How to keep your staff happy and retain them

Employees who are happy and engaged tend to be more motivated at work

Stress-related absenteeism and sickness are some of the largest avoidable costs to businesses, with over 11 million days lost due to work-related stress in the UK alone in 2017. That’s 44,000 working years!

Add to this the opportunity cost incurred as management’s attention is diverted away from more important matters.

Productivity translates directly into revenues. A happy employee is, on average, 25% more productive than an unhappy one. If an unhappy employee is bringing in £100 of revenue per minute, then their happy counterpart is generating an extra £25 every minute. Assuming they’re both being paid exactly the same wage, the happy employee is significantly more profitable to the business.

The negative effects of unhappiness

Have you ever worked alongside someone who is deeply unhappy, merely going through the motions whilst spreading negativity everywhere they go? If yes, then you’ll know what an insidious impact they can have on the morale of the rest of the team, costing the business time and money. Negativity spreads like a virus and if left unchecked can be hard to reverse.

If you’re in a leadership position, it makes sense to do everything possible to avoid getting into a pernicious negativity spiral. Especially when you discover how little it costs to prevent it. And more so when you realise how much your business stands to gain.

Every individual has a deep-rooted desire to be heard, to be taken seriously, and to be recognised for the contributions they make. Human beings crave a sense of belonging within an ecosystem that allows them to flourish and resonates with their values.

How to keep staff happy – start with validation

Studies have shown that beyond being paid a fair wage, what employees want most is to feel acknowledged and validated. The top three things that make employees happy are:

  • Appreciation – receiving acknowledgement and genuine praise for a job well done
  • Pride – a sense of belonging and the knowledge that you’re part of a team that’s making a difference in this world
  • Recognition – a feeling that your potential is recognised and you’re given every opportunity to succeed

The simplest way to achieve this is through the practice of deep listening; your undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.

So what’s the solution?

Make time to ask, listen and learn…ask yourself…

  • How often do you ask open-ended questions borne out of genuine interest and curiosity?
  • When was the last time you listened to someone without interrupting, judging, or with the inclination to jump in with advice?
  • When was the last time someone extended the gift of complete attentiveness to you?

In today’s society, too much emphasis is placed on how to become more interesting to others with innumerable tools to enhance our looks, personality, and communication skills. There’s not enough focus on being interested in others and what matters to them.

The golden rule in any interaction is to be interesting, but more importantly, be interested.

Perhaps you’re a brilliant communicator. You’ve clearly conveyed the purpose of your business, the long-term vision, and the goals to get you there. But do you know what your employees and other stakeholders really think and feel? How often do you interact with them in a meaningful way?

Three actions to take

To effectively enlist your employees into your vision and earn their loyalty follow these simple steps:

1. Ask

Be curious.  Ask open-ended questions.  Request honest but constructive feedback.  Be mindful of the tone of your voice and the language you use.  Don’t turn what’s meant to be a conversation into an interrogation or inquisition.  Be careful not to violate their trust.

2. Listen

Be genuinely interested in what the person has to say. Don’t ask a great question and then promptly switch off until it is time to ask your next beautifully crafted question.  Listen attentively, to the words they use, the silences between the words, and all the non-verbal cues that often say more than the words themselves. Seek to understand even if you don’t agree. Ask follow on questions, reflect back on what they’ve said and show empathy. Make them feel acknowledged.

3. Learn

The two previous steps should help you take a giant leap forward in recognising the deep-seated issues impacting your business.  You’ll come away with insight and ideas that could change the way your business operates. It could help evolve your business into one that is admired from within and outside.

Consistently successful businesses have one thing in common: employees who are curious, creative and empowered to make a difference. Their leaders lead from the front. They ASK better questions, truly LISTEN and LEARN every step of the way. 

Rohini Rathour is a personal development coach.

In this article you learned that:

  • Validating staff can make them happier, including showing appreciation and acknowledgement for a good job
  • Requesting honest but constructive feedback from staff can give you a better insight into what they want from their role and the workplace
  • Really listening to staff without cutting them off or jumping in will make them feel they have the space to share their true thoughts

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