Have you ever worked for a really bad company? Most of us probably have – especially when we were first starting out. If you haven’t left already, we’ll bet that you’re thinking about doing.
So how can firms break the cycle and make employees stay with them out of choice rather than just brutal necessity? We take a look at the ways some of the world’s top companies ensure that their employees hang around – and how you can put similar theories into practice at a surprisingly low cost.
Satisfaction is the path to profit
Do you work better when you’re happy or sad? Content or frustrated? Secure in your job or worried about losing it? The answer is pretty obvious in each case really, isn’t it? So you have to ask yourself why so many firms couldn’t seem to give two hoots about their employees’ feelings when quite simply, happy employees equal happy customers, which in turn equal a more profitable company.
One golden rule
Job satisfaction is great, isn’t it? Loving what you do, where you do it and the people you do it with. But so few people seem to have that nowadays. Many of us seem to spend the vast majority of our lives working jobs that we are, at best, indifferent about – and at worst, loathe.
The key to creating job satisfaction is to find employees who enjoy their job in the first place – and then putting them together with other like-minded individuals. Spend time selecting new employees who seem happy in their work, and smiles will abound.
And one rule of gold
That’s right – unless someone really, really, really loves their job, then there’s only one reason they come to work. To see you and your magnetic personality of course. Ok, that’s a lie – it’s money. The reason is money.
Pay higher salaries, and your employees will be happier, probably work harder, and be more likely to hang around – it’s simple. You’ll also be making a bigger contribution to the economy and setting a good example for other employers to follow, so it’s really a win-win situation. Henry Ford understood this, and so should you.
The best things in life are free (or at least cheapish)
But what if you genuinely can’t afford to pay better wages? Let’s have a look at some other things that will cost you very little, but could make all the difference to the happiness and wellbeing of your employees:
The first thing to consider is the environment in which your employees work. You don’t necessarily need to install an office slide to make this a fun and happy place to be. Ensuring that people have plenty of access to daylight, living plants, and fresh air will not only boost happiness levels, but also help people to concentrate on the job at hand – because they’ll be more awake and less likely to be longing for the great outdoors.
Going a step further, why not ensure that your firm’s rest area has facilities like comfy seating and entertainment (TV, pool table, games console, etc.)? If you’ve got the money to invest, you could also add locker and shower facilities to help employees who cycle to work.
If you’ve imposed a dress code, take some time to consider whether you actually need one. If your staff don’t deal face-to-face with customers, then they will probably be happier choosing their own working wardrobe – and let’s face it, telling them what to wear is a little bit creepy in this situation.
One way to ensure that your employees feel that they are effectively getting paid more is to make their working hours more attractive. You could do this by shortening the working day, introducing flexitime or home-working, increasing lunch times, or giving out extra holidays.
Holidays could increase with an employee’s time of service within the company (e.g. one day per year for five years). If you’d like to give a holiday boost without using up too many resources, a good way to do so is by giving an employee their birthday off – as this will probably feel like a bigger deal than it really is.
What you should find is that with an increased level of leisure time available to them, employees feel more able to concentrate and perform when they are actually in work. It’ll also help your employees to cut down on workplace stress – which can only be a good thing.
Treat people like humans
That’s right. Whilst you may want to keep a healthy distance between your subordinates and yourself, there’s no reason to treat them like they don’t matter. Give them the benefit of the doubt where you can, and avoid treating them like naughty schoolchildren. Don’t make the mistake of banning them from using their mobile phones at their desks unless it’s truly necessary (because they’ll just do it under the desk instead, and won’t thank you for it).
If someone’s generally punctual, then there’s little point chastising them for being slightly late on a couple of occasions (especially if they’re a commuter and/or have young kids). In a similar vein, if someone seems to be habitually late, don’t automatically assume that they are just lazy. It’s always worth approaching the situation tactfully and seeing if the person concerned is having problems in their personal life that the company could help them with in some way.
Do invest in your staff by giving them training, access to resources, and responsibility where appropriate. Don’t dismiss employees in secret and leave their former colleagues with no explanation. This only serves to breed fear, uncertainty and doubt, and is more or less the calling-card of a toxic workplace culture. Whilst it might sound far-fetched, this really does happen in some firms, and the rumours it creates are almost always more damaging than the truth would have been in the first place.
If you need someone to fill a senior vacancy within your company, what do you do? If the answer is that you instantly start reaching out to external candidates, then this might indicate a problem. Instead, you should first look within to see if anyone fits the bill. If ambitious employees can see a clear path to career advancement without leaving your firm, then they are much more likely to stay with you. As a bonus, you’ll then only have a junior vacancy to fill – which should be a much easier job.
In a similar vein, larger organisations should keep a keen eye on levels of staff turnover. If particular line managers seem to be losing staff at a much higher rate than others, then this may warrant further investigation.
Be a good leader
Ok, we admit, this can be a bit confusing at times. Whilst Machiavelli told us that it’s safer to be feared than loved, Sun Tzu said that you should treat your soldiers like your own beloved children – so what gives?
Well actually, you can transcend this dilemma quite easily by combining the two schools of thought and commanding respect rather than just fear or love. Lead from the front, and don’t expect your employees to do things that you wouldn’t do yourself.
Always be ready
So, to summarise, happy employees will work better, harder and faster – and as a bonus, they will be much more likely to stay with your company. Even if you satisfy your employees fully though, you still need to be prepared for them to leave. It may be the case that your firm simply doesn’t offer the type of opportunities that they require for advancement in their career – or that factors outside of your control will conspire against you (a sick relative far away for instance).
What your employee should hopefully be asking themselves at this point though, is whether another employer is going to offer the same great package that you have. A larger than average salary, decent holidays, nice office and good team culture are not always easy to come by.