6 Things Your Employees May Be Wishing for This Year Based on research, here are some workplace desires and how a startup might attain them.

By Raphael Crawford-Marks

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Tinyhr released a report in mid-December with insights about what employees would like to change about their workplaces, if they could.

That survey of more than 1,000 employees cited among the top-five wishes a desire for managers who communicated more effectively, better team leaders, supervisors with empathy skills, higher wages and the retirement of a current boss.

Using that survey as a springboard, I've come up with my suggestions of items you might want to incorporate into your workplace:

Related: Drive a Feedback Loop: Employees Will Benefit, So Will Your Company

1. Open communication.

"Become a better, more open communicator" topped the Tinyhr list as the #1 thing employees would ask for from their manager.

When a manager creates an environment where employees can communicate openly, it cultivates trust and frees the workplace of unnecessary tension. In a survey published in July, Glassdoor found 69 percent of the respondents said it was very important to work for a company that embraces transparency.

This year, strive to create more transparency. Workplace transparency can be defined as being open about company culture, work and interview experiences, performance and employment packages.

2. Empathy.

Simon Sinek explained the importance of empathy for leaders in a February interview about his latest book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't: "If someone's performance is down we do not say, 'Hey pick up your things here.' We do not yell and scream." He called for instead "putting our financials goal aside for one minute to express empathy for the human being ... and saying, 'Are you okay?'"

When employees experience a problem, try to see the situation through their eyes and let them know you understand their point of view. When a staffer makes a mistake, ease the tension by sharing a story about the last time an error was made and how it was resolved. Aim to help employees feel they're not alone in their work challenges.

Related: 7 Ways to Say I Love You

3. Recognition of a job well done.

Dan Ariely's TED talk "What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?" discussed an experiment he conducted when participants were given worksheets to complete under different conditions. He found ignoring people's work had almost the same effect on their motivation as shredding it before their eyes. People worked the longest and for the least amount of money when their work was acknowledged.

It doesn't take much effort to acknowledge work in a way that increases motivation, Ariely noted. A simple look and nod of approval does the job.

Instead of focusing on grand gestures of recognition like years-of-service awards or annual bonuses, which recognize people only once or twice each year, acknowledge work in smaller ways, more frequently, to keep staffers consistently feeling motivated. A simple thank-you note or mention in a company-wide update is enough to make someone feel good about and encourage more great work.

4. Improved perks and benefits.

A survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted online by Harris Interactive in 2013 for Glassdoor, analyzed some keys to employee appreciation. Forty-six percent of the respondents wanted other benefits from employers, including unexpected treats and rewards like snacks, lunches, dinners and thank-you notes. Forty percent simply wanted to feel involved in decision making.

Employees can grow weary of doing the same thing each day, especially if their work involves rote tasks. Shake things up this year by surprising employees with a catered meal, a movie in the break room or a health-club membership.

If the organization already has similar perks, consider providing more intangible rewards, such as making staffers feel valued by giving them more of a say at work. Ask employees for their ideas to improve processes in their area or the entire company. Consider giving more responsibility, rewarding team members who help out the most and have demonstrated a wish to participate in decision making.

Related: The Hidden Benefits of Happy Co-Workers (Infographic)

5. Strengthened employee relationships.

In April, LinkedIn partnered with Censuswide surveying 11,500 professionals, 18 to 65, in 14 countries. Forty-six percent of the respondents said their friendships with co-workers made them happier. Of younger than 24, 57 percent said they were happier with peer support and friendships at work, 50 percent claimed to be more motivated and 39 percent said they were more productive.

This year, make it a point to help cultivate co-worker relationships. Arrange for employees to get to know one another outside their work roles. Organize an office "field day" or discuss hobbies and interests at lunch.

6. Flexibility.

The Society of Human Resource Management's "Workplace Flexibility Survey" last year collected comprehensive information on flexible-work arrangements. Two-fifths of the responding organizations indicated they offered employees the option to telecommute. Among these organizations, 26 percent had a productivity spike among employees who previously worked just on site, and one-third saw a dip in absenteeism, according to the survey.

Provide more options for employees to work outside the office, especially if it makes sense for their roles. Employees involved in highly creative digital projects may fare better working in environments that inspire them, say, a coffee shop or a cozy home office.

If appropriate, let employees set their own schedules. Allow night owls to arrive late and work later. Let early birds arrive before others and leave early. Find out what works best for your employees to help them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

What are some of your workplace wishes for this year?

Related: Essential Tips for Managing Employees Who Don't Aspire to Be Leaders

Raphael Crawford-Marks

Co-Founder and CEO, Bonusly

Raphael Crawford-Marks is the co-founder and CEO of Bonusly, a New York City company providing a web platform that helps companies reward and motivate employees by using peer-to-peer bonuses.

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