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Is everyone going to be happy in their job?  I doubt it because some people are NEVER happy.  That being said, if the vast majority of your employees are happy, you will find that you have very good employee retention.  Don’t get me wrong; don’t do crazy things that will harm the business if that is the only thing that will make some employees happy.  If you have to do that you are probably hiring the wrong people.  What are the keys to happy employees?

  • If you listen to your employees you will get a very clear sense of what their concerns are.  When you know the employees concerns you are in a position to act on those concerns.  This does several things.  It can eliminate the concern or it will at least demonstrate to that the employee that they were heard.  Sometimes you can’t meet the employee’s needs but you will at least be able to tell them why you were unable to do so.  Most employees are reasonable and this will satisfy them and put the supervisor and the organization in a positive light.  Some employees will never be happy…don’t try to please those people.  Do what you can and move on.
  • Communicate what is going on in the organization or department and why you are doing it. People want to know because their future depends on the future viability of the organization.  To ask them to blindly accept the events that are taking place is not only unfair to the employee…it is bad business.  If the decisions the business leaders are making are sound, people will accept those decisions and get behind them to make them work.  It is in their best interest.  If you aren’t communicating what is going on and why, your employees will sit on the sidelines and not be positive contributors.
  • Ask for people’s input whenever possible. Nothing makes people unhappier than an autocratic approach by management.  Almost as important is that the one thing that separates the American worker from that of third-world countries is what is in their heads.  If you don’t tap into that expertise you will not be able to compete with countries like China, Mexico or India where they pay their people a fraction of what we do in the United States.  The ability to tap into the ideas that drive productivity, quality, better customer service and ongoing continuous improvement is paramount to the success of the business.  Another byproduct of asking for employee input is that people will be active contributors and part of the team.  They will feel as if they belong and matter.  A byproduct of that is that they will be happier.
  • Avoid micromanaging your employees. This is sure to annoy them, build a lot of frustration and drive them nuts!  It sends the message that you simply do not trust them to perform their job.  As mentioned earlier, the American worker does have a brain.  They are able to think for themselves.  They want to think for themselves and micromanaging them destroys that.  If you want unhappy campers, micromanage your people.
  • Establish a climate of respect.   We talk about it all the time.  That being said, I am amazed at the number of leaders that show a lack of respect to their employees.  It can be basic things like not acknowledging someone in the hallway, forgetting to say “please” and “thank you.”  It shows itself in making inappropriate comments, embarrassing someone in front of their co-workers or even berating them when something goes wrong.  We see more bullies in the workplace today than ever before even as we talk about how wrong it is. Managers who either do not want to show respect for people or simply are incapable of doing so, need to be removed from their role.  Without basic respect, we certainly do not have happy workers and in many cases we have the opposite…angry ones.
  • Do what you say you are going to do. This is at the heart of your credibility as a leader.  And your credibility is everything.  It drives trust, whether or not people will believe you when they communicate something to them.  If you say that you are going to do something, your credibility suffers and your people are not happy with you.  It’s that simple.

Basic happiness with an organization and a boss does not come from things like concierge service, gym memberships and all the little perks that some organizations try to throw at people in order to retain them.  Those are nice.  But a concierge service is not going to offset the negative feelings a person has if they have a boss who doesn’t listen, treats them with disrespect, micromanages their daily activities and does not value their input.

The vast majority of employees do not expect to get the world handed to them and they do not expect to get everything they want.  Most are realistic enough to know that is not the case.  If you have people like that you have done a lousy job of educating them on the realities of the workplace and the world or you are hiring the wrong employees!

It doesn’t take a lot to make employees happy.  What makes them happy are some fundamental actions on the part of the immediate boss.  Do those things, and you will see your retention skyrocket.