How to keep your employees happy – and boost productivity

How happy are your employees? Find out why staff morale is linked to productivity, and how you can keep your workforce happy and hardworking.

Too many companies see employee morale as the cherry on the cake – something to (maybe) consider once everything else is covered. But as research shows, that’s a big mistake.

A study by The University of Warwick discovered that when employees were happy, they were 12% more productive. Unhappy workers, meanwhile, were 10% less productive.

As a rule, happy employees are more creative and find it easier to collaborate and solve the needs of a business. You’re also likely to see a lower staff turnover if your employees enjoy being at work – saving money on recruitment and training.

Four ways to keep your employees happy (and productive)

So how can you keep your employees happy at work? Here are four ideas.

1) Recognise and reward their contributions

Your employees are your company’s most valuable asset, and it’s important that you continually recognise their efforts and the value they contribute. As Sir Richard Branson wisely said: “Shower your employees with praise like flowers and you shall see them flourish.”

So how can you recognise and reward contributions? Here are some quick ideas:

  • Hold regular appraisals in which achievements are recognised.
  • Introduce company awards.
  • Give out spot bonuses for people who go above and beyond.
  • Give annual pay rises to reward effort.
  • Write personal emails or letters thanking staff for their effort.
  • Give staff duvet days or a bottle of champagne on their birthdays.
  • Give corporate gifts to let them you value their contribution.

2) Motivate them

Employees who are motivated are happier and more productive (they’re also less likely to move on). So make sure you clearly communicate the objectives for your organisation, teams and individuals, and give everyone the resources, authority and responsibility they need to successfully work towards those objectives.

Giving people the freedom to create and contribute ideas will allow your business to innovate and flourish. It will also improve their motivation to work for you beyond fulfilling tasks in exchange for a paycheck.

Here are some quick ideas to help you build a motivated workforce:

  • Ensure their work is varied, interesting and challenging.
  • Delegate to demonstrate your trust and belief in them.
  • Help them to grow with training and development.
  • Ensure that managers are approachable and willing to listen.
  • Create a healthy work-life balance culture.
  • Cultivate a teamwork attitude.

3) Make your workplace attractive

We can spend as much as 80% of our life at work, and the more we enjoy our work environment, the more productive we will be in it. And it’s not just the aesthetics you need to consider – the layout and functionality are just as important.

Would your employees benefit from a more social open plan office, or do they need more privacy and space (and quiet!) to think?

Consider the needs of your employees and ensure that your offices aren’t just light, inspiring and a pleasant space to spend eight hours a day in, but are actually fit for purpose, and allow them to do their jobs easily.

4) Accommodate their lifestyle

While their career may be a big and important part of your employees’ lives, they also have a life and other interests outside of the workplace. They may want to get home to their family, or be passionately involved in charity work, or participating in sports, art or cultural activities.

If you want to keep your employees motivated and productive, ensure that their work is flexible enough to fit in with the rest of their life – while ensuring the your business objectives are met.

So what does this mean? The idea of ‘presenteeism’ (believing that people are only working when they are physically in the office) is outdated. Instead, measure your employees’ success on more tangible results such as work produced or numbers achieved.

Measuring productivity simply by attendance has even been shown to have a negative impact on businesses in the long run. As ACAS points out, when people feel obliged to be present at work, they drag themselves in, even when they are sick, which can, “adversely affect general staff morale and contribute to longer recovery periods from illness.”

Instead of expecting staff to be physically at their desk from 9-5, be open to new ways of working, such as working from home, or flexible or compressed hours. (Read how one company successfully makes flexible working work for them here.)

How Google and Facebook get it right

If you still need convincing that productivity is worth investing in, you only need to look as far as Google and Facebook.

Google gives employees the freedom to do their jobs well

Googlers are a proud bunch. The business does their best to make sure their employees are well looked after by giving them the freedom to do their jobs well. They also enough benefits and perks to ensure that Google in an attractive place  to work, including:

  • The free food from the Google cafeteria. Staff can take their pick from roasts, a carvery and an array of free, high quality meals every day.
  • The freedom to work in their desired workspace, where they feel they will be most productive.
  • They have permission to bring their pets to work, which has allowed them to bond with other colleagues that they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • Free fitness classes and gyms.
  • Promoting the 80/20 rule, in which employees spend 80% of their time fulfilling their duties at Google, and 20% of their time on creative tasks that they believe will help the company.

Facebook received a 99% approval rating from its employees

In this Quora answer, Facebook employee Amir Memon says that he regards Zuckerberg as ‘awesome’ based on his vision for making the world a more connected place, his boldness for taking risks, empowering employees at all levels to add value to the business, and the perks of free food.

Han Qin mentioned that he loved the personal congratulations that Zuckerberg greeted him with at the in-campus celebration at Hack Square. His enthusiasm and passion makes his employees proud and allows Facebook to maintain a high level of positive morale in the organisation.

How can you boost your staff morale (and productivity)

With plenty of evidence linking staff happiness to productivity, your employees’ morale isn’t something you can afford to overlook.

So how can you boost your own employee’s morale? If you still need inspiration after reading some of the ideas here, you can read five more suggestions on the Fairwork Australia website.