Happy employees make the world go ’round. The more your workplace culture empowers employees, the more likely your employees are to reward your business with their hard work and energy. In fact, happy employees are 13 percent more productive than their unhappier counterparts.
It may seem like we’re in an employer’s job market right now, but make no mistake: Your best employees will always have options. Give them the feeling that they’re replaceable, and they’ll call your bluff. You have to prioritize and care for the things you want to keep — and that includes your team.
Putting Employees First
Remote work accommodations and healthy amounts of PTO, while essentials for productive workforces in 2020, form only the tip of the iceberg. To build a sustainable company culture that empowers employees to take innovative risks and go home happy at the end of the day, consider this:
1. Invest in long-term well-being.
Employees can’t relax if they feel uncertain about their future. Give them peace of mind by providing them with long-term benefits like a small business 401(k), stock options, bankable (or unlimited) PTO, health savings accounts, childcare assistance, home office stipends, and other forward-thinking perks. The less they have to worry about their security, the more likely they are to bring their best selves to the office.
2. Ask for feedback on causes that matter.
Employees can get paychecks anywhere. They work at specific businesses because they enjoy the work they do and because they feel connected to the mission of the company. Deepen that connection by involving employees in the company’s charitable giving and community betterment initiatives. When employees believe their work helps make the world a nicer place, they feel more satisfied.
3. Incentivize smart risk-taking behavior.
Over the past few years, companies have made a point to claim they embrace risk for the purpose of innovation. “Fail quickly and adapt” became a rallying call for many. Unfortunately, some companies that say they embrace risk don’t actually do so. Encourage smart risk-taking at work by rewarding employees for trying good ideas before their experiments end. That way, employees don’t feel punished for trying new angles if things don’t work out.
4. Listen to new ideas on performance measurement.
Job descriptions change quickly, especially at small businesses. The benchmarks you set last year may no longer reflect the reality of your team members’ daily duties. For example, if a manager steps away to deal with a medical issue for a few weeks, the employee who steps up to manage the department may report low numbers for that period. Talk to employees during times of transition to create new benchmarks and ensure everyone feels appreciated for a job well done.
5. Facilitate one-on-one relationships.
With many people working remotely, team member connections no longer happen naturally between desks. Set up a system for agenda-free video calls to have team members who don’t normally interact with one another have some quality one-on-one time. Try having these meetings around the same time every week, like before a regular all-hands meeting, to ensure everyone feels included.
6. Ask for evaluations on your performance.
You evaluate your employees, but do they evaluate you? Set up a system to let employees grade you anonymously on your ability to listen to their concerns, respond to issues in a timely manner, and foster an inclusive environment. You may discover that people generally like you but wish you would be more decisive when they raise concerns. Once you get feedback, improve the culture by addressing the submissions publicly and making the necessary changes.
7. Help employees create new career trajectories.
Say you have a high-performing employee under a manager with no plans to change roles. You’ve already added “senior” to this person’s title, but you’re worried about losing a good worker with bigger ambitions than a fatter paycheck. Meet with individual contributors, and talk to them about how they’d like to grow within the company. You may discover that your personable salesperson would make a great community manager, for instance. Publicize these interdepartmental advancements to show others that they can control their own paths, too.
8. Build gratitude into every process.
Employees love it when the boss sees and appreciates their efforts. Use gratitude processes within workflows to create a culture that prioritizes active appreciation from ownership, managers, and colleagues. Teach managers to call out individual contributors for their efforts at the end of projects. Send handwritten thank-you notes when anyone goes above and beyond — shoot for at least one note per week. Set up a gratitude communication system, and reward the person who receives the most thank-yous, as well as the person who gives the most every month.
Employee satisfaction covers so much more than perks and bonuses. The best company cultures grow through communities of people who care about one another. Inspire your employees by investing in their lives and listening to their visions. Ask how you can help. In turn, your employees will reward you with their engagement, talent, and creativity.
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