7 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy

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7 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy
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7 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy

Did you hear what Spanx founder Sara Blakely gave her employees after the company signed a big partnership deal? Every employee received a ticket for two to anywhere in the word…and $10,000 to spend while they were there!

Wowzers! THAT sure gave her employees something to be happy about.

But that’s easy enough for her, you might say. When you have over a billion dollars, you can throw $10,000 around like it’s a $5 bill.

But what about the rest of us? How do you keep good employees happy and productive when you don’t have the kind of cash to wow them with extravagant perks?

The good news is there are plenty of ways. Let’s look into seven ideas for keeping employee satisfaction high. But first, let’s look at the benefits of having a happy team in the first place.

The Benefits of Happy Employees

The Benefits of Happy Employees

The labor shortage is a real problem within many industries today. When employees have a boss who pays them a low wage and treats them like a number, they’re sure to take an exit ramp as soon as they encounter one. And a company pays huge consequences when the team doesn’t want to stick around.

Yet, a pattern of chronic turnover is really a symptom of a much deeper problem. It’s like identifying a weak floorboard and then pulling it up to discover a floor full of termites.

A company culture is at the foundation of employee satisfaction. When it’s healthy and strong, it’s easy to recruit employees, and they stick around. But if it’s unhealthy and toxic, things start to fall apart.

As former CEO of IBM Louis Gerstner wrote in his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game. It is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

What is culture exactly? It refers to many facets of a company, collectively: its systems, processes, employees, leaders, and an ethos that connects them all. Three of the central components that shape employee happiness include opportunity, appreciation and well-bring.

Opportunity means providing employees with the means to develop skills, continue with their education, and be a part of a broader mission or movement. Appreciation means acknowledging all of their hard work, routinely. Well-being is looking out for the physical and psychological health of employees, as well as fostering work-life balance.

When a company builds a solid foundation for its employees, and executes on a strategy to create an employee-centered culture, it only stands to gain. Let’s look at four key benefits to building a thriving culture of happy employees.

1. It Builds a Central Asset

Every leader knows that the skills and work power of its employees are the fuel that allow a business to scale and succeed.

In a real way, having a powerhouse team is at the crux of an organization’s success: far more than any material asset it may acquire along the way. The employees ARE the business, that is to say.

There’s no better way to serve the business’ bottom line than to build a culture that prioritizes employee well-being.

Builds Your Reputation

2. It Builds Your Reputation

Believe it or not, when your employees leave the office, they freely gush about what it’s like to work for you. Word quickly gets around about the work culture and practices at your organization. If they like the job, then these reflections generally are positive.

This not only translates into dedicated employees, but it also means they’re more likely to refer your company to friends and professional acquaintances. Over time, building this solid reputation means that you’re more likely to recruit the best and the brightest to come work for you.

3. It Pays Dividends

Have you ever sent someone a birthday card simply because they’d sent you one, and you felt a need to return the favor?

In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini writes at length about one of the strongest forces in human behavior, reciprocity. It’s the idea that we feel innately obligated to return favors to one another. This age old social contract spans across all cultures and applies not only to personal relationships but working relationships as well.

When you’ve gone out of your way to create a great environment for your employees to work in, including respecting their life outside of work, supporting them in their professional path, and showing appreciation for everything they do for you, they’ll feel an innate responsibility to return the favor.

They’ll feel compelled—even obligated—to perform above and beyond their best. And even when circumstances demand that you part ways, the employee may turn into a boomerang employee, or at least will spread a positive word about you.

4. It Builds a Strong Productive Team

Have you ever struggled with a situation where you had a highly skilled employee who was a horrible team player and he caused all sorts of strife within the team? This scenario could spell disaster in the long run. The productivity of a team depends as much, or even more, on the coordination within the team as on the skill sets of individual members.

When a company builds a strong employee-centered culture, where psychological safety is a priority, then a team is more likely to have strong rapport. Ultimately, this creates a team that consistently produces top-notch work for the clients and customers.

In sum, having a strong culture and happy employees go hand in hand. And more than anything else, happy employees drive revenue and profits in a company. Now, let’s look at some ideas for keeping employees happy.

Ideas to Keep Employees Happy

Seven Ideas to Keep Employees Happy

Let’s face it, most jobs are a real slog at times. Whether it’s dealing with difficult clients, writing tricky code, or multitasking with a long project, simply getting the job done has many of us tuckered out by the end of the day.

This is why it’s so critical to create an environment that’s about engagement, mutuality, and getting the pom poms out to encourage and empower employees.

Here are seven suggestions for keeping employees happy and productive.

