5 Employee Training Tips to Improve Employee Happiness


Kerry worked on the front lines at a bank. He struggled with staying happy at work. Most of his customers came in to complain. He felt like a punching bag.

One lady came in and started in on all the fees that “his” bank was socking her with. She slapped her hand down on the counter, looked Kerry straight in the eye and demanded her money back. Now, I’m not going to tell you what Kerry said. I don’t think he actually told me the whole truth, but his reply definitely wasn\’t pretty.

He was sent home for the day and had to go to sensitivity training.

The problem that many managers and HR employees have is the job of putting the band-aid over the wound after the fact. Many times they don’t have the opportunity to train employees how to handle difficult situations before they happen.

Every domino piece adds to the whole. If the first domino (well trained employees) isn\’t set  the positive experience won\’t occur. The customer will actually talk shit to her friends because they expected better service. Now you\’ve set a negative domino effect in motion that could have been avoided.

If you can give your employees the tools to be happier they are going to much less likely to lash out at customers and other co-workers.

As you know I’ve been talking about making employees happier at work since 2008 over at Work Happy Now, but they are still a secret to a lot of people.

Here are 5 tips to empowering your employees to take back control of their happiness. These employee training tips have to be practiced. It’s the art of turning them into a habit that will make the difference in their lives.

1. Teach Employees to Smile More

The art of using your smile is a time honored habit, but one so many of us don’t use to its full advantage. There is a lot of research that backs the benefits of smiling. Smiling can help improve your mood, people’s mood around you and reduce stress.

When a phone representative smiles before they answer their phone they are setting the tone for the call. It’s this tone that can make the difference between a happy customer and an angry one.

Even teaching your employees to smile before they write an email back toward an unhappy customer can help improve the tone of the email. An empathetic and positive email will be received much better than a short and grumpy email. I\’ve been practicing this technique for the past few months and the responses that I get back are much better. Many unhappy customers just want to know that their problem was heard even if you can\’t solve it right there on the spot.

HR Tip

You don’t want to just tell your employees to smile more.  As you know telling someone to do something isn\’t the most effective method for change. You want explain the benefits of it. Then ask them, “What triggers could they use to help encourage them to smile before they interact with a customer?” They key with convincing anyone to change their habits is giving them a great reason to do so and help them figure out how to make it possible.

2. Encourage Better Posture

Posture is important because it signals to customers how they should treat the employee. If you show confidence with your back straight and your head held high then customers are more likely to mirror this signal and treat you with respect.

Many employees get pushed around by customers because of the old adage, “the customer is always right.” This is so wrong on many levels. No employee should be allowed to be screamed at. Customers have to know that they need to treat employees with respect if they expect to be given respect in return.

The benefits of good posture are numerous. It helps with blood flow and decreases back complications.

HR Tip

Once again don’t just tell your employees to improve their posture. Explain the health benefits and ask them what they think would help them improve their posture.

3. Make Active Relaxation a Daily Practice

Stress is a huge factor in any career. The more tools people have to manage their stress the easier it is for them to be happy at work.

“75%-90% of all doctor visits, medical and psychological, are now recognized as stress related.” – Washington Athletic Club

Giving your employees the mental tools to deal with a difficult customer is vital to keeping employees and customers happy. The added perk of reducing sick leave is a nice little bonus.

It’s why Google, Facebook and Zappos all have rooms to connect with co-workers while taking their mind off the stress of work.

The key to Active Relaxation is giving people spaces to unwind if they feel overwhelmed as well as showing them how to unwind. You need to explain the importance of slowing down and letting go of whatever is bothering them. Anyone can turn on a TV and tune out work, but they aren’t actively taking the time to process through their emotions. I suggest to people to take a 10 minute walk. Thfey get their body moving which increases blood flow and they can relax their mind to help process through a stressful moment.

HR Tip

Employees need to be encouraged to slow down if they feel overwhelmed. Every employee is different, so make sure that they know what resources are available for them to take some time to themselves.

4. Encourage Employees to Keep a Gratitude Journal

Starting a gratitude journal was one of the best habits I’ve ever created. I’m not a very naturally optimistic person, so take the time to list 3 things that I was grateful for at the end of each day helped me focus on the positive and lifted up my mood. I would look forward to it at the end of each day. It eventually turned into a one sentence work journal, which allows me to focus on processing through my thoughts and emotions.

Your employees might find this concept hokey, but it works.

HR Tip

If you notice a few employees who are struggling with their happiness I would suggest creating a team meeting or even a company meeting, depending on your company’s size. Show them how a gratitude journal works, the benefits and why you think they should try it for just 30 days. If it doesn’t work tell them lunch is on the company. I don’t think you’ll end up buying anyone lunch, but sometimes there is always “that” person at your company.

5. Advise Employees to Put Into People What They Want Back

Many people get so caught up in their own careers they stop creating good work Karma for themselves. I’ve gotten caught in this rut.

Your employees don’t want to be taken advantage of by other co-workers, but they also need to remember that if they want to improve their careers they need to put into people what they want back.

HR Tip

Whether an employee is dealing with a customer or a co-worker they need to think about giving what they would want back in return. There isn’t many triggers that they can use to remind themselves to do this, but you might want them to think of a mantra they can tell themselves before the start of each day.

I used this mantra every day for 30 days, “Some people are just having a difficult day, always remember to be kind and put into people what I would like back in return.” I had this mantra pasted on the front of my computer during this month and it really helped me appreciate the importance of giving just a little more than I expected in return.

Your Turn

What training have you gone through that has helped make you happier and improve your communication with your co-workers?

* I\’ve talked about why core values are so important to building a great company. If you haven\’t put them together and use them in your marketing then you are missing a big opportunity to build a deeper connection with your customers.

4 thoughts on “5 Employee Training Tips to Improve Employee Happiness”

  1. Hi Karl,

    You made a really valuable point about recognizing that the customer is not always right and being clear that employees should not have to tolerate being abused or treated shabbily by rude, abusive customers. I would have liked to see you connect that back to companies having a clearly defined policy on not allowing staff to be abused by customers and a practice for ensuring it doesn’t happen. I’m not clear on what the connection is between protecting employees from customer abuse and posture. Perhaps it’s that some companies need to develop a backbone and take a stand that they won’t tolerate bad behaviour from customers or clients? 😉

    I’d say there’s one more tip that needs to be added to the list: If companies want a workplace culture of happiness and respect and genuinely values its employees, then the company needs to create that culture from the top down and have senior leaders and managers align and embody the values in their actions and model the desired behaviours because the tone is set at the top and trickles down to front line employees. In much the same way that children do as they see and not what they’re told, employees’ actions will also reflect what they experience and see, not what they’re told to do. Unlike children who might be puzzled by a disconnect between what’s preached and practiced, employees who see this kind of disconnect become cynical and disengaged and it is reflected in their customer service.

  2. Hi Sue, I whole heartily agree with you. Too often a boss or manager falls into a parenting role instead of trusting their employees to make mistakes and fix them. When management thinks of themselves as more of a supportive role to their employees then they stop forcing their ideas and let their people thrive.

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