5 Ways to Keep Your Employees Happy Without Breaking the Bank

I’m sure most of us have had a “lousy” employer or two in their life.  You know, the boss that expects everything and gives nothing.  You’ve probably also worked for companies that you really enjoyed.  What made you like where you worked?  Was it financial incentives?  Maybe you had good benefits or was it just the atmosphere of the place?  What keeps employees showing up day to day, being productive, and not looking for employment elsewhere?

About 15 years ago I worked for a company that published a magazine for the higher education market.  They also put on a tradeshow annually.  When I started the job the pay wasn’t great, but I saw potential in what my job could eventually become and I really liked some of the people working there.  I got along very well with almost everyone and the benefits were decent too.  I quit after 6 months.  Why?  My boss was a jerk.  He lied to me repeatedly about introducing me to customers so that I could start doing sales and also took credit for my ideas that saved the company money.  On top of it, he’d go on and on about his online dating conquests and how amazing his luxury apartment complex was.  I couldn’t continue working for him anymore. 

My next job was fantastic.  It was in a HR call center for a large company.  This employer implemented programs and ideas that benefited their employees on and off the job.  Training was very thorough, benefits were great, and they brought in people to make your workspace more ergonomically comfortable for you.  We did casual Fridays and had pot lucks for people’s birthdays.  You could even get a mini massage on breaks, lunch or after work (free, but tip was expected). There were even more perks, but what I liked the most was that my manager repeatedly told me that I was doing a great job and that I was valuable.  He would ask me to help out other employees because he felt that I did my job very well and wanted them to learn from me.  I felt important and needed.
Unfortunately, it was for a computer company that ended up having to lay off thousands of people and I was one of them.  However, it made me realize what it meant to work for a good employer.  I decided that I will not ever go back to working for someone like that first boss I mentioned ever again.  Not every company can afford lavish benefits like what I had at one time.  That was nice, but not necessary to make me loyal to my job.  So, what is necessary to make employees show up day after day?

11.       Talk to your employees like they are valued, not like indentured servants.  Running a company is hard work.  Your life revolves around it.  You sacrifice a lot to make your business successful, but don’t take your stress out on your employees.  You know what’s stressful?  Spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to train a new employee and then have them quit because they can’t stand working for you. 
22.       Be extremely clear about your expectations and chances for promotion BEFORE you hire someone.  During the interview let them know if they are expected to do overtime or even if business is slowing down so that their position may be temporary.  Do you expect everyone to spend 30 mins a day cleaning up their work area?  Is there room for advancement?  What are some work goals that you expect them to reach and in what time frame?  If they reach these goals, is there some type of reward whether it’s a bonus or even advancement? 
33.       Do team building events.  This doesn’t have to be monthly.  Do it quarterly or even bi-annually.  It doesn’t have to be big.  Have a bbq at a local park or lake.  Have sandwiches delivered for lunch and spend the time telling them what they have done to make you appreciate them.  For Christmas, have everyone do a secret Santa exchange.   Get tickets to local events like the fair, an auction, car show, or concert, and have a drawing for them. 
44.       Be careful of the topics you discuss with your employees.  It is said that “Religion and politics make strange bedfellows”.  There is good reason for this.  Both subjects are things that many people are quite passionate about.  If you discuss them with your employees it is quite possible that they will feel like you are pushing your ideas and beliefs on them and they will not feel comfortable being honest with their responses out of fear of recourse from you.  I have read plenty of wrongful termination cases in the news where people say they were fired or looked over for promotion because they disagreed with their boss when it came to religious or political ideas.  It can be very intimidating when someone who has authority over you, comes to you and tells you they believe “XYZ” and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.
55.       Allow everyone to feel comfortable coming to you with ideas.  You most likely have a way of doing things that is based on what has worked for you in the past.  You know what works and you know what doesn’t.  However, everyone has different job and life experiences that will make their point of view different from yours.  This can be really valuable.  Being open minded to suggestions not only makes people feel valued, but it also can save you time and money.  I know, personally, of a couple of times when we (here at Crosswind) had someone suggest a change in how we made one of our parts that seemed “iffy” at first.  In the end, though, it automated a step we always had to do by hand after the part was made.  This saved the company hundreds of dollars every time we fill that particular order.  We also now know that if we come across another part that has a similar issue, we can use that change to the program then also.  Not every idea someone has is going to be great, but 2 minutes of your time listening to your employees is worth so much more in the long run than the time you just lost.

None of these suggestions are difficult or expensive to implement.  “People work for people, not companies.” Is something I’ve heard so many times over the years and it makes sense.  You may love a company and believe in what they do, but if your manager (or boss) makes it miserable to show up at work every day, you will never become a loyal employee.  When someone spends 40+ hours a week somewhere, it needs to be a positive atmosphere or they won't stick around for long.  This is definitely not an all-encompassing list.  I'd love to hear what you or your company has done to make the workplace a pleasant place.  Also, check out a few of these other articles on the subject.

How to Reduce Employee Turnover - Wall Street Journal Causes & Effects of High & Low Staff Turnover - Houston ChronicleA New Report Ranks America's Biggest Companies Based On How Quickly Employees Jump Ship - Business Insider.com


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