When employees have a casual, stress-free time at work, they’re going to be more productive in general. As a business owner, it’s your job to establish procedures that will keep your employees happy and motivated.
Before diving into specific advice, it’s important to realize that every workplace has its own dynamics. And, much like how a principal doesn’t have a grasp of how schoolchildren treat each other in the trenches, a CEO doesn’t necessarily know all of the interpersonal dynamics that go on amongst their employees. Many of the most hostile, toxic actions taken in a workplace come in an attempt to curry favor with the boss.
Therefore, it’s important to keep an even hand, avoid showing favoritism and always be aware of your lowest-performing employees. Finding out why they’re underperforming can help you boost your entire workplace.
But when considering how to keep everyone happy and engaged, here are a few tips:
Allow individuality in dress code.
Dress codes are a thing of the past. Individuality trumps uniformity every time, so let your staff's personality shine through – within reason. You can provide guidelines of what is appropriate and what isn't (financial companies will have a completely different dress code than journalists) but try not to make it too stringent. They will thank you for it.
The reason being is part of the problem with a restrictive dress code is the atmosphere of oppression it conveys. Mandating a certain color suit, shirt and tie, strict haircut regulations, these take professionalism to an extreme.
Provide tools for success.
It’s often much more effective to give your employees direction and tools to accomplish their goals than it is to set down rigid guidelines and a process they must follow.
You can see this in practice in retail, when cashiers are given enough autonomy to adjust prices and extend expired coupons on the fly. That simple bit of autonomy keeps customers happy, and when customers are happy, cashiers don’t have to worry about dealing with an irate customer.
In corporate problem solving, the same kind of freedom and autonomy can boost morale and productivity. How often have you come up with a viable solution to a problem, only to find a rule or policy that prevents you from acting? Allow for creativity, don’t squash it.
Make training and learning available.
Most people naturally want to better themselves, if for no other reason than to further their career. Offer free training programs and educational opportunities to anyone who wants to partake.
Related: 5 Ways to Lead by Example at Work
Such training can take the form of online education, like Coursera, for general education and improvement. Alternatively, your company could offer management training or company-specific policy training to better educate workers.
When you empower your employees with knowledge and skills, you keep them up to date. Your employee turnover drops, your productivity stays high and you keep up with modern developments. Your employees will meanwhile feel valued; you’re investing in them, so you must want to keep them around.
Thank employees for good work.
It’s cheap and easy to say thank you to an employee, whether they’re bringing a bit of workplace drama to your attention or solving a long-standing problem within the company. A verbal thanks, a kind note or an appreciative email can go a long way.
Also, try to note whether your employees prefer a casual personal thanks or a public accolade. For some, a shout-out at a company meeting gives them the recognition they desire in the eyes of their peers. For others, a quiet thanks behind the scenes provides much more personal motivation. Public accolades also help demonstrate what sort of initiative is most appreciated.
Tailor your rewards to the people and situations that earned them. A monthly-unified birthday celebration is impersonal and benefits no one and a pin for 10 years of service is just going into a drawer at the end of the day. An event created by the employees to have fun will go a much longer way towards bolstering morale.
Don’t forget to keep company culture in mind. If your employees enjoy happy hour, take them out for a drink. If they prefer a low-key lunch, book a reservation somewhere you can all enjoy.
Be open and available.
Make sure your employees are clued in to the big picture in terms of the company as a whole, their department and their individual roles. Knowing where they fit in the greater machinations of the company gives them a sense that they matter. Additionally, being available for communication shows that you’re willing to listen and value their time. An open inbox, a public phone number and an open-door policy are all good ideas.
Offer responsibility, don’t assign.
Some people thrive under a challenge. Others are the perfect team players, and like it that way. Reversing roles and assigning responsibility to someone who doesn’t hold up to the pressure can be disastrous. Offer the responsibility to the team leaders who want to take it, and allow those who prefer to work cooperatively to do so.
Provide workplace flexibility.
Sometimes someone has a situation where they can continue working for your company, but would prefer to have two days a week telecommuting to spend time with family or to take over while someone is sick. Rather than lose their goodwill, morale and productivity by forcing them to take sick days, why not allow that flexibility? As long as they can continue to contribute, there’s no reason to pin them down.