In 2017, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was voted the seventh best company to work for in LinkedIn’s top companies list. The lofty position should come as no surprise to those familiar with the company. Indeed, Branson himself said that by taking care of employees at Virgin that everything else will take care of itself, and with a net worth of approximately $5 billion, it’s hard to argue with him. Forbes.com recently interviewed Branson on his insights into keeping employees happy and the effects it can have on your business.
“What makes Virgin particularly wonderful is the wonderful group of people who believe in what they’re trying to do,” Branson says. “Who are appreciated, who are praised, not criticized, and are given a chance to do a great job.”
With such a diverse empire, the challenge involved in keeping people happy is considerable. Achieving this has to start at the top, and Branson has developed a formula to pick the kind of leaders that will ensure that everyone is happy.
At Virgin, a great leader must:
Praise employees instead of criticizing them.
Genuinely love all people from the cleaning lady to the senior executives.
Be a great listener who not only hears the recommendations from employees but acts upon them.
“The person who runs the company is critical,” Branson says. “If you choose somebody who genuinely loves people and looks for the best in people, that’s critical and if you bring someone in who isn’t good with people then you can destroy the company very quickly.”
This positive culture creates the kind of openness to failure and willingness to experiment that sits at the heart of the lean culture made famous by Toyota in manufacturing, but is rare in the irregular service-driven world typified by so many Virgin brands.
Employees are willing to provide suggestions because they are praised and not afraid to give input. Their feedback is actioned by the leadership and is used to improve the quality of the offerings. Better service means higher customer satisfaction, which in turn creates that unbeatable glow you get from a job well done, especially when doing so contributes so fruitfully to the financial health of the company. By encouraging involvement in the running of the company, it creates a sense of collective ownership that is hard to trump.
A caring culture
The commitment Virgin makes to the staff at the hotel is clearly repaid tenfold in high-quality customer service, and Branson makes it clear that this is a core part of the company culture. For him, caring does not start once someone is hired—it starts way earlier. He cares deeply about the candidates who have been rejected as well as those who have passed the rigorous recruitment process. We had breakfast together and Branson mentioned how excellent people get rejected from Virgin all the time. He gave an example of how one time, he was flying on a different airline and the flight attendant was so excellent he thought they should hire her at Virgin Atlantic. He mentioned this to her and she said that she had already interviewed at Virgin Atlantic before, but didn’t get the job. It triggered a desire to make sure those exceptional candidates are treated with the respect they deserve, and indeed with as much respect as the candidates who were ultimately successful.
Boosting the candidate experience
Such an interest in the well-being of people isn’t just a fundamentally humane thing to do however, it’s got clear business value too. It’s estimated that for every 1,000 job openings, there are typically around 150,000 applicants who get rejected. These people could be customers or future business partners. They could be potential recruits in the future, or simply people who will share their experience of your business with their friends and family. It’s your duty to ensure they have a positive experience to share with others.
At Virgin Media, they’re on track to make an extra $7 million by simply improving their candidate experience after they realized that a significant portion of the rejected candidates ended up choosing their competitor’s service after they were rejected. It may come as a surprise, but Virgin is one of the few companies in the world to realize how big of an impact a poor candidate experience could have on their business.
To read more about the interview between forbes.com and Richard Branson and his advice on treating employees, follow the link below: