According to Gallup’s regular survey, over 50% of the workforce is not engaged in the work they are doing and 20% is actively disengaged. Bruce Poon Tip, founder of the change-making travel company G Adventures, believes that the solution is, simply, to care.
“Your people are your brand,” he explained during his recent talk at Melbourne’s Kick. Start. Smart. conference. “The brand becomes the people. It becomes the culture. People want to buy products from other people, not brands anymore. And that’s the tipping point. That’s happening right now within the business world.”
Under Bruce’s leadership, G Adventures is a six-time recipient of the Top 10 Employers for Young People, a lifetime platinum recipient of the 50 Best Managed Companies and has received multiple Best Workplace Awards. He amplifies the happiness of the people who work for him, understanding the power of a positive company culture in driving business. “Everything we do at G Adventures is designed for the four pillars of happiness.”
So what are the pillars that Bruce works so hard to maintain?
Pillar #1: The ability to grow.
“People have to be able to grow. That’s the first thing. People have to be able to get a promotion if they work hard, if they train or learn more.”
Pillar #2: Being connected.
“You can do a good job if you’re not connected to the people or product, but you’ll never achieve happiness in that role,” Bruce says. “And for those who are managing teams, you have to hire for culture. Hiring for culture is way more important than skills.”
Case in point: why should someone in Germany book an African safari with a Canadian company?
“It all comes down to the relationship we have with our customer,” says Bruce. “If you look at Millennials, they want to work for a company that’s going to change the world. Millennials want a purpose-driven model to work towards. Those are the companies that are going to drive the future – and also attract and retain the best talent.”
Being connected to the customer not only assists workplace happiness, it assists the power of the end product G Adventures is in the business of selling.
Pillar #3: Being part of something greater than yourself.
“More and more people are travelling to the poorest parts of the world,” Bruce said, “but only $5 of every $100 they spend stays in the local economy. This is the issue and the opportunity we have in the travel industry. Because imagine if it was done right and local people benefitted from tourism growing. We could help the most disadvantaged people in the world… by just going on holiday.”
The concept of social enterprise is growing and as a consequence, is blurring the lines between profit and non-profit. G Adventures as a company reinforces for its employees the knowledge that they’re contributing to something bigger and better than just the bottom line. “We started G Adventures with the philosophy that travel could be the greatest form of wealth distribution the world has ever seen,” Bruce echoed.
And considering G Adventures currently has 75 social enterprises built into their business model, they’re making pretty impressive headway. “A few years ago, we started working with Delhi street [youth] who were trying to learn English and repurpose their lives. Now, on day one of your tour with us, these guys are your tour leaders for the day. They go through a training program, and then take you to see Delhi through their eyes.”
Other examples include Women on Wheels, which takes women from shelters and slums to gain non-traditional livelihoods as professional chauffeurs. “They do all of our arrival transfers of our passengers in India,” Bruce said proudly. The company also recently started a cooking school in Vietnam where at-risk youth “learn English, go to cooking school and get jobs in the hotel and restaurant industries.”
G Adventures’ culture is their brand. “You want to identify with what you buy. People want to match their values with their purchases.”
Pillar #4: Freedom.
“There are so many ways to define freedom: the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to be yourself.”
Bruce gave the example of Netflix, which just released unlimited vacation to their employees. “You take as much holiday as you feel you deserve. That is complete freedom and trust of their employees. These business models are the ones that are changing the world. These business models are the ones that are going to attract and retain the best talent.”
Most importantly, Bruce also reminded us that everyone is capable of making positive changes, no matter what size your business is. “And when you do it, your people become part of your culture.”