1. Explain the “Why”

Employees are far more likely to be committed to job duties when they feel connected to its overall objectives.

While a boss may have perfect clarity as to the significance of, say, a company marketing goal, it’s not unlikely that a support services employee is simultaneously wondering, “What is the point of calling, then emailing, and then emailing again all of our past customers to pitch a new product?”

By creating a culture of transparency, a company let’s all the employees “in” on the strategic objectives. Seeing behind the curtain, and offering their own two cents as well, gives employees pride and a sense of ownership as they go about their daily tasks.

2. Provide Opportunities for Outreach

Of course everyone wants to do work that is meaningful, but this is especially true of the younger workforce. Both Millennials and Generation Z want to find work that connects them to a meaning and purpose outside of simply earning a living.

Seeking ways to connect the company to the wider community is one way to boost these employee’s satisfaction with their position. Depending on the organization’s core values, this might be volunteer work within the community or pro-bono work.

3. Get to Know Employees

As much as they might enjoy working for you, employees are loyal to themselves first. They have practical and personal needs that they’re looking to fulfill in their professional lives.

Take some time to understand these desires. Find opportunities to sit down with them and get to know what makes them tick. Take some time here, as much as two or three hours if you can spare it! Understand where they’ve come from in their career, who their mentors are, and ask candid questions about where they are headed and what you can do to get them there.

This knowledge is so valuable in identifying what kind of projects to assign someone to, and where to direct an employee’s career during his or her time with you. When employees understand that you’re about empowering and crafting their success, they’ll feel personally satisfied about the time they invest in you.

4. Onboard and Offboard With Grace

Every relationship is defined by “critical moments.” These include things like introductions, first arguments, and departures. These moments define the nature of a relationship and how it progresses.

Seizing on these critical moments is key to an employee’s satisfaction. It lets them know they’re seen and understood, and builds the foundation for strong workplace relationships.

For example, when an employee is just hired, assuage her concerns. Let her know that you see her as an individual, believe she has something valuable to contribute, and are glad to have her on board. Have a thorough process in place that checks all the boxes. This includes providing her with all necessary equipment, training her in any new job skills and having her meet with a mentor to answer questions.

And off boarding is a critical step, too. It’s important to consider the relationship that you have with employees even after they leave the company. Keeping the relationship intact is mutually beneficial. A thorough system that seeks to maintain contact let’s everyone stay on good terms.

Strong Professional Relationship

5. Build a Strong Professional Relationship

We spend more time at work than we do with our families and friends, as we know all too well. And it turns out that many employees are actually pretty lonely at work. Water cooler banter apparently isn’t sufficient for creating camaraderie in the workplace.

And a lonely employee certainly isn’t terrifically happy!

Employee-centered business cultures have systems in place that allow coworkers to simply get to know one another.

One way to do this is with regular skip level meetings. These meetings create a flat-organization dynamic, and allows employees to air concerns and communicate issues with upper management. This practice builds trust across all levels of the organization.

Another way is to simply have routines for employees to spend social time together. One example is weekly one-on-one lunches, with the intention to just talk without any agenda. Having an opportunity to share their story and their lives with one another gives employees a sense of place within the organization. And as an added perk, when employees get to know and like each other, daily work performance improves.

6. Develop the Position

Have you ever contributed to a project and felt like your efforts went unacknowledged, or were taken for granted? It makes you feel like a cog in a wheel and is a sure recipe for an unhappy employee.

A healthy work culture gives employees autonomy over their work. It’s not about command and control or filling out a gantt chart then telling them to go complete the assignment.

Rather, seeking ways to increase the employee’s responsibilities as they grow into the job makes them feel like a contributing member of the team. Having systems in place to steadily grow a position allows for continual learning, which keeps employees stimulated and energized about their role.

7. Duplicate the Magic

After you’ve been at it for a while, it’s possible to look for patterns in hiring practices, and employee satisfaction. Sit down with leadership and HR to evaluate the processes. What systems worked best for recruiting and retaining employees? What not so well?

Seek feedback from employees and former employees too. What do they most like about working for you?

When you identify things that go well and other things that don’t, it’s easier to put a system for success in place that keeps employees happy.

Happy Employees


Having happy employees isn’t just one facet of a business: it’s the cornerstone of success. Company culture is key to fostering employee satisfaction.

Finding ways to show appreciation, fostering work-life balance, and providing opportunities for growth are all central aspects to creating a positive company culture. A great culture allows you to recruit and retain a talented team, and it builds a solid reputation for your organization.

In part, keeping employees happy has to do with understanding their professional goals and forging a path to get them there.

You may not have a billion dollars, but having a happy team is well within your reach! What do you say?

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