17 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees Happy

You already know the value of your employees—especially that core group you count as the cream of the crop.  And you know that keeping them happy is not only essential for keeping them with the company, but also for keeping their productivity, efficiency, and customer service in tip-top shape.  The problem is managing to keep them happy without going overboard.

Here are seventeen ways you can keep your employees really, genuinely happy.

Listen to Them

Paul Spiegelman, founder and CEO of Beryl, a Bedford, TX call center, says one of the most important things you can do is give your employees a voice. This goes far beyond the old comment box in the break room.  It represents a huge step in getting, and keeping, your star employees actively engaged with the company.

“Don’t just listen–implement the ideas that they have, and give them credit for those ideas.  As entrepreneurs, we might in our gut know the right answers to certain questions, but it is often better to let workers tell you what the answers are and give them credit.”

Teambuilding at Work

You’ve all heard about teambuilding exercises—ropes courses, paintball, boating, camping—whatever they are.  Sounds like a great idea, but if you’re a small business operating on a tight budget it’s just not going to happen.

Spiegelman says you can get just as much benefit from in-house events as you can from off campus ones.  He once gave his call center staff eight weeks to solve a murder mystery that he staged at the office. Now that’s thinking outside the box.

Create Traditions

You could opt for the familiar Fourth of July barbecue, but why not get a little more creative?  Enlist your employees to help with local charity events or organizations. Get them involved in civic events in town, build a relationship with the community through your business and at the same time you’ll be strengthening your own work “family.”

When people do good for others, they feel good too.

Feed Them

Everyone loves free food.  Pick a day and make it special.  That’s what Daniel Meltz, marketing specialist at PCMA does.  “While Friday itself is a morale boost, we crank ours up a little more with Breakfast Club. Every Friday a different employee brings in breakfast for the staff who wish to participate. It is delicious and doesn’t cost the company a dime.”

Flex Hours

Meltz also points out that unless your employee really needs to be at work on the dot, say for customer coverage needs, there’s no reason that you can’t let them tweak their schedule a little bit.  Rigid work hours are becoming a thing of the past—just make sure your scheduling doesn’t get too lax.

Host an Annual Awards Ceremony

This isn’t the most budget-friendly of the bunch, but it can be very effective. By treating your best employees to a yearly bash on the boss’s dime, you’ll encourage good will, inspire improved performance, and incite in your employees a little competitive rivalry.

Help Fulfill Their Goals

Media mogul, entrepreneur, daredevil, and all-around interesting man Richard Branson says that once you have a great employee, keeping them can be difficult if your goals don’t mesh well with theirs.

“Before you make a prospect a job offer, be sure to consider how his plans for his career fit with your company’s. If there’s a real mismatch, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to work together long.”  So, whenever you can, help your employees reach their own personal goals within the framework of your company.

Let them “Own It”

A sense of achievement can be a real shot in the arm.  Branson also espouses giving your employees the freedom to really own their job.  “You need to give your people the freedom to get creative, to come up with their own ideas and run with them. If someone comes to you with an idea for a business, why not ask that person to launch a startup?”

Let Them Vent

Amy Balliett, of Killer Infographics, points out that not every employee is comfortable speaking up.  That’s why she uses software called TinyPulse which lets her employees let her know when things are off, anonymously.  “It keeps it from something that will fester.  Festering makes an angry employee who will leave.”

Acknowledge Personal Accomplishments

Sure, just about every office has a list of birthdays tacked up on the corkboard but how many offices actually do something about it?  A cake really doesn’t cost that much and letting your employees celebrate just a little during the day isn’t going to destroy productivity.  But think beyond birthdays: Anniversaries, children’s graduations, sporting events, and milestones are all opportunities to connect.

Roaming Mascots

A lighthearted mood-booster can be adopting an office mascot.  Whether it’s a goldfish, a stuffed animal, a concrete gargoyle, or even a poster of David Hasslehoff, having something iconic that can roam around from department to department is a way to keep spirits up and create a little healthy rivalry.

Cold Cash or Colorful Plastic

While you probably can’t afford to drop lump-sum awards at the end of a good financial season, you can shell out a few bucks for gas cards, coffee, or even just a small “bonus” check.  If you figure it right, you can probably make up the cost in office supplies or some other non-essential expense.

Get the Corporate Discounts

Even small companies have enough buying power to earn a discount from local businesses.  There are also many national chains, like AT&T and Verizon, that offer considerable discounts as well.  Use your pull to get your employees a good deal on something they’ll use—vacations, cellphone coverage, even groceries—and you’ll see and extra pep in their step.

Broadcast Names

It’s great when the boss comes up and says “good job” for a deed well done.  It’s even better when the boss writes up a blurb and sends it to the company magazine or even the local newspaper. Make your employees feel like stars for their work.

Time Off

Who doesn’t like an extra day or two off?  If you have an individual, or even a team, that’s been putting in the hours to get the job done, let them cool it on company time.  Sometimes just an afternoon on the boss is all it takes.

Personalized Gifts

Take a moment to find out what the individual is “into.”  It could be cars, wine/beer, music—anything really.  Then tailor a reward just for them.  A bottle of the best, tickets to a local concert, or even just the next book in the trilogy they’re reading. When it’s personalized, it goes a long way.

Industry Functions

If your business is involved in tradeshows, conferences, or conventions, letting your elites tag along might be just the reward they’ve been looking for.  Not only does it get them out of the office, it opens them up to skillset advancement and growth opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise see.

When it comes to keeping your best employees happy, there are a certain number of restrictions you have to keep in mind:  price, practicality, and professionalism.  You can’t afford to beak the budget, but don’t offend them by being too cheap either.

You also can’t overburden the rest of the team to reward another, and you can’t break the code of professionalism that your business adheres to.  The bottom line is you should do whatever you’re comfortable with and maybe even push your own boundaries just a little.  Your employee will appreciate the novelty, and you’ll appreciate the boost in productivity.

17 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees Happy