In an age where productivity and profits are not just what keeps the board members happy but what keeps companies operational and teams of people employed, there are no two ways about it; employee satisfaction is not optional. The survival of your business depends on it. Unhappy staff make for unhappy customers and ultimately businesses may end up closing their doors when staff are leaving in droves. Losing staff becomes costly too. So if you’re unsure what your staff need, here are nine of the most important things to consider.
1. We are Human
It sounds simple enough but some businesses, big and small, routinely get this wrong. The HR department has a job spec and the role has a list of requirements, but instead of being open to one or two reasonable exceptions, anyone who doesn’t fit the spec 100% doesn’t even get noticed. Candidates and future staff members have varied skillsets and character traits. Your business hires people, not space holders and each individual can bring something to a role which you may not have anticipated. The more room there is in our office for individuals, the more likely your staff are to be happy.
2. A Warm and Welcoming Environment
It goes without saying that starting a new job is one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life. For this reason making a good first impression will go a long way to endear staff to their new home away from home. Simple onboarding tactics such as office tours, orientation and thorough training ensure that everyone is on the same page and form the foundation of a solid working relationship. Without this new staff feel lost and neglected; not a good way to start a new chapter in their lives.
3. Give Your Staff the Full Story
Few things are as unnerving as unexpected surprises in the workplace. If you give people the full story, they can choose what to do with the information and adapt accordingly. Without the necessary information, staff feel cornered, not valued and may just jump ship for a position which appears more stable.
For example; you hire someone new without telling them that the last staff member left their department in a state – bad idea.
You ‘forget to mention’ that your company is going through a change of ownership or being listed on the stock market – bad idea.
You don’t let your staff know that you are having financial difficulties and will need to retrench people – bad idea.
4. Foster Respect
This one is obvious. When temper tantrums, outbursts and passive aggression are the order of the day, staff quickly lose morale. Whether it’s a management issue or the way everyone seems to operate, it’s not healthy for anyone’s state of mind. Society is quick to address bullying in school but we forget that these behaviours carry on into adulthood and the ramifications on our careers as both the victims and the perpetrators of such abuse are devastating. Dealing with verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual harassment and the like swiftly and effectively are the only way to foster respect and promote a healthy work environment.
5. Empathy, Empathy, Empathy
It’s the glue that keeps society from descending into a disaster, schools in Nordic countries are teaching it and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it once in a while – empathy makes the world go around. It’s easy to become disgruntled when things go wrong but if you listen closely you’ll probably find that there’s more to the story. Bob didn’t arrive at work because he was in a car accident and Tumi can’t concentrate on the task at hand because she’s had a death in the family. When we see the bigger picture we are able to support each other and find a way through the mishaps instead of allowing situations to spiral out of control. Everyone wins.
6. Value Your Employees
Right alongside empathy comes valuing your employees. As we mentioned previously, they are humans and not mere place holders. We spend most of our waking lives at work and when your staff feel like their extra effort goes unnoticed and their opinions don’t matter, they are less likely to perform to the best of their ability. A simple and sincere thank you and an open ear goe a long way and it also goes hand-in-hand with fostering respect in your workplace. When your staff feel valued they are more likely to be proactive, productive and most importantly happy.
7. Clear Communication
You can never know exactly what your staff is thinking nor can they know what you are thinking. We all just have too much going on to dedicate our time to such a futile guessing game. When you aren’t happy with the work your employees are producing you haven’t just missed the boat, you’ve taken the train. It’s been well documented that regular appraisals based on constructive criticism and positive feedback ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them. If you get to the point where you and your employees are poles apart, its time to get back to basics and discuss their roles, responsibilities and expectations. Of course, this means that whatever they have to say in response needs to be heeded too.
8. A Ladder to Climb
Do you hire new staff from outside or do you invest in those looking to grow within the organisation? Where your staff have goals and ambitions, your business can only reap the benefits from supporting them. This seems pretty obvious but few companies practice this. The best ones start with interns, offer them additional training, watch them grow and in turn furnish their offices with bright young talent who are happy to be there because they can see that the relationship is reciprocal. Not all staff want to climb the ladder, but those who do will find fulfilment when given the opportunity to do so.
9. A Work/Life Balance
Last but not least, this one may just be the most important tool in your arsenal to keep your staff happy. Making sure that your staff aren’t working overtime because their workloads are impossible is essential if you want your team to remain productive. When your employees are overworked and constantly tired they are unable to meet the demands of their responsibilities. Certain industries are renowned for their after-hours obligation, and this has become the norm but it shouldn’t be. If team leaders and line managers are setting reasonable deadlines and ensuring that each employee has a manageable workload, there’s no reason to lose staff to burn out.
It sounds easy when you put it down to nine concise points, but keeping your staff happy and productive involves a certain kind of soft-skill warfare. It can’t be scoffed at though. When staff are unhappy your business doesn’t run as it should and your staff retention rates plummet. Moral of the story, happy staff = a better bottom line.