Ten things small business owners can do to have happy employees, Part II

In the first installment of this two-part article, we looked at five suggestions on how to have happy employees. Here, I’ll wrap up with the last five tips:

  1. Recognize their contributions and achievements. Nothing will “motivate” an employee more than being recognized for the work they do (research shows that this is even more important than higher pay in most cases!)  Genuinely thank employees when they show initiative, have a good day, or help improve something in the company.  Be very specific with your recognition; tell them exactly what they did and why you appreciate it.  This recognition can be either public or private, but you can be sure they will appreciate it more than you know.
  2. Give space to balance work and personal lives. Remember that employees are only motivated by things that are important to them.  High on the list is being able to balance their personal and professional lives.  To the extent possible, be flexible with their schedules.  Allow them to have time off for their children’s activities.  Make sure they can take time off without repercussions (especially owners and co-workers being upset about the time off).  You will find that they will work extremely hard for you to be sure their work is done so they can enjoy their personal time.
  3. Provide opportunities for growth. One of the hardest things to do in a small business is to provide opportunities for advancement.  This can make it difficult for employees to ever see themselves in a role other than the one they are in.  You can compensate for this by providing (i.e. – paying for) training such as seminars or continuing education, so they feel like their skills are staying current and that they are not becoming obsolete in the marketplace.  That does not mean that they will quit your company!  Quite the opposite, actually.  They may leave if they feel like they are falling behind and may be unemployable anywhere else.  Training and education eliminates this fear, and lessens the desire to leave.
    You can also make sure that current employees are considered for any job openings in your company they are qualified for.  These actions help your employees feel like they are growing, and that they can have a long-term future with your company.
  4. Help employees understand the stability of the organization. Many small businesses experience cash flow challenges from time to time.  During such times, it may be necessary to implement measures such as freezing salaries, restricting overtime, reducing benefits, or delaying purchases or repairs of equipment and other resources.  While these actions may be necessary, they send signals to employees that the company may be in financial trouble.  This can cause them to worry about their stability of their position.  It is important to reassure employees that the company is stable and doing OK, but revenue has declined, and you are making these moves so that you don’t get in financial trouble.  Be sure to explain the moves you are making to improve the situation so they know that they do not have to worry about their jobs.
  5. All business and no play makes your company a dull place. Human beings are social creatures.  They need social interaction to re-charge themselves and to feel connected. Be sure to incorporate some social activities into your workplace.  Celebrate employee birthdays, have employee meetings that are fun and informative (NO COMPLAINING!), recognize the birth of a child, company milestones, etc.  All of these things break up the monotonous routine of the work day, and makes the company seem, well, more human!

I can only imagine the number of people rolling their eyes as they read the tips contained here and in the previous article.  I imagine many having worries about employees running the company vs. the owner doing so, or concerns about payroll costs, and thoughts that these are fantasies that nobody can truly implement.  I understand.  I have run multiple businesses over the past 30 years, including my own for the past 13 years.  Our company has also consulted with hundreds of small business owners.  The one thing that seems universal is that if your employees are not happy, or is unable/unwilling to perform, your business will fail!  You must create the environment that allows them to achieve both their goals and yours at the same time.  As soon as either of your needs/goals are not being met, you can be sure that turnover is about to occur!

Yes, implementing these ideas takes considerable energy and is hard to do.  The alternatives are harder!

Jeff McElyeaAbout Jeff McElyea (More Posts)

Jeff is the president and lead consultant of Lucid. He is a nationally recognized business performance improvement expert with 30 years experience growing and improving businesses. He uses well-researched, established methods to identify and prove what is holding a business back. Once the challenges are identified, Jeff develops and implements specific, custom solutions to eliminate them, and gets the business moving forward again. He focuses on results that are sustainable.

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