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This Simple Leadership Tactic Will Keep Your Employees Happy and Productive

The Great Resignation is still with us, which makes it additionally vital to create spaces and cultural environments in which employees feel motivated to put their best foot forward.

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Today's workforce is increasingly demanding transparency, flexibility and recognition. As owners, it's vital to fight the instinct to roll your eyes in response and assume everyone needs a "participation award" — but instead to consider this simple fact: when you put employee satisfaction first, productivity goes up.

In a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, its author, Shawn Achor, detailed studies he participated in that addressed this subject. In one he found that both productivity and sales increased by close to 40 percent when employees were happy or satisfied.

I've found this to be true at my own company, Rentec, where we prioritize employee job satisfaction as highly as client satisfaction. We have a fairly small team, which helps boost a higher level of involvement from all staff. Here, company decisions and initiatives are always made with employee satisfaction in mind. The results of this approach are clear: We've grown into a multimillion-dollar company and have experienced increased productivity and a 92% retention rate since our founding more than a decade ago (to date, only one employee has left the company for another opportunity!). In fact, our first employees still works here.

How have we achieved this kind of success? It takes a multi-pronged approach to do so, including consistently meeting employee needs. In the face of the pandemic and the Great Resignation, their engagement and retention is more important than ever. Millions continue to leave their jobs (4.2 million in December 2021 alone in public and private sectors combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and as business leaders, it's on us to motivate people to not only show up to work day after day, but to overcome challenges and meet goals to keep our businesses thriving.

Related: 3 Pieces of Business Advice for My Younger Self

Pay and bonuses

This is arguably the most important factor in employee satisfaction, and we've found success in compensating our employees within the top 75th percentile for our region based on job title and responsibilities. It's also wise to consider offering full-time employees additional benefits, including options to participate in bonus pools and 401(k) matching programs. Some are getting additionally creative with incentives, such as equity in the company, travel bonuses, health and wellness stipends and continuing training and education. Making sure your compensation packages are comprehensive and competitive is the first step, but consider what else you can offer to stand out in the wave of businesses that are currently hiring.

Social activities

Teamwork is essential in order to reach goals, especially at a smaller company. We've taken this very seriously, creating regular opportunities for positive interactions, like treating the office to a catered lunch on Fridays, one that includes the entire team playing games together. Before the pandemic, every employee was invited (with their partners) to a comedy show and provided overnight accommodations afterwards. If budget and time are limited, even simple gestures like celebrating birthdays or achievements in the office can improve work environment and team spirit. Whether big or small, social activities can keep teams engaged and motivated.

Related: How to Create a Winning Employee Retention Strategy

Positive work environment

Creating a positive work environment starts with building a healthy company culture. Your employees should feel safe, comfortable and ultimately happy at work each day. In our office, we have a recreation area set up that includes ping pong, foosball, video games, a television and comfy couches to promote relaxation and socialization. Employees, all of whom have a corner desk and the option to work with three large monitors, have the additional option of ordering a stand-up desk for their workstations. Every workplace will look different, but the goal should be a space and experience in which employees feel motivated to put their best foot forward.

Community engagement

Research shows that organizations with strong community involvement have higher levels of employee engagement than those that do not, so consider participating in a local charity or sporting event. We love hosting ping pong tournaments, and know other companies in the area that have joined summer softball leagues. There are many non-profits that host annual fundraising events in which entire teams can participate, such as the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Related: How Growing Businesses Can Prioritize Community Involvement

Put succinctly, it pays to spend time reflecting on employee satisfaction and engagement, so consider making these and/or other strategies part of your overall growth plan.

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