Of course, if you ask an employed person what would make him or her more happy at work, you’d oftentimes get responses like “a raise” or “more pay” or “a higher salary.” This, however, is not always possible for you as a leader. Fortunately, though, there are other steps you can take to improve the mood in your workplace and maintain a successful business.

Employee retention is important because it reduces the expenses and time needed for new hire training. Of course, employees might still eventually leave due to things like career advancement opportunities, but content employees will likely stay longer. If you aren’t able to provide everyone with a raise, there are other things you can do to make your employees happy.

Provide Work-Life Balance

This concept seems obvious, but many leaders lose sight of it when running their businesses. In 2014, researcher Hye Kyoung Kim found that “an employee’s experience of work-life balance increases effective commitment and that effective commitment has a positive influence on in-role performance.” Work-life imbalances put a strain on employees’ personal lives and can subsequently change their performance and motivation levels.

Arguably the best place to start when determining how to provide better work-life balance is to simply ask your employees what they want. Would more flexible hours or the ability to do some of their work at home benefit them and make them happier? In 2011, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that residents of Great Britain work much longer hours yet “other countries produce more, earn more and work far shorter hours.” If shorter hours could actually increase profit and productivity, perhaps it would be worth considering.

Of course, also watch out for signs that employees are experiencing “burnout” and need a break. Be attentive to these needs and, if possible, encourage them to use their time off.

Communication is Key

Just like with relationships outside of work, communication within the workplace is necessary. Some employees prefer emails, whereas others would rather have face-to-face check-ins. Encouraging these can create a receptive workplace environment and help you understand what your employees want and need. It shows your employees that you value them, and feeling valued will make them happier.

Not only should you make sure to communicate with your employees, but you might also want to encourage your employees to communicate with one another. Encouraging employees to “bond” with each other can oftentimes be a good thing as well. Of course, your employees don’t need to become best friends if they don’t want to, but if they spend every workday together, it could be beneficial for them to get to know each other.

Examples of “workplace bonding” activities would be office-wide yoga sessions or shutting down the office for an afternoon once a month to have a social gathering with everyone. Positive communication is vital for a healthy work environment.

Encouragement

A 2015 publication in the Journal of Leadership, Accountability, and Ethics reported that “Ongoing acknowledgment has to be given of the relationship between committed employees and a business environment where the employee wants to stay.” Acknowledging your employees for their hard work can create a more positive atmosphere and make them happier. If they don’t feel like you notice both big and small successes, they may not be as motivated to succeed.

Sharing successes and encouraging your employees to support one another can make the employees feel more needed and like they are actually making an impact to the company instead of just going through the motions.

Also, many managers aren’t sure what their employees’ aspirations are and what they are hoping to achieve from their job. Most employees are afraid to discuss advancement since it might mean they’ll leave your company, but most people will eventually “move on.” Ask your employees what their long-term goals are and put in effort to help them get there, whether it is with your company or a different one.

Trust Your Employees

Manager-employee relationships can definitely be awkward. Typically, a sense of mistrust is behind this tension. A Harvard Business Review article stated that employees who feel trusted perform better and “exert extra effort, going above and beyond role expectations.”

To be fair, some managers just don’t realize they aren’t relaying a sense of trust to their employees. Others, however, implement processes that prevent certain employees from accessing certain resources and information, which can in turn make them feel untrusted.

Many people assume that they are in trouble when their managers ask to talk “one-on-one.” Fears arise such as “Am I going to get fired?” and “What did I do wrong?” Making it clear that routine face-to-face meetings are a chance for you and the employees to connect and discuss growth as opposed to berating them can help them trust you as well. Trust goes both ways, so if they don’t trust you, you might not be able to trust them.

Say Thank You

As mentioned before, making your employees feel valued is crucial. A brutally honest piece by Rodd Wagner of Forbes stated that, “leaders and managers who fail to show appreciation for the best work of their subordinates ought not be in a position of authority.” Many managers make the mistake of focusing on negative things such as budget tightness instead of noticing achievements by employees as individuals, no matter how small.

Most people like to feel needed, so a simple and honest “thank you” to your employees can go a long way. Recognize them for their work so that they know they are valued and not just “a number.”

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