How to create and maintain a happy and engaged workplace remains one of the biggest challenges for companies nationwide. Gallup’s 2012 State of the American Workplace found that about 70 percent of Americans are not emotionally invested in their current job. Why is this the case? A multitude of factors contribute to this lack of engagement, including but not limited to: a lack of communication between employees and upper management, a core mission that fails to inspire a sense of meaning and an imbalance of talents within your team.
If your employees are dissatisfied with their roles and your company’s culture, there are concrete ways you can boost their morale and make for better productivity. Consider the (by no means comprehensive) list of essential principles of fostering employee satisfaction below:
Give your employees a sense of purpose
According to Mashable, today’s employees — and particularly Millennials — seek work that enables them to contribute to a worthwhile mission. Moon Kim, a V.P. at the company M Booth, advises company leaders to “[h]ave a purpose that’s bigger than [their] company,” and to find both direct and indirect ways to “make a difference in the world.”
Even if your company doesn’t have a thoroughly altruistic core mission, it can find alternate ways of contributing to the larger community. For example, marketing company Privy teaches small businesses important Web skills, while school supplies company Chalkfly contributes part of its profits to teachers.
Helping employees feel that their work is meaningful can be as simple as informing them about the lives they benefit through their work. For example, Entrepreneur explains how the company Snagajob.com motivates its employees with regular stories about the people who have successfully found jobs through the company’s service.
Give and solicit feedback, then act on it
One essential component of employees’ morale is the belief that upper management is listening to them and responding to their needs. Gallup Business Journal emphasizes the importance of surveying employees periodically, asking for feedback that is relevant to their happiness and actually acting upon the information received. Additionally, Gallup notes, “When a company asks its employees for their opinions, those employees expect action to follow.” To truly show employees that their voices matter, make sure to address at least some of their primary concerns on a regular basis.
The need for feedback goes in the opposite direction as well. In other words, employees want and need to receive regular input from their managers. Mashable cites the opinion of Maynard Webb, who wrote the book “Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship:” “When it comes to retaining talent, one tactic I’ve found crucial is implementing informal weekly and formal quarterly check-ins.” Maynard believes that waiting until yearly reviews to give feedback creates a communication divide between employees and managers that hinders productivity and employee morale.
Remember how much easier it was to work on projects back in high school when you actually liked the people on your team? Well, the same phenomenon occurs on a daily basis in the workplace. If people in the same office don’t know or like each other all that much, productivity and morale will not be optimized. As a result, activities and strategies that build authentic bonds between colleagues will not only boost workplace happiness, but also lead to a better bottom line.
How can one build such camaraderie among employees? An occasional bar or bowling night is nice, but cannot develop truly long-term, productive relationships between colleagues. Instead, focus on having employees learn and grow together. For example, try offering free classes on your company’s campus so that people can congregate around common interests and knowledge. Another way to boost positive employee interaction is to build well-balanced teams that have a variety of strengths and personalities — careful creation of such teams can help employees support and learn from each other, and subsequently build trusting work relationships.
Train managers well
This one seems like a given, but a surprisingly large number of companies do not adequately train their managers to bring out the best in the employees they supervise. Teaching managers how to communicate effectively, show empathy and build employees’ skills while still contributing to company revenue can make a huge difference in the success of a company.
Additionally, Gallup suggests that companies should change their overall philosophy about management roles: “Instead of using management jobs as promotional prizes for all career paths, companies […] should select managers based on whether they have the right talents for supporting, positioning, empowering and engaging their staff.” Emphasizing the relationship-building and employee mentorship aspects of management can ensure that your employees receive the guidance and encouragement that they need to optimally contribute to your company.
Effectively training managers also means holding them accountable through routine check-ins, notes Gallup. Company leaders should set up a system for managers to show how they have built and maintained employees’ skills and engagement.
Sprinkle in some fun and a few perks
While job perks are certainly not a core requirement of employee satisfaction and engagement, they do help, especially when they show the company’s concern for its employees’ well-being. Mashable notes that the companies with wellness programs tend to have much higher employee retention rates. Showing your employees that you care about their health through a subsidized gym membership or free healthy lunches every week could increase their loyalty to your company, and lead ultimately to a better bottom line.
Periodic fun in the workplace is also a morale booster — though it can’t replace the impact that a meaningful core mission and sound employee communication can have. Scheduling outings at the end of a quarter or hosting fun competitions between departments can boost employee bonding and happiness.
As the above suggestions indicate, fostering employee happiness and loyalty requires a multi-pronged approach that involves developing a strong company mission, showing employees how they positively impact their community through their work, and optimizing the relationship between managers and their direct reports. While difficult to attain, employee happiness and engagement are well worth the investment.