Keeping Your Employees Happy on a Shoestring Budget (Six Ways!)

One of the great things about going to conferences like FEI is the people you meet. Orin Davis might be the most interesting guy I met at the conference. He studied with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — and yes, knows how to pronounce the name. We got talking and he mentioned the piece below, and asked if he would like to guest post on the blogg. Delighted to present this very practical and well thought out piece on employee happiness (an essential key to innovation). Now, Orin, next guest piece is on hypnosis okay?

The following is by Orin C. Davis, Ph.D.

One major issue that companies face, especially during a recession, is the perception of having to choose between saving money and treating their employees well.  Jobs need to be cut, pay needs to be cut, and people need to take on more tasks and hours.  As budgets get squeezed, there are increasing concerns about declining morale and fears that firms will lose their valued human capital.  Yet, there are many simple, inexpensive ways to keep your employees engaged and happy:

Provide job-related perks.  You might not be able to pay your employees as much as you would like, but you can improve the work environment, which also improves company resources and enhances productivity.  For example, provide better tools for the trade, like ergonomic accessories or a technology upgrade.  Also, consider giving reliable, hard-working employees more flexible hours, telecommuting options, and/or extra vacation days (perhaps a whole day on some of those pre-holiday half-days).  Another option is professional development.  Send employees to workshops or conferences that interest them, and have them bring back their new knowledge and skills to the company.  In all cases, make it clear that these are rewards for people’s efforts in order to create an association with going the extra mile for the company.

Create challenges.  Research shows that people who have to bring their skills to bear at work, and who have stimulating and challenging job tasks, tend to have higher levels of job engagement and company commitment.  Find ways for your staff to use their skills to the fullest.  Give them opportunities to add value in their unique ways.  Help them make progress toward their goals.  As long as you challenge people without overwhelming them, they will rise to the challenge and enjoy it, and your company will reap the benefits.

Show gratitude.  Encouraging employees, praising good work, and showing gratitude to those who pick up slack or go even the extra inch is free, and takes very little time.  Do not underestimate the value of a sincere smile, a heartfelt thank-you, or public recognition.  Tokens of gratitude, like taking employees to lunch or giving them tickets to an event, can also go a long way.

Create meaning.  An important way to promote engagement is to help employees see the meaning of their work.  Highlight the mission of the company, and show how each employee is uniquely contributing to something that is important and promotes the greater good.  This is no small thing, and your employees will be happier not just knowing their impacts, but knowing that you recognize their contribution, too!  Companies grade managers on how well they connect their employees’ work to organizational strategies for good reason; when people understand the meaning of their work, they are much more likely to engage.

Give employees a voice.  Take time to listen to your employees, and discuss two questions with them: (1) What can you do to improve their job situation?  (2) What is preventing them from giving their best to the company?  Often, meeting those needs can be done readily, cheaply, and effectively.  For example, there are likely to be any number of time-consuming, unnecessary tasks that could be batched or dispensed with entirely.  Anything you can do to remove roadblocks and help employees make progress will contribute to their well-being as well as your bottom line.  Even more important, however, is showing that you care, and that you want to empower and enable your employees.  Empathy is often richly rewarded with higher productivity and performance!  As an added bonus, employees are familiar with the company’s day-to-day tasks, and may have tons of money-saving solutions that could also improve their jobs.

The Choice of Kindness. As companies deal with recession-driven budget cuts, workers are being forced to do more, and for less.  Yet, the suggestions above are eminently feasible, effective, and inexpensive, and can have a major impact on quality of work life at your company.  Not only that, most of these solutions also enhance company resources and/or streamline tasks, which makes these ideas money-saving investments!  Even during the economic downturn, your company can become a great place to work.  And, rather than merely surviving the Great Recession, your firm can come out on top.

About the author: Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in Positive Psychology.  His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life.  He runs the Quality of Life Laboratory and is a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Marli Wang and Scott Crabtree for their feedback on earlier versions of this article.

Posted in Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Creativity and Self-Expression, Leadership, Trends, Futurism, and Research