How important are happy workers?

Senior lecturer Bernd Kleinheyer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Health at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany. He teaches and conducts research as part of Digital Transformation of Corporate Business, an EU Erasmus project. He also has an interest in the subject of return on prevention and the question of how employees can be prepared for and happy to accept change.

„Keeping workers happy and healthy helps to sustainably maintain a successful business.”


Many businesses today have armed themselves with brand new appliances and a wealth of digital technology, but this is no guarantee for success. What’s missing from the equation?

When a business introduces new processes, workflows or appliances, the biggest challenge is to maintain communication with workers. The company must win them over to this new way of thinking, because they are the ones who have to deal with the new work processes or machines on a daily basis. The problem is not the technology itself. The biggest challenge is to persuade workers to adopt new processes and workflows. It’s the communication and therefore the transfer of ideas from management to employees. However, these new things can’t be introduced without working on the dynamics, team-building and hierarchies within the company at the same time. This is often a painful process and cannot be achieved overnight. So you have to come up with a way of starting on the right footing and winning over your employees to your way of thinking.

So what’s the best way to communicate with your workers?

The important thing is to make sure communication is not meaningless. It must be clearly and credibly communicated to employees that innovations will not fundamentally change their way of working, but that, for example, the new appliances and workflows will make their routine activities easier and will allow them to share the advantages they will bring. The company must therefore be willing to redesign something in such a way that the employees move along with it. So you will have to communicate exactly what you need to happen. The term “holistic” is an important one here. It must be made easy for employees to adapt to the new processes and incentives must be created, but employees must also be given the freedom to make mistakes. There are also things like sensible health and safety management to consider. If you link all this together, then the message you’re sending the employees of your retirement home’s new inhouse laundry facility is: “We are incentivizing change and trying to create a working environment that is attractive to you and guarantees the most important thing: the care of our residents.”


You are heavily involved in the subject of return on prevention. What does this mean exactly?

For me, prevention means first and foremost preventive care for employees – on the long term. This leads to happy employees being much more motivated to help achieve their company’s objectives. This then has a sustainable impact on the success of the business. The satisfaction of employees increases if they are looked after and cared for holistically, which has an immediate impact on the overall work environment. Although I’m not familiar with

all the details of nursing care for the elderly, this means that the wellbeing of employees is crucial for the well-being of the retirement home residents. Sustainability must therefore be reflected at all levels of the organisation – even in areas where new appliances are used on a daily basis, such as in-house laundry facilities.

When the workers are happy, are the residents happy too?

Yes, of course! In fact, it’s absolutely necessary. The wellbeing of employees, who perform their duties day in and day out, is crucial for ensuring the wellbeing of residents. If they are frequently chided, harangued over being five minutes late, or if there are rigid hierarchical structures, the mood will be brought down and it will also have an effect on the residents.

So how do I keep my employees happy? By paying them more?

That’s definitely one option! But it’s not just the pay that matters. Equally important for the employees are their health, the social atmosphere in the company and the sharing of responsibility. In short, you must have a high degree of respect and appreciation for their work. That really is key. //

This article is part of our magazine "PROconcept". You are welcome to download it. You can find this article on page 16-17.

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