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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easy Ways to Make Your Employees Happier

Are your employees happy? Better yet, are your employees fulfilled in their work?

Harvard fellow Anthony (Tony) Tjan, suggests it can be done in four simple steps. While I agree that his four steps are significant, I would like to expand on them.

Tony's four steps are:
  1. Help the employee create a meaningful role
  2. Provide feedback
  3. Provide professional development
  4. Acknowledge contribution
Mr. Tjan's steps are designed to maximize the interior motivation of the employee, in other words, as he puts it, the love side of the love or money relationship.

While many people have jobs whose compensation is minimal compared with their skills, those people place a significant value on their work. Examples could be military personnel, police officers, clergy, teachers, etc. The work is important to society at large and personally rewarding, though it offers less than exceptional financial compensation.

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Helping employees find what is most important to them in the company fulfills the need to provide a meaningful service. Additionally, an emotionally attached employee will likely stay with the company longer, or until their goals have been accomplished.

Feedback, which I have written about on this blog, provides the employee the critical information they need to stay on the right track, and to fulfill their job expectations. Good feedback can also introduce new opportunities in the business that fit the needs of the employee, as well as providing a clear road map for success.

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Feedback also highlights the need for professional development. Suggesting and providing the resources to achieve the next level of success encourages the employee not only to achieve more, but also to remain with the company. Professional development also creates reciprocity. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement, though they require a one year commitment. However, the retention requirement should be seen as a positive investment in the employee and their career trajectory.

Finally, the three steps above require the fourth step to be successful. The employee be recognized for their achievements and contributions. Recognition, whether in the form of money or a simple certificate, rewards and reinforces the actions of the employee and encourages them to remain and continue to succeed.

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Providing personally rewarding work, directing it, expanding it, and reinforcing its' value is a formula for a long-term, high-performing employee. Psychic benefits are, or in some cases, more important than material benefits. However, the proper balance and fulfillment of the two will make employees happy.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is one of the best, most realistic, approaches to improving employee "self-actualization" (happiness, fulfillment, morale, motivation) I've seen. I get so tired of those who say "employees just want more money", "employees will be happy if they can play foozball at work", or "let them give each other gold stars", and other such oversimplifications/overgeneralizations/nonsense. These ideas are almost always generated by HR or other pointy-haired types who don't really know what employees want or how they think.

As an anecdote - I once worked on a large project, around 250 people, and eventually there were morale problems. HR instituted a "gold star" program, where employees could nominate each other for trivial recognition awards. After it had run for a couple years, I noticed that all of the nominators, and nearly all of the nominees, were in the HR department. At least they ate their own dogfood, but it illustrates that most employees are not impressed by such trinkets.

WRGII said...

Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. Tony Tjan was really on to something, I am glad my thoughts were helpful.

Please continue to read and let me know if you have a topic you would like to know more about!

Ravi Pulugura said...

Thank you. This helps in what I am about to embark on.

I have a question however "Helping employees find what is most important to them in the company fulfills the need to provide a meaningful service."

How? Asking them to this without giving proper direction may not reach the right result.

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