10 secrets to keeping employees happy and productive

It’s a well-known fact: happy employees are more engaged employees. They make better leaders. They’re better at working in teams. They’re more creative, strategic and innovative. They’re absent less often. They’re more adaptable and eager to take on new challenges.

The benefits are seemingly endless, for both employees and employers. It’s the very definition of a win-win. So what can you do, as an employer, to make employee happiness a priority? Luckily, quite a lot!

secrets to happy engaged employees

1. build a strong leadership team

Teams that respect (and feel respected by) their leaders are more likely to be happy and fulfilled at work. Research shows that employees tend to quit managers, not companies. Almost one-third of employees cite disliking their boss as their reason for quitting a job. Other reasons employees left their jobs included lack of empowerment, office politics and lack of recognition.

2. recognize contributions

Take a moment to pause and celebrate big wins. Celebrating contributions is an important part of showing employees their work is valued. Employees with a strong sense of their worth are more likely to be present, engaged, and productive members of the team. It can be as simple as pulling employees aside to say thank you or congratulate them on successes.

3. promote a healthy office culture

Create a positive work environment that isn’t all about the work. Though business success should be a priority, it shouldn’t come at the expense of employees’ health or happiness. An open work environment where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions will lead to a stronger team. Encourage team building with employee events, celebrations, and meetings. Work-life balance should also be a consideration. Productive employees need downtime where they can disengage from work and recharge their batteries.

5. don’t keep score

Keeping track of every perceived error in judgment creates the wrong kind of work atmosphere. When mistakes happen, correct them and move on. Keeping track of every slight is a surefire way to build a hostile environment, where employees feel like they have their back against a wall. It can create a culture where employees hide mistakes or obstacles for fear of retribution. Mistakes are going to happen – make sure employees feel they can be open about them.

6. set clear goals

Knowing what they’re setting out to achieve gives employees something to work toward. And perhaps more importantly, setting goals provides a benchmark for success. A common thread among happy employees is that they feel rewarded and recognized for their work. Creating clear, achievable goals sets expectations and allows employees a roadmap to achieve success. Just remember to check in regularly and ensure the goals that have been set are realistic, and there’s a plan in place to achieve them.

7. create ownership

Treat everyone on your team like the adults they are. No one needs to have their hand held. You hired them because they’re the expert in what they do, and bring value to the team. Employees that feel they have autonomy to drive the direction of their career and the projects they work on are more likely to feel happy and fulfilled. They’re also more likely to take pride in their work because it represents them and their vision for their career.

8. check in frequently

The best managers have open lines of communication with their reports. Employees should always feel like they can reach out to voice concerns, ask questions or simply discuss their work. Have regular check-ins between managers and employees, as well as teams that frequently collaborate. Everyone should be able to freely offer constructive feedback and guidance. Remember constructive feedback doesn’t always have to be positive, but it does have to be productive. If there are areas that need to improve, always provide a pathway to success.  

9. allow growth

We don’t just mean pay growth, either. Companies with a robust training program that allows for career progression have a head start when it comes to keeping star performing employees engaged and happy. Allow employees to take on new challenges and new roles when appropriate. Few employees enjoy repeating the same tasks over and over. If an employee demonstrates an interest in exploring new skills or responsibilities, allow them to take on new challenges. Variety is the spice of life, and that principle certainly applies to work.

10. pay matters less than you think

Increasing their pay is often the default option when employers think about what they can do to keep employees happy. However, research shows that when it comes to job satisfaction, salary actually plays a fairly limited role. Salary and benefits are most important when employees are looking for a new job. However, once they’re settled into a job, things like workplace flexibility, work culture, opportunities to progress their career, and whether they like working with their boss and coworkers are more important in determining how content they are at work. As long as their salary remains competitive with market values, employees tend to give more weight the working atmosphere and people.

At the end of the day, there’s really no magic recipe to keeping your best employees engaged, happy and productive. It’s all about being respectful of their needs and keeping open lines of communication. The best way thing you can do is ask employees what they need from you and do your best to give them the tools they need to do their best work.

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