By David Mielach, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer | LiveScience.com
Forget raises and big bonuses, there are much simpler and cheaper ways to keep your employees happy. From offering benefits to giving them flexibility, companies can find a number of creative ways to keep their employees happy and productive. Here are a few to get you started.
Offer room for growth
Employees are unlikely to be happy if they continue to come to a job that offers no room for growth and advancement. A recent study proved this, showing that employees who felt they had no opportunity for advancement were not as happy in their jobs. As a result, those employees were more likely to begin searching for a new job.
"We found that providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company, led to such employees leaving the organization," said Maria Kraimer, co-author of the study.
The research found that having the ability to advance at work made employees more inclined to stay at a company to strive for those opportunities.
Offer a good training program
Employers shouldn't underestimate the impact training has on new employees and their future happiness. A recent study found company-sponsored mentorship or orientation training sessions were more likely to lead to engagement among employees.
"Simply throwing newcomers into a job and letting them fend for themselves results in their being socialized by default rather than design," said Jamie Gruman, a professor at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario, who conducted the research. "Companies benefit from boosting their employees well-being. Helping new hires adjust at the start empowers them to achieve their potential later on."
Offer small bonuses
Offering a bonus is another way for companies to keep their employees happy. Sixty percent of workers in a recent survey said they would be happy with an end of year bonus of just $25. Respondents said that receiving a bonus showed them they were valued, increased their loyalty to an organization and made them want to work harder.
"This is positive news for employers still struggling in the tough economy, because it reveals simple ways that they can keep employees loyal and thereby maintain a productive and competitive business," said Juli Spottiswood, president and CEO of Parago, an incentive consulting firm that conducted the research.
Offer autonomy to workers
Workers also crave autonomy in their jobs, research has found.
"People are more likely to be happy at work if motivation comes from within," said Maynard Brusman, a psychologist and an executive coach at San Francisco-based Working Resource, who conducted the research. "They will perform better, engage more, and be more committed if what they do comes from the core of who they are."
Allowing workers to perform tasks related to their jobs in their own way will not only make workers happier. It will also make them more productive since they will not have to waste time waiting for approval from superiors, the research found.
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Create a favorable office environment
Employees are happier if they like where they work. Simple things such as reducing the length of meetings or playing music in the office improved the morale of employees. Companies can also take simple steps such as providing food to employees in the office and recognizing employees after a job well done to make employees happier.
Communication with employees also helps to alleviate many concerns they may have about their job since it helps workers feel happier and more secure at work. Communication either in person, in an email or with a handwritten note all helped to make workers feel better at work.
Offer the ability to work from home
Although creating a comfortable work environment is one way to keep employees happy and productive, many workers would also be happy if they were able to work from home. In fact, a recent survey found that workers would give up shopping, chocolate and their smartphone if they were able to work from home. Workers also said they would be willing to give up their spouses and showers if they were able to work from home.
"While the results of this survey may seem amusing, these findings show that telecommuting will be a force to be reckoned with in the future," said Holger Felgner, general manager at TeamViewer, which conducted the research.
Allow workers to focus on their jobs
Allowing workers to keep focused on their jobs without constant interruption is another way to keep employees happy and productive. One way to accomplish this is to eliminate useless emails. A recent study found that workers estimate they spend 100 hours a year dealing with pointless emails.
"We've seen companies around the world experimenting with email blackouts or timeouts," said David Grossman, founder and chief executive of the Grossman Group, the communication consultants that conducted the research. "However, our research reveals that's not the most effective approach. We know employees are overloaded by their inboxes and it's causing them stress, yet our research shows it's email misbehaviors that need to be addressed."
With pointless emails eliminated, workers can focus only on relevant items related to work. That can lead to employees who are happier since they will not need to deal with pointless and time-consuming issues.
Give workers balance in their lives
While balancing work life with home life may present a challenge for most workers, it presents an opportunity for companies trying to keep their employees happy. In fact, companies that offer employees a balance between their work and personal lives are more likely to keep employees happy in their current jobs.
"To engage the work force and remain competitive, it's no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits," said David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, who conducted the research. "Today, top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that's part of a rich, fulfilling life."'
The research also revealed that 67 percent of workers said they would stay at a company because of the balance it offers them in their life.
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Offer a unique benefits package
Companies can help workers improve their work life balance with the perks that they offer. One company in particular, Care.com, offers solutions that can go a long way to keeping workers happy and productive at work.
Some of the services provided by the 6-year-old company include child care, adult and senior care, as well as pet care. The service also offers tutors, housekeepers and personal convenience providers. Companies that offer these services as a part of their benefits package have seen a variety of improvements in the workplace.
"Across the board, the feedback we get from our clients is that Care.com really helps them manage their personal and professional obligations," said Chris Duchesne, vice president of workplace solutions at Care.com. "The net benefit there to the employee and the organization is increased productivity, work hours and decreased absenteeism. Workers were also more loyal and engaged at work."
Help workers live healthier lifestyles
Companies may also want to look into offering health programs to their employees in their quest to keep them happy. A recent study found that employees were happier working at companies that offered programs such as biometric screenings, health risk assessments, on-site clinics and pharmacies and employee assistance programs.
"We are seeing employers increasingly realize the importance that health and productivity programs can play in their efforts to control health care costs and maintain a productive work force," said Wendy Poirier, health and group benefits leader for Towers Watson, in Canada which conducted the research. "While the outcomes of any one tactic can't be guaranteed, high-effectiveness companies with thoughtful, multifaceted programs are reaping clear returns on their investments in work force health."
In particular, the research found that workers who participated in such programs were less stressed and therefore happier and healthier at work. Though many of these programs are in their infancy, workers are beginning to look to them as an attractive option to keep healthy.
"The evidence overwhelmingly shows that effective health and productivity programs can make a real difference to an organization’s bottom line," Poirier said. "There are unrelenting pressures on employers and employees today, but improving employee health is an opportunity for a true win-win."
Give a break for Facebook and other activities
Allowing workers a specific time to check social media has shown to improve not only the mood of employees, but their productivity as well. The surprising research found that a short break allowed workers the ability to refocus themselves after hours of working.
"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf on the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher net total concentration for a day's work, and as a result, increased productivity," said Brent Coker, of the department of management and marketing at the University of Melbourne in Australia, which conducted the research.
Workers, however, should not get overly excited about long breaks from work to use social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The research suggests that breaks of just 10 minutes are enough to elicit positive benefits.
This story was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow David Mielach on Twitter @D_M89 or BusinessNewsDaily @bndarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.
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