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February 28, 2017
Culture  |  9 min read

9 Ways to Keep Employees Happy

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Sujan Patel

Employee engagement” might read like today’s most recent HR buzzword, and the concept of “employee satisfaction” might sound foreign to workers raised with a “put your head down and do your work” mentality.

But there’s a substantial business case to be made for keeping your employees happy. Take data gathered by a Gallup meta-analysis on the subject of employee engagement and subsequent performance outcomes.

Basing their work on 263 research studies across 192 organizations, researchers found that “those scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly doubled their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half. Those at the 99th percentile had four times the success rate of those at the first percentile.” More engaged workers consistently scored higher on customer ratings, profitability, and productivity, among other measures of organizational success.

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Certainly, there are common-sense steps you can take to increase employee engagement. If you’re eager to take the next step, look to Glassdoor’s list of the Top 50 Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in 2017 for inspiration.

Here are nine ideas drawn from the list.

1. Think beyond free snacks

Free snacks, meals, and coffee are all great staff motivators—and we certainly aren’t suggesting you abandon them. However, as Glassdoor’s Top 50 SMBs demonstrate, there’s more to supporting employees than plying them with food and drinks.

LaSalle Network, one of the list’s honorees, treats its HR department like a “human concierge,” through which team members go above and beyond to help employees coordinate relocations, find daycare options, and more. Their belief is that, for employees to perform effectively, their home lives need to be in order. By facilitating these needs, their workers are less stressed and better able to focus on their jobs.

Everybody wins!

2. Attend to employees’ health holistically

Your employees’ health and well-being represents another place you can think outside of the compensation package box. On-site gyms or gym membership reimbursements are becoming commonplace with small and medium businesses; why not differentiate your company with perks like on-site massages, yoga classes, or meditation breaks?

Jessica Gladden of Predictive Technologies reports that her Glassdoor-recognized company embraces holistic health perks:

“APT encourages team members to lead a healthy lifestyle. To support those actively investing in and seeking a healthy lifestyle, APT will reimburse team members for individual, personal health related activities. We also bring wellness initiatives into the office, such as annual flu shots, ergonomic seating, and massage therapists.”

3. Onboard comprehensively

Too many onboarding programs drop the ball on employee engagement from day one. Rather than spending an employee’s first day filling out paperwork, consider the following suggestions from Glassdoor Top 50 companies:

  • Handle paperwork ahead of time so that the first day can be spent interacting with new team members.

  • Send ahead a “Getting to Know You” survey that asks for brief information on an employee’s interests, hobbies, and activities. This will give current team members conversational jumping-off points to build team bonds right away.

  • Don’t just cover job requirements—cover team culture as well. Fill new hires in on inside jokes, workplace rituals, and other culture cues that’ll prevent entering employees from feeling left out of the loop.

4. Offer flexible work options

More and more of today’s employers are recognizing how limiting the notion that all productive work should happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. really is. The response? Flexible work options, encompassing everything from remote work, to flexible daily hours, to unlimited vacation.

Bamboo HR, a Glassdoor honoree, offers many of these different options in concert, according to Kelsie Davis:

“To encourage work-life balance, we are flexible with our employees to make sure they can participate in meaningful activities that don't always fit outside an 8-5 schedule. We also allow employees to work from home, sometimes as a permanent work arrangement and other times we allow it occasionally to accommodate life situations. To make sure employees aren't overworked, we encourage employees to only work 40 hours each week.”

5. Invest in leadership development

According to data gathered by Quadrant1 International:

“Employees generally want to be good at their job and the vast majority, some 76 percent according to statistics, are looking for some kind of career growth and development.”

Beyond engaging employees and keeping them happy, investing in leadership development benefits your organization. Leadership development can take a number of forms, from complex, involved mentorship programs, to the relatively simple undertaking of organizing a Toastmasters chapter on-site (as Classy, a Glassdoor Top 50 SMB, did).

6. Let employees know their voices are heard

It’s a simple premise: when employees feel their contributions aren’t valued, they naturally tend to disengage.

Too often, however, companies struggle to find the time needed to objectively evaluate employee feedback and demonstrate concrete actions being taken as a result. This is a mistake that can have significantly negative impacts on employee morale.

To avoid this, take a page out of The Goodway Group’s playbook. According to Jay Friedman:

“[W]e have the Goodway Council. This is one representative from each department who meets with senior leadership twice per year. This meeting is professionally facilitated to make sure all feedback is provided and commitments are made by leadership to act on the feedback presented.” 

7. Cultivate employee relationships

Which sounds more appealing to you: arriving in the morning at an office full of workplace-proximity associates (thanks, Ron Swanson!) or starting your day with a group of people you genuinely like and whose relationships you appreciate?

Happy employees are engaged employees; and let’s face it, we’re all happier when we like the people we work with. Building these relationships takes time, and it can’t always be forced. However, as an employer, you can increase the odds that your employees will form positive relationships with each other by freeing up time for enjoyable team-building activities (think more happy hours and fewer forced icebreakers).

8. Allow employees to pursue passion projects

Though Google has since moved away from its pioneering “20 percent time” program, you can still embrace the employee engagement benefits such a strategy has to offer.

You may not be able to allow team members an entire day to work on their best ideas, but you can set aside a three-day block for a team “hackathon” (as Predictive Technologies does) or create a structure through which employees at any level can submit ideas to be prioritized by the team and put into development.

9. Focus on diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion can be tricky buzzwords these days, but don’t get caught up in the politics. Think of it simply: Employees who feel their viewpoints aren’t represented (for whatever reason) will struggle to feel engaged (or happy). 

Blaine Gorman of Presence Learning reports that his Glassdoor-recognized company has a structured diversity and inclusion policy. You may not find that taking such a step is necessary, but you should be on the lookout for both signs that employees are feeling unrecognized, and opportunities to raise up voices that aren’t always heard from. 

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Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake,, Quuu, and Between his consulting practice and his software companies,Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.


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