting is strictly fluorescent, making the place feel suspiciously like The Matrix. The cafeteria only serves microwaved Folgers Coffee and Top Ramen.
The building on the right, Insurance Company B, has kept the twelve foot ceilings intact, so as to make room for the twelve bulb chandeliers they installed. This designer tore up the fake tile linoleum, and refinished the Hickory floors underneath with a dark gloss. These walls are a light grayish-green with white baseboards, and the cafeteria serves coffee with hand ground beans and freshly baked pastries.
I’m not going to ask which company you’d rather work at, because I hope to goodness that there is no need, but perhaps a better question is why? What makes the second company more appealing than the first? I’m not sure any of us have rubber baseboards listed as a deal breaker on our checklists for potential employers.
A joyful workspace communicates your values
The theory is that the reason the second is more appealing than the first, is not actually because of the paint choices, but because of the kind of people you imagine work at both of those companies. Don’t believe me? Well, humor me for a second.
In which of the two companies are you more likely to find racoon-eyed, scruffy bearded, mid 40’s, recently divorced man in a wrinkled and coffee stained button down, khaki pants, no belt, and badly tied tie, and whose only form of communication is half hearted and unpleasant sounding grunts? And in which of the two companies are you more likely to find a perky, mid 30s, clean shaven man in jeans and cowboy boots, who makes a point of asking how you are every time he sees you standing in line to order a salted caramel Americano? I kind of gave myself away at the end there, didn’t I?
It’s the atmosphere that draws you in
While atmospheres can be superficially faked by paint colors and better lighting, the real deal can only ever be achieved by the attitude of the employees.
You want to draw your customers into more than just a solitary product that is dislocated from its origin. You want to welcome them into your store or office space, like you are bringing them into a community; a community made up of people. Would you feel at all ashamed if your top customer was greeted at the desk by Stan from Insurance Company A? Improving your company’s atmosphere is not just loving your employees, it’s loving your customers.
I suppose we all have an image in our heads of what kind of attitude creates an enjoyable environment, but let me give it a specific word: joy. I kind of gave you a hint by using the word enjoyable, but that is more or less, what joy is. Or at least, what the effects of joy are to those around. They make you an enjoyable person. You’re fun to be around. You’re approachable. Sympathetic. Easy to talk to, but also easy to look up to. Hard working. A role model. A leader.
A joyful person, whether or not they mean to be, is sending out an open invitation to everyone around, to gather round like flies to a spider web (in the nicest way possible). Joy is an invitation in. One way of making sure that you are blessing your customers, is making sure that you are hiring joyful employees, not Stan from Insurance Company A. It’s not just a good marketing strategy, it’s a way of truly loving your customers.
Efficiency is a biproduct of joy
Of course it’s possible to hire people who love goofing off so much that work never gets done, but truly joyful employees tend to be more efficient than those who hate their jobs (which really just makes sense, but if you don’t believe me, here’s a study on this very topic). Have you ever had to work on a team of people who all really love and believe in what they are doing? How much more would you prefer to work on that team than on a team of highly capable grumps? Which team do you think will move faster: the uninspired pros, or the entrepreneurial amateurs? Who will care more about a job well done: the people who are doing what they are paid to do, or the people who are doing this because that’s what they love doing? And what else separates the second group from the first? Hint: it’s not Folgers Coffee.
Customer-centeredness is born out of joy
Joy is really just contentment. Being satisfied where you are and in what you are doing opens up the possibility to be selfless. Content employees aren’t preoccupied thinking about how things are going to affect their situation. We all want joy because of how we think that will make us feel. But once we have it, it actually takes our eyes off our own needs and puts them on the needs of those around us. Of course, you should want your employees to be joyful for their own sake because, well, consider the alternative. But that said, it’s one of the easiest ways of making sure that your customers are being loved as well. Cultivate joy within your company.