How to Keep Your Employees Happy

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Staff Standing In Modern Office

To run a successful business, it is of the utmost importance to keep your employees happy.  If employees ask themselves, “Am I making a measurable and positive impact with my work?” and “Am I having fun with my job?” the answer to both should be “Yes.”  A happy employee is productive and, more importantly, is motivated to continuously succeed in meeting his or her goals and fulfilling his or her responsibilities.  This motivation generates feelings of loyalty, satisfaction, and enthusiasm.

Scientific research demonstrates that employees generally fall into two groups: those who are intrinsically motivated, and those who are extrinsically motivated. Extrinsically motivated employees recognize things outside of themselves—such as money, benefits, and working conditions—as incentives.  Employees that are intrinsically stimulated are often called “self-motivated.” What pleases them the most is the mastery of their job, a sense of purpose, a certain amount of autonomy within their job and the company, and a strong desire to successfully complete their work.  Most businesses benefit from having both types of employees, and it essential to identify both types in order to keep them happy, productive, and satisfied with their work.

Money Isn’t Always The Answer

Study your compensation structure. Don’t make work an “if…then” proposition. More compensation is usually not effective in keeping employees happy, and no matter how great the pay raise is, more money simply does not encourage employees to perform better.

If an employee is dissatisfied with his or her pay, it is because he feels it is not commensurate with his efforts.  However, in increasing his or her pay, you don’t provide him with job satisfaction.  Job satisfaction is a function of the job—if you want to make an employee happy, you need to change the nature of the work.  Align good employees with what they like to do, what they are good at, and what needs doing. If an employee is satisfied with his tasks and responsibilities, compensation takes care of itself.

Rewards programs have proven a very effective answer to the pay raise problem.  To ensure that they build an atmosphere of helpfulness, appreciation, and high energy, keep rewards programs simple and direct.  Instead of providing cash incentives, you can substitute extra breaks, movie tickets, time off, t-shirts, and other small gifts.  Enhance the sense of contentment that comes with job security by providing great insurance policies, vacations, and retirement plans.

Praise, Don’t Criticize

Everyone likes to be praised, and it is one of the easiest rewards to give to the hard-working employees who really deserve it.  Demanding perfection is demoralizing.  Instead, praise every improvement you see your employees make.  Acknowledge excellent work every time it appears.  Give recognition and small rewards to employees for what they have accomplished.  By doing this, you make sure there is a good balance between recognizing both current performance and improvements.

When an employee makes a mistake, instead of criticizing, try an indirect approach.  Ask, “Was that the best way to approach that task?,” “Why not?,” “What do you think you could have done differently?” That way, you begin a conversation in which you can talk through solutions, not point a finger. Traditional performance appraisals can be dangerous and detrimental to performance.  Replacing appraisals with frequent performance discussions and coaching is often seen as a better approach.   In this case, employees are much more likely improve, learn from their mistakes, and fix them. This will lead to a happier and more calm workplace.

In Good Times and In Bad

Maintaining proper communication throughout the company and performing relationship-building activities as a group can go a long way.  Organize events throughout the year to remind your staff that you’re all in it together. Occasionally break up the normal routine of the day, energizing your team with a little fun.  When the company does well, celebrate, and let everyone know you’re thankful for their hard work.  If there are disappointments, share those with your employees, too.   They deserve to know where the company stands. Turnover rates are lowest in companies where everyone is kept informed about the direction the company is taking, and why.

Acknowledge Progress

Break down jobs and big projects into milestone sections, and reward and recognize every goal as it is achieved.  Employees like to feel that their extra work or renewed efforts are being noticed, and their improved performance makes a difference.  Happy employees gladly accept challenges and opportunities to learn and grow.  The chance to really accomplish something makes for great motivation and task execution.  Peer recognition is also a powerful motivator and makes employees feel good, further enhancing their performance.  Peer recognition gives employees the power to reward each other for doing a good job.  After all, managers can’t be everywhere all the time, whereas employees are in the best position to witness day-to-day progress in each other.

Respect and Appreciation

Respect and appreciation are essential in every solid relationship. By showing your appreciation for your employees, you allow them to celebrate success, have fun, and feel good about the work they do and for whom they work.  Employees want to go the extra mile when they feel they are an important part of the company—when they feel that what they do really does matter. Tied into this should be a sense of freedom and autonomy for every employee in his or her particular job.  An employee will be happier and more motivated if he or she feels that, rather than being totally restricted by operating procedures, he or she has some say in how the job is done.

You can also show your employees respect by providing them with a healthy, safe, and attractive work environment.  A work environment that attracts, keeps, and motivates its workforce is one that gives employees a sense of pride, accomplishment, and purpose in what they do.