Keeping employees happy has to be one of the most misunderstood elements of running a business. Every business owner thinks they know how to do it, and most have employees who wish they found themselves anywhere but at work. Of course, it’s a given that most of us would prefer to be sipping a cocktail in a hammock somewhere instead of sifting through work emails.
That doesn’t mean that work has to be miserable or consistently difficult to get through, which responsibility falls on the owners of a business. You can make it either acceptable (and even enjoyable) for your employees to work at your company, or you can make it a place where everyone hates to be.
Though it’s not all that complicated to create a satisfying work environment, it can be tough to know what moves you need to make so that the people working on your team are happy with their jobs and productive.
We’re going to suggest a few strategies that you can easily deploy as a business owner & turn your struggling team into a high-functioning workforce who are dead-set on achieving the goals you set and also happy to do it.
Feeling Part of a Team
Work is important to all of us. Whatever job we work at, owner or employee, we want to feel like it matters and that we’re an important member of a team. It’s fundamental. From the highest executives, down to the lowest level of a company, every person has a deep desire to feel included in the group because this is how we’re wired.
Back when we were fighting each other with sticks and rocks, hunting our food, and living in caves to keep warm, we were lost if we couldn’t be part of a tribe that protected & reinforced us.
It’s a very deep need, and if you are able to create a “tribe” at your company, where every member of the company watches out for each other, then you’re going to have a group of people who are happy to work there and do their best work. Because they feel connected with one another and to you, the leader.
Everyone Plays Their Own Part
There’s another part of this tribal mentality that is very important, too, which is allowing every member of the group to have their own specific role in the company that makes them feel needed. This doesn’t mean you need to make every single person feel special and unique, as if they were children—that’s not your responsibility.
What it means is that you need to trust every employee on your team to do the job that you hired them to do, to handle whatever tasks or projects for which they are responsible. Naturally, that precludes micromanaging people, but micromanaging employees is usually a toxic policy, anyway.
This starts with hiring the right people for every position. Then, once you know you have good people assigned to each position, you simply trust them to accomplish what you hired them to do. This is immensely encouraging to people.
When you show your employees that you have faith in them to complete what you’ve asked them to complete, it inspires in them a great deal of respect for you. People tend to be a lot more productive when they know they are being trusted to get something done—at least, with the right kind of people.
Your Employees Are Human Beings
When you find that you charge an employee with a task and they don’t seem to care very much about meeting that responsibility, then you will obviously have an issue to address with them. However, most people appreciate being treated with respect and will return that respect by completing what they’re responsible for.
The last thing you want to do is to make an employee feel like just a number. Whether we play a small part or a large part, we are all a part of the mechanism that makes a business work. Even though we know that, you have to remember that these people who work for you are human beings with their own lives, struggles, and ambitions.
It is extremely stressful to be an employee of a company that treats them like a drone with no humanity. Ultimately, we are all replaceable, but if someone feels as if they don’t really matter at all, they’re not going to be very productive.
Establish Clear, Strong Leadership
There are a few things that make employees uncomfortable about the leadership of the company for which they work. This is key because when your team doesn’t sense a strong foundational structure of leadership in the company, it can produce dissention and generally low morale. Generally, any feeling of chaos in the leadership structure can give employees a sense that it’s a bit out of control, and that can make them anxious.
The first problem many businesses fall victim to are absentee bosses. This can have a really negative effect because if employees never see the owner (or owners) of the business—or at least hear from them—then it makes people feel like the owner isn’t really invested in their well-being, which is another thing that can make employees nervous.
Your Employees Want to See You
You can’t be around 24/7, understandably. Just make it a point to show up at least once, most days, as your schedule and other circumstances allow. AND if you & your team are remote either due to Covid-19 or you always have been remote, they are always virtual ways to ‘check in’ and say ‘Hi!‘.
It can’t be overstated how much confidence it gives employees when the owner comes around, even just to show their face. There’s something about the presence of leadership figures who clearly convey their investment in the team that has a way of motivating everybody, just by being there.
