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How to keep your employees happy (it’s not about the cash)

How to keep your employees happy (it’s not about the cash)

Managers recognize that a primary part of their job is to keep their employees productive. But what about keeping them happy?
When jobs are scarce, people will put up with a lot to keep their jobs. But as the economy recovers and opportunities begin to emerge, those who are not happy will be ready to make a move. If you have productive people whom you want to keep producing, then keeping them happy is part of your job.
It’s been said that people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses. According to HR consultant Right Management, a survey of 1,308 people who left their jobs found that they did so because of the following reasons (numbers total more than 100 percent because some respondents gave more than one reason):
• Downsizing or restructuring (54 percent);
• Sought new challenges or opportunities (30 percent);
• Ineffective leadership (25 percent);
• Poor relationship with manager (22 percent);
• To improve work/life balance (21 percent);
• Contributions to the company were not valued (21 percent);
• Better compensation and benefits (18 percent).
Of all voluntary job departures, nearly half are the result of poor management. This is confirmed by research from CareerBuilder that reveals that nearly one in three workers is unhappy with his or her boss — a relationship that leaves he or she feeling unvalued, frustrated and disillusioned.
Granted market conditions right now are such that most of the unemployment is involuntary. Research tells us that stress, anxiety and pessimism at work is at an all-time high. Anxiety can lead to a decline in productivity and concentration at a time when businesses need it the most.
You might be keeping employees now, in part, because they’re afraid to leave in adverse economic conditions, but that won’t always be the case. Protect yourself so when conditions improve, you have a motivated staff ready and excited about growing the business. When business begins to improve and other more lucrative positions become available, you might be left understaffed. Finding simple and cost-effective ways to care for your employees is like preventive medicine for your business — a corporate vitamin if you will.
A good place to start is by being sensitive to your employees’ need for feedback. Let them know how they’re doing and what they can improve upon. Offer feedback to let them know that their contributions are not being ignored. Schedule regular performance evaluations, and base your information on more than just the numbers. Granted, increasing sales is a clear sign of success, but so is making sure they’re growing personally, doing the right things and not developing an out-of-balance lifestyle. Often they’re struggling, and you need to let them know that you appreciate their effort.
It is possible to take a highly trained and motivated staff and demotivate them to the point of no return. Remember never to take excellent performance for granted. Don’t overlook the recognition that is due to someone who is a top performer. A handshake often means as much to them as the money. Make your executive team as visible as possible. Start a regular practice of MBWA, Management By Walking Around. Get out of your office, and interact with your team, catch them doing things right, learn about them personally, and make sure they know that you notice. Spend time asking questions and then hearing the responses. Address their concerns as openly and honestly as possible. If it’s possible and appropriate to do so, find a way to make the changes that will keep them motivated.
Keeping employees happy also doesn’t require large outlays of cash. Lavish retreats and large bonuses might, at times, be appropriate, but it’s not about what you spend. For example, corporate outings are more important now than ever, though a downsized approach is possible. Giving employees an outlet for having fun or blowing off steam might do more for your bottom line than anything. You can also keep it simple. Never underestimate how far a box of bagels or a bag of cookies can go. Perhaps it’s just that you know their favorite soft drink or snack item and can give it to them when they’re having an off day. Find ways to let your employees know they’re appreciated even though you might be watching every dime.
Remember, a little effort and attention can keep valued employees happy. From a bottom-line perspective, happy employees continue producing. And as a manager, that keeps you happy, too. 

Cathy Atkins
Cathy Atkins
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