Employers everywhere feel that they are at an advantage in the current economy. After all, people are desperate to get and keep jobs both during a recession and in the time afterwards, when the economy is still recovering. This doesn’t mean you can shamelessly take advantage of your employees, however; savvy employers have already been reaping the benefits of keeping their employees happy, and there’s no better time than now to begin doing so too.

1. Why should I care about keeping them happy?

While we all care about our fellow human beings to an extent, employers often feel that giving their employees a steady job and paycheck is enough to keep them happy. Past this point, it may feel like you’re empowering your workers a little too much.

Happy employees have been proven to be much more productive, take fewer sick days and suffer fewer illnesses, and even live longer. The company atmosphere will feel much better if the majority of employees are happy, and this kind of productive and friendly environment is conducive to producing great ideas.

A negative workforce suffers from stress, diseases, a toxic work environment, a lack of belief in themselves or their employers, chronic underachievement, a lack of a positive “we can do it” attitude, workplace violence, harassment or bullying, and other related issues.

2. What are some easy ways to keep employees happy?

Reducing the stress and negative situations your employees go through and increasing the number of positive situations they find themselves in will both help keep employees happy.

A little relaxation of the dress code rules can lead to happier employees – whether you choose to allow them to wear jeans on Fridays or everyday, people are less stiff, formal and confined than when they have to wear suits all the time. If your dress code is already casual, try coming up with theme days instead, and encourage people to follow along by adding fun elements to the atmosphere.

Another easy way to keep your employees happy and productive is by recognizing and respecting them. If they come up with ideas, encourage them to share and don’t put the ideas down, even if they don’t seem practical. All it takes is one fantastic idea to revolutionize the entire business, if it’s allowed and encouraged that the idea be shared. If you respect their thoughts and rights, they will respect you, too. Recognizing their successes is important, too. It doesn’t have to be a monetary recognition – simply congratulating them on a major success in front of their team can be enough.

3 Should I be mentoring employees one-on-one?

There are plenty of benefits involved with this, but it isn’t necessary in every situation. For instance, sometimes the employees know more about the job than their managers do. This often happens when management is hired because of other skills, not their knowledge of what their subordinates do, or when it has been quite a while since they worked their way up from the position they are now supervising people in and things have changed.

Much of the time, employees can benefit from being mentored or coached individually. Not only does it help the employee to gain confidence and knowledge of their organization and their role within it, but their weak points can be improved and their strong points can praised and used to the company’s and the employee’s best advantage.

Feedback from employees becomes valuable when you’re mentoring them in this way. They can help to shape the mission of the company and put forward solutions to the problems they face every day. In this way, employees will be happier, the company will be better off, and you’ll have an easier job.

4. Is there any reason to believe the benefits of keeping employees happy outweigh the costs?

For the companies having a lot of trouble making ends meet already, the idea of putting more aside to help employee happiness seems absurd.

Yet you may actually be costing yourself more money by not making your employees as happy as you can. A low employee turnover rate and high employee satisfaction both directly affect the profits of a company. You may spend a little more, but you’ll also make a lot more – and earn a reputation for being a good employer. The employers who treat their employees the best will find the best employees flocking to them.

It isn’t all about spending money, giving out raises, and so on, either. The smartest employers tell their employees they matter, give them challenges, let them set their own goals, and let them have some form of autonomy rather than assuming they will be a liability. These all have relatively low or zero costs upfront, but can help employee happiness a lot.

The simplest changes can have the most meaningful impact, and these changes don’t necessarily require upfront costs.

5. If I want to make my company one of the best for employee satisfaction, how do I do this?

If you’re one of those rare employers who truly wants to see your employees as happy as they can be, congratulations for having an unusual but very intelligent viewpoint. Not only is it simply a good thing to care about others’ feelings, like your employees’, but you will reap the business rewards associated with having happy employees, some of which have already been covered here.

Being family friendly will help those who want to juggle a career and kids. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about their jobs; employees shouldn’t be forced to choose between work and family. If you understand this and shape your policies with an eye to this belief, you can certainly make your employees happy.

Communicating better with your employees helps to keep them happy. Have an open-door policy about any issues, and don’t shoot them down if they come to see you – genuinely listen to what the problem is. It may not be immediately obvious, but what they complain or suggest might not be digging to the heart of the problem.

In the end, there’s no universal motivator guaranteed to improve employee satisfaction. Some people are made happy by money, while others would rather have fun on the job. Finding out who your employees are – not just by name, but knowing about them as unique people – will help you shape your happiness strategy.