the ceo magazine, employee satisfaction,
Anthony Zolezzi, Serial Entrepreneur, Innovation & Profitability CEO Advisor and Author

Most Fortune 500 businesses and CEOs that I consult for today have great brands and services. These brands, services and assets were, at one time, state of the art and best in class. However, these brands and services are now being challenged by an incredibly fast moving digital environment that is creating new competitors, new landscapes, and new, hot products faster than anyone could have ever imagined when their organizations were launched.

This creates tension between the faster moving business environment and every component part of the legacy, brands, services, assets; even the software that’s been designed to run them is unable to compete -- because they weren't designed for this fast and furious environment.  I instruct CEO clients that the newer business industry model is now being redefined on the fly, not only by the industry itself, but many non-industry components. This very fact is making meeting planning cycle obsolete, requiring a new way of planning and a new way of looking and visualizing the business landscape ahead.

Today, the market has changed before the PowerPoint ink is dry and presented. What I see forgotten many times is the creation of increased stress levels on employees caused by business tension that could be making their job "no fun.” Employee satisfaction and stress levels are going to become more critical to your company’s long term success, and that is where I want to take this insight with the planning and vision thoughts for another day.

So, let’s start with the way we addressed this stress of legacy assets and a fast moving digital world. It is relatively straightforward: in your planning cycle make sure you acquire the fast moving new entrant, if that is what it will take to keep you relevant in your industry. “Watch and acquire -- watch and acquire,” that was the mantra.

However, my insight is totally different today than it has been in the past.  The typical “watch and acquire” strategy is not working for me now because one thing is becoming obvious. If the culture of your company isn't open to new approaches, new products or services being introduced within your given industry, they will eventually make sure the acquisition becomes part of the way the "legacy brands do it" and it will conform to the "legacy assets and systems" ultimately giving you another legacy bound brand, service or assets. Not what you intended for the acquisition.

Now I am going to the C-suite with a totally different recommendation, one that I wouldn't have even thought about five years ago. It starts with a simple question. How often do you as a CEO show your concern for you employees “happiness factor”? More to the point: are your employees happy to be at work? Are they smiling and jovial? When was the last time you really thought about the “happiness factor?” The “happiness factor” is very simple: on a scale of 1-5, how happy are your employees over all? What are you specifically doing to make your employees happy?

When CEOs that I work with are asked that, I usually get answers that refer to 401k matches, health insurance, raises, net all financial. Then when asked, “Do you still have a plant service with lush green plants throughout your office?” or “When was the last time your offices where refurbished and upgraded?”  -- OK, I am sure you get the point and are processing in multiple ways – YEAH!

So, what are you going to do to improve the “happiness factor” for your employees to a four or five and keep it there? The tools for creating happy people are so basic they don’t need to be calculated or planned, they just need to be human and feel good and most importantly, you have to genuinely be concerned about your employees “happiness factor.” Simple things like human interaction, human respect, human listening, and human concern are vital. Visit the departments, have a video conference, and ask and listen with happiness being your true north.

That’s it - just ask and listen. If the C-suite is genuinely concerned about their employees’ happiness, it’s a guarantee the “happiness factor” will move up, and when it does, your competitive stress will lessen. Your teams will move quicker and faster because happy people is your answer to the fast moving competitive environment you seek, and happy people will create the new culture to win in your industry.

About the Author

Anthony Zolezzi is a serial entrepreneur who plays a leading role in advising corporations on ways to innovate with their existing strengths given the expectations of today’s environmentally conscious culture, while increasing profitability and uncovering new innovations. His work has resulted in numerous entrepreneurial companies and product developments focused on sustainability and health.


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