How to keep your small business employees happy

Keeping meetings to a minimum will lead to less employee frustration.

Keeping meetings to a minimum leads to less employee frustration.

By Julie Feece

Every small business relies upon its employees to keep the business alive. Sometimes, business owners don’t realize the degree of stress this places on the men and women whom they employ — and how feeling stressed leads to less-than-optimum work performance.

On the other hand, while no one says it’s the role of businesses to make people “happy,” few will dispute the idea that a fulfilled, upbeat employee is more productive than a worried, burned-out employee — every time.

With this in mind, here are tips for keeping your employees happy and engaged on the job, which in turns leads to further growth for your business.

Involve employees in the state of your business. It’s generally a mistake to “shield” employees from what’s happening with the business. Transparency strengthens the sense that “we’re all in this together,” giving employees a sense of ownership in the company’s destiny. It’s also important to invite employee feedback in terms of offering suggestions for improving products and customer satisfaction.

Give employees new and different responsibilities. Studies demonstrate time and again how much employees value opportunities to grow in their jobs. Acquiring new knowledge and skills builds confidence and enhances their value to your business. “Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die,” says Karsten Strauss of Forbes.

Encourage communication. It’s mutually beneficial (for employer and employees) that people understand what their co-workers are doing and how all their activities fit into the bigger picture. Take a look at the physical contours of your workplace. Are there spaces where people can gather and exchange ideas? If so, are these places comfortable and inviting enough so employees from different departments can “hang” for a while and get to know each other better?

Offer benefits that enrich their lives. These days, no competitive business can go long without offering employees some types of benefits. Whether it’s an attractive dental and optical package or perhaps a gym membership, employees greatly appreciate these perks and understand that you care for their well-being, or wouldn’t be offering them.

Send fewer emails and schedule fewer meetings. Some employers can’t get enough of sending emails to staff and/or holding frequent meetings. By and large, employees view an excessive amount of either form of communications to be more time-consuming than enlightening. Look for ways to decrease the rate of emails and schedule of meetings, and focus more on providing succinct, helpful information that takes up less of their work time.

Explore flexible schedule opportunities. Speaking of time, are you joining the ranks of U.S. companies offering flexible work schedules to their employees? Never forget that each person who works for you has a life outside of the workplace, with concerns, issues and challenges of their own (and often with families to care for). Take a good look at their job duties. Can they get some or most of their jobs done at home and through a range of virtual resources? Giving them the option to work remotely means they’ll likely feel less stress about things happening in their lives and more balanced in terms of work and life obligations. Less stress equals greater happiness.

Create an incentive program that gets people excited. Incentive programs get employees excited about meeting new challenges, becoming more productive and engaging in some friendly competition. Explore different types of incentive programs and see what you can offer (either on an individual or a team basis) that encourages coming up with new, innovative approaches to business challenges. You’ll be surprised at what your gifted, thoughtful employees come up with!

When employees feel fulfilled, challenged and engaged (happy, in other words), there’s really no limit to how much they can contribute to the growth of your business.

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Author bio: Julie Feece is Vice President North America – Marketing for RPG Card Services, a sales and marketing organization specializing in offering gift card program services to nationally recognized retailers for their B2B and B2C programs. She has held leadership roles in the incentive gift card industry for over 17 years and has been with RPG for the past 10 years.

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