10 ways to make your startup’s workforce happier

If your employees enjoy high levels of job satisfaction, you’ll have a competitive edge in the market. It’s easier to retain happier employees than disgruntled ones, which can help you drive down the costs of recruitment and training.

People who are satisfied in their jobs also tend to be more productive and motivated, which can help boost company performance and improve customer service.

Many companies imagine that the elusive concept of job satisfaction is largely or even mostly about money. But even though there are a few people who work purely for financial reward, most employees also look for purpose, achievement and personal development in their careers.

With that in mind, here are some of the things managers and HR departments should be doing to lift job satisfaction in the workforce.

1. Offer a comfortable working environment and provide the right tools

It’s important that people are happy in the workplace and that they have the right tools to do their jobs. Getting this right is about understanding the sort of workplace culture you want to create and actively encouraging collaboration and healthy workplace relationships.

It’s also about the benefits like flexible working hours or even a comfortable workspace. A spacious and well-lit office, ergonomic workstations, a clean kitchen or canteen, and reliable technology all do wonders for productivity and morale in the workplace.

2. Respect the work-life balance

Most employees these days want to strike an optimal balance between home and work life. That’s why it’s important to offer flexible hours – where practical – and to allow workers to work remotely when it makes sense. Mobile technology is a boon, since it lets people be productive wherever they are.

3. Provide opportunities for advancement

Most employees want to grow and develop in their jobs – they want opportunities to learn new skills, take on more responsibility, and ultimately move up the ranks in the organisation. Formal career paths and training programmes can help employees feel like they have a career with the organisation rather than just a job.

4. Make sure employees are engaged and invested in the company’s success

Employees need to feel like they have a stake in the success of the business. For some companies, this translates into performance bonuses or share incentive schemes that reward people when the business is doing well; but it also means listening to employees’ feedback and empowering them to innovate.

5. Be transparent

It costs nothing to be transparent – it simply demands that management keeps an open channel of communications with employees. There might be some things you can’t disclose because of JSE regulations or customer confidentiality agreements, but where possible, keep your people informed about the truth of the company’s performance and strategy. It gives them peace of mind, and helps nip rumours and speculation in the bud.

6. Listen and learn

Use informal meetings, structures such as monthly one-on-one discussion or performance reviews to listen to your employee’s views. Mechanisms such as anonymous employee / job satisfaction surveys can give insight into your employees’ loyalty levels.

7. Have a coherent approach to rewards and recognition

This isn’t just about the bottom line number, but the employee’s perception of how fairly he or she is paid compared to the wider market and co-workers. It is also about ensuring that people feel they’ll be compensated for hard work or exceptional achievement, whether that is through a salary increase during the performance review process or a performance bonus.

In addition to performance management and financial incentives, be generous with your praise for good work and focus on public recognition.

8. Don’t stretch your people too thin and too far

A company where people are routinely working for 15 hours a day (outside of crunch times like financial year-end) and where there are constant last-minute deadlines is usually a stressful and unhappy environment. These are symptoms of poor management or under-resourcing, and they can churn the morale of even the most dedicated employee. It’s up to managers to monitor the stress levels and workload of each employee, and ensure that they aren’t under- or over-using their human resources.

9. Management support matters

It’s a common misconception among bad managers is that all employees should be self-motivated and able to work without guidance. The truth is that most employees value feedback and direction, even if today’s workplace isn’t the hierarchical command-and-control environment of the past. People like to know what they’re doing right and where they can improve, and they also value structure in their jobs and relationships with their bosses.

10. Understand that everyone does not have the same needs and motivations

Different personalities and people in different life stages will value different aspects of the workplace environment. There is some truth in the cliché that Generation Y yearns for feedback and guidance, whereas Generation X is more self-motivated and independent.

And a young graduate trying to prove herself or himself might care more about opportunities for advancement, while a new parent might be looking for better work-life balance. That’s why it’s important to segment your workforce as you would your customers and create employee value propositions that appeal to the different kinds of talent you’d like to attract and retain.

Anton van Heerden


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