Four Tips on Helping Employees be Happier and More Productive

The biggest asset any company has is its employees. They can also be some of the greatest sources of headache. They might come in late. They need time off. They complain. They cost money, etc. But, they also make all the difference: The employee who comes in on his day off because of a crisis. The employee who makes the customer feel welcome and happy. The employee who makes a company money by reducing waste or increasing sales. In a 2015 study by the Social Market Foundation in London and the University of Warwick’s Center for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE), it was found that the productivity of employees increased by an average of 12% when they were happy. The study also watched how external and negative happenings, such as mourning, illness and other serious family matters, affected workers. They found a direct link between an employee’s unhappiness and a decreased level of productivity. This decreased productivity lasted up to two years.
How do we keep our employees happy with so much going on, not just with work, but with each person’s life? It’s not always easy, but here are some tips on places you can start:
  1. Be flexible when possible—both sides.
  2. “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled,” said Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO and Chairwoman of Xerox. “Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” When an employer remembers that those employed by the company are people first and employees second, rather than vice versa, they begin to recognize when the person has external needs and obligations. Sometimes an employee has to go take care of a family member. They’ll need to go to the dentist or the doctor. Someone will have jury duty. Though these may be inconvenient, recognizing that they have obligations can help both you and the employee. This flexibility goes both ways. Often when you are willing to be generous the employee feels like part of the team and is willing to help when problems happen. This relationship of “you scratch my back I scratch yours” is great for both people, but only works if employers and employees trust one another.
  3. Develop a relationship of trust
  4. Care about what your employees care about and find ways to notice them. When an employee sees that things important to him or her are also important to their employer, a relationship of trust builds. Employers also stand as proxy for the company, and these feelings of endearment extend beyond the employer to the company. Some may find this embarrassing or that they need to keep their personal and work lives totally separated. We find more and more that personal life, no matter how hard we try, affects us and changes what we do. However, it’s not an employers place to become the therapists for employees or to be taken advantage of. If an employee is taking it too far, you should say something. If an employee is happy at work, they are less likely to try and find a way out of work.
  5. Little things matter.
  6. Making employees happy is a process. It most often comes by small things rather than grand gestures. It is often the frequency of rewards that is more important than the size. Smaller, more frequent positive feedback and rewards keep people happy for longer than one big infrequent happy event. It’s like Vitamin C; taking one great big dose one time is less effective than taking smaller doses on a daily basis. Small things you can do may be as simple as leaving a Thank You note for an employee who puts in a little extra effort or comes in on their day off. That gesture, as small as it may be, can change a person’s day. Just like customers, giving employees little things to be happy about is much more beneficial when it is unexpected. We pay closer attention to unexpected events. Life experiences, things you can brag about to your family, also brings about a greater happiness boost than material goods. Subtle things, like play relaxing music or have the smell of freshly baked bread in the air, unconsciously make us associate those things with a sense of peace and happiness. Casinos do something similar called “aroma marketing” to help gamblers stay and play. You can do this, too, to promote more pleasant feelings for your employees.
  7. Reward them when they do well.
  8. Reward someone for doing well, not for mediocrity. Focusing on achievements leads to a better job appreciation. If we focus only on those things which are broken or undone, we create an air of negativity. This causes stress and decreases productivity and happiness. If we focus on the good things employees have done and our gratitude for them, it becomes contagious, and employees begin to focus on the good they can do rather than the to-do lists sitting in front of them. Again, remember that little things can make the difference. You can reward them with a dinner at a nice restaurant, a spa day, or a gift card.
Find what works best for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee satisfaction. Every company is different and every employee is different. What is a perk for one company may be unaffordable for another. What is enjoyable in Montana may be loathsome in Florida. Find what is going to benefit you and your employees most. It may take trial and error, but it pays off in the end.
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