If you are in fact managing a mostly remote team, sending an email-based memo or engaging through an online messaging platform every now and then gives everybody the impression that you’re there and makes your team feel more secure in knowing that someone is driving the bus.
Who’s Driving the Business Bus?
Something else that causes problems in the leadership structure is when it’s not clear who the leader is. Sometimes, there can be people who are lower on the totem pole who are handling daily operations & calling the shots. Then the real owner comes in and gives orders that conflict with the lower manager, which causes some conflict.
There can be those occurrences when a manager goes rogue and starts trying to usurp the authority of the owners, but that’s usually not what happens. It’s usually not the manager’s or supervisor’s fault.
When this occurs, it’s most likely one of the team leaders who is actually doing his or her job and guiding the team in reaction to a deficit of leadership from the owner or owners. That’s not to say that you, as the owner, have to be giving directives every day. But if your managers don’t know what they’re supposed to be communicating to employees, they might feel like it’s their responsibility to take control and keep things running.
This is a perfect example of a primary reason why you need to have open lines of communication with your team. Owners need to have a real presence in the company and make it clear to their team what their directives are, so there’s no conflict in leadership. Even if you have a partnership, or multiple owners, those people should be actively involved in the directing of employees, at least periodically.
Incentives for Meeting Small & Big Goals
From the point-of-view of a business owner, you just figure that you are paying your employees to do a job, so they shouldn’t need any extra incentive beyond the money they’re being paid, to do what they’re hired to do. Though that’s true, of course, it usually only motivates employees to do the bare minimum to keep their jobs.
When you offer incentives to employees for meeting specific goals or to exceed expectations, even small incentives like 1 or 2 paid vacation days, that gives them a much greater motivation to keep working hard while keeping their morale high, as well.
Depending on what the goals are that they need to reach, you can decide what’s appropriate for it.
Smaller goals might earn them something like dinner at a restaurant, a gift card, a “featured teammate” segment for them on your company website, or anything else you can think of that will be valuable to your employees. For meeting larger and more significant goals, the rewards would obviously go up, too. Incentives can be really effective to motivate your team.
Show Employees the Path to Promotion
In addition to separate incentives, employees need to know their clear trajectory for achieving a promotion. Remember what it felt like to work for a company doing the same job, day in and day out, with no end in sight and no indication that you would be able to advance in any way?
It’s a pretty awful way to work, and though there are still plenty of companies out there who operate that way, you don’t have to be one of them. Knowing what you’re shooting for at the job where you work is a healthy motivator to keep you working as hard as you can to get to that point that you’re working towards.
You can be a company where everyone who works there is not just performing the same tasks with no chance of moving up. But where everyone on your team is challenging themselves to get to that next level which is promised for them if they do well. It’s a smart management strategy to show employees exactly what they need to do to reach the next promotion because they will work hard to reach that goal.
This is so often overlooked by owners, and it is such a small thing that can have an enormously positive effect on employees. Humans are pretty simple creatures. When we perform a task & confirm that it’s being effective, we will continue to be effective at whatever that work is that we’re doing. Moreover, when we know that it’s appreciated by other people and that they value us for it, that reinforces our drive to do that work even more, and we’ll strive to do it even better.
If someone in leadership at a company simply tells an employee that they’re doing a good job every once in a while (not recommended if they’re not doing a good job), then that employee will feel significantly more valued at the company and will want to work harder for you.
It’s More Effective than You Think
Some business owners can have the perspective that if you were hired for a job, then you need to just do that job & shouldn’t need a pat on the back to do it. That’s true, but it’s a calloused way of treating employees. They will have much more respect and trust in you if you offer positive reinforcement from time to time.
Positive reinforcement is highly underrated. Employees should absolutely be able to effectively perform at their position without being given compliments. But the truth is that we are all more effective & productive when we know that our work is appreciated and our skills are recognized at our jobs!
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.