I don’t believe any employer deliberately sets out to create a bad workplace, just as I don’t believe that any employee leaves the house on a morning thinking “I’m going to be bad at work today”. Everyone wants to do a good job and if possible enjoy what they are doing. Sometimes business owners are so absorbed in their business and the day to day happenings that they take their eye off the ball and expect everyone to be as passionate and consumed by the business as they are.
The other misconception is that to keep employees happy at work is expensive and all problems can be cured by throwing money at it. How many times has someone handed in their notice saying they are getting more money elsewhere, to be made a counter offer to stay, which they do but leave again in a few months. I’ve come across this many times as it’s not money that keeps them there.
It may be a little trite to say that happy employees are more productive employees and are therefore better for your business but like most things like this, there is truth in it, so what can you do?
- Set out clear expectations: A “good” employer is one who sets clear expectations to employees, including what is to be done, when it is to be done by, and where it goes after they complete their responsibilities. Within these expectations, you need to set clear boundaries, demonstrate healthy leadership and provide sound direction. This means spelling out rules, regulations, policies, and procedures. While you can usually accomplish this by creating a comprehensive employee manual, a good employer or manager will also use the “personal touch” by talking with employees in group and one-on-one settings on a regular basis. Whatever expectations you set, make sure they are consistent with all employees. Include such things as clocking in early, break times, lunch hours, etc. For example, is it acceptable to clock in early and leave work early? Are breaks mandatory? Will an employee be “docked” if they consistently take too long for lunch? The more issues and expectations you outline, the fewer problems arise, which leads to productive workers.
- Help employees feel valued: Encourage your employees and offer praise when appropriate. Thank employees for doing a good job and let them know that you value them. Should something go wrong or someone makes a mistake, don’t “punish” the person. Rather, talk to the person, teach the correct procedures and offer encouragement and further training when needed. Remember that punishing people only makes things worse in that the employee may become angry and bitter and may want to sabotage their work to get back at the company. If errors continue after correction, then you may need to evaluate that person to make sure he or she is a good fit for the job.
As an employer, you have an excellent opportunity to make a difference in your employees’ lives. Take an interest in them, smile, ask how their family is, or ask about their interests or problems and mean it. If you sense that someone is struggling, help that person get the necessary resources, as employees with stress have higher absenteeism, increased health problems, and decreased performance. Remember that we are all humans working together to get through life. We need to care about each other to get the best results.
- Look after their Wellbeing: Employee wellbeing is an increasingly important topic. Think carefully about the working environment, create spaces where people can meet and talk. I recently worked at a Professional Services business who deliberately created an area where people could eat lunch and socialise rather than eating on their own in their offices.
Make the workplace family friendly. Work/life balance issues can be a major cause of stress and conflict in the workplace. You can also offer some lifestyle benefits which don’t have to cost the earth, for example, the Cycle to Work Scheme, child care vouchers (although these are changing), subsidised gym membership, employee assistance programs which can all help and support wellbeing.
- Have fun: we are at work a long time and spend more time at work than with our families so make it fun. What is fun can be decided by your staff, it could be regular events, pizza Fridays (or healthier versions), fundraising events, social events, surprises, the list is endless.
Finally, Keep Them Happy; Keep Them Working: When employees feel that they are a dynamic and essential part of the team, they are more productive and willing to go the extra mile for their customers and co-workers. Therefore, give praise openly, set goals appropriate to the work and always take your employees’ needs seriously. By respecting and listening to your staff, you’ll be giving them the motivational push they need to stay loyal and committed to the company’s goals. And when you have a happy and productive workforce that is eager to contribute, your company can weather any economic storm.