How to Make Employees Happy

With companies like Google providing employees with sleeping pods and the Campbell Soup Company housing on-site kindergartens, start-ups may get mixed messages about what engages employees and encourages their satisfaction and happiness. While climbing walls and pet insurance may get people talking, determining how to entice the best workers and keep them is much more important. To cultivate a productive and content workforce, providing basic respect, recognition and engagement can do far more than on-site bowling alleys and stocked snack fridges.

Recognize Problems and Keep Promises

The book “Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy” relates the story of Paul O’Neil, CEO of Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of aluminum. When he took over the position in 1987, he announced to shareholders and employees that worker safety would be the sole priority of the business. He had come to understand that his employees were truly worried about their working conditions and threw his full support towards creating a safe work environment. During his 13 year reign as CEO, work safety incidents dropped significantly while worker productivity increased by leaps and bounds. By the time O’Neil resigned, the company’s annual income had increased 500%.

Because he was able to identify the major issue his workforce grappled with and provide a solution, O’Neil engaged employees and turned them into loyal friends of the company. An announcement of making safety a priority would have appeased the board members, but following through with actual steps to achieve worker safety gained the loyalty of his employees. Employee productivity and happiness is contingent on treating them fairly and producing real results on employee concerns.

Reward and Recognize

After a record setting year in 2011, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent the following email to his employees:

“In recognition of the hard work you’ve put in this year, we’re going to take some extra time off for Thanksgiving. We will shut down with pay on November 21, 22 and 23 so our teams can spend the entire week with their families and friends.”

Though he could have eked out more work over the holiday, Cook saw the benefits of employee recognition. Employee recognition doesn’t need to be as extravagant as a week off or even in the form of a pricey bonus;  85% of employees in a survey stated they would be satisfied with a bonus of $100 or less. More motivating to employers, 65% of satisfied employees stated that they would be more productive in their current position if they received more recognition. Basic recognition can increase productivity and increase employee job satisfaction.

It’s All About Engagement

Gallup research revealed that 70% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at their current job. These workers cost employers around $500 billion a year in lost productivity, and it’s not entirely the employee’s fault. Layoffs and decreased benefits coupled with poor employer-employee relationships make many employees feel unappreciated.

Focus on engaging employees individually to retain productivity. Managers should be discussing with employees what their goals and interests are within the company. Some employees may benefit from expanding job responsibilities, while others want to climb the corporate ladder. Engaging employees on what actions the company can take to keep them happy is the basis of employee engagement.

When nearly 90% of employees are willing to switch jobs, it’s important for employers to retain the best and the brightest. While benefits are nice, fulfilling the goals and ambitions of your employees is a more cost-effective way of making and keeping employees happy.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.