How To Keep Good Employees Happy


One of the most rewarding (and sometimes, frustrating) aspects of business ownership is people. Assembling a team of people with very different personalities and skill sets is challenging. Adding to that challenge is the fact that your team must also be able to get along with one another and be aligned with your corporate culture and values. And to complicate this matter, more than likely you, as a business owner, have the personality of a driver…. You are probably not an expert in HR or the soft, touchy-feely things of business.  But the task doesn’t end after you’ve found that core group of employees. No. You have to work to retain them. That’s why I’m focusing this entry on how to keep good employees happy. 

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  • How voluntary turnover increased throughout the pandemic
  • The transient workforce and the stigmatization of remote work
  • Understanding employee demographics and their needs
  • Investing in employee engagement
  • How improving employee engagement can lead to increased profit margins
  • Daily actions that could increase employee engagement in your company
  • Supporting your top employees’ professional development
  • The multi-generational impact of employee recognition
  • Healthy corporate culture and avoiding toxicity in the workplace
  • Embracing workplace flexibility
  • Why flexible schedules and remote work are vital to retaining employees
  • Building friendship and camaraderie in the organization
  • How employee turnover drags profitability and team morale
  • How working with a business coach can help you overcome familiarity bias and retain your high-performing employees

Why It Is Important to Retain Good Employees

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the dynamic has shifted between employers and employees. After the mandatory closures, millions of American workers began to reevaluate what was truly important to them. As a result, many chose to leave their former positions, in what has become known as the “Great Resignation.” But this trend didn’t stop when businesses reopened. In fact, voluntary turnover is projected to see a 20% increase this year, over pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent study by Gartner, Inc.

Think about that, friends. An organization with a turnover rate of 20% before the pandemic could face a turnover rate as high as 24% in 2022 and in the years to come. That means a workforce of 25,000 employees would need to prepare for an additional 1,000 voluntary departures. Adding fuel to this fire is the fact that many employees feel their hybrid work desires are misaligned with that of leadership.

The same Gartner study found that less than half of the 3,500 employees surveyed believe that remote work has been destigmatized in their organizations. Additionally, 70% believe on-site workers are more likely to be promoted and paid more compared to remote workers. Meanwhile, 94% of executives whose work can be done remotely want to work remotely at least one day per week, and 24% of those executives want to be fully remote. If you desire the freedom and flexibility that remote work offers, why wouldn’t your team want the same?

Varying Employee Personas Desire Different Things

While many workers want flexibility, that’s not the deciding factor for all. Different employees value different things from their employers. You could break this down into demographics to develop employee personas. There are five basic demographics at play. 

  1. “Traditional” Employees. These employees represent the pre-pandemic standard. They are most interested in competitive compensation packages and perks, a good job title, status at the company, and career advancement.
  2. “DIY-Style” Employees. This group is typically between 25 and 45 years old and values autonomy, workplace flexibility, compensation, and meaningful work above all. 
  3. “Double-Duty” Employees. The double-duty employee is a caregiver first. They might have young children or elderly parents that take much of their time. They value support for employee health and well-being and career development.
  4. “Idealistic” Employees. This group is young and ready to change the world. This is the group employers want to hire. They value flexibility, career development and advancement potential, meaningful work, and a community of reliable and supportive people.
  5. Sunsetter” Employees. These workers are about to “age out” of the workforce. They’re nearing retirement and place an emphasis on stellar compensation and benefits. 

When broken down into these personas, it’s plain to see the needs and desires of US workers are diverse. So, how can you retain good employees when they all want different things? 

Five Ideas for How to Keep Good Employees Happy

Keeping good employees requires more than simply offering a competitive compensation package. Now, that is definitely part of it. You won’t retain top employees if you’re paying them below their fair market value. However, today’s worker wants more than the traditional compensation, benefits, and title. And believe it or not, many of these retention ideas require very little time or capital. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways to retain good employees.

Invest in Employee Engagement

Engagement is when employees feel like they are a fundamental part of the company. Fully engaged team members understand and work to meet company goals. A 2020 talent survey by Deloitte found that a 15% improvement in employee engagement could lead to a 2% increase in profit margins. Friends, notice I said, margins. That’s huge! 

There are many ways to improve employee engagement. Employee surveys are an easy way to find out exactly what your team needs to feel happier at work. Similarly, you could encourage employee innovation to help team members feel more valuable and engaged. Combined with an open-door management policy, employee brainstorming sessions can go a long way in keeping your team engaged. However, you must also give feedback and provide updates on the progress your team is making toward reaching your goals.

Additionally, offering perks such as unlimited vacation days, modern offices, and even free food can make a monumental difference in engagement. It’s the little things. I remember my father’s 20th anniversary of working for the Georgia Port Authority. He came home, sat down on the porch, and began to untie his boots, as he always did. But then he looked at me and began to grin. For this milestone anniversary, the company presented him with a watch. That small gesture of appreciation meant so much to him that I wanted to keep it for myself after he passed. 

Professional Development

Providing team members with a path to advance is an excellent method of retention. According to the 2021 State of Skills Report by Degreed, 46% of workers say they are more likely to leave a company that doesn’t commit to their professional development. More and more, employers are finding that their team members want to be coached and developed to reach their own professional goals.

Tuition reimbursement is one team retention method that has really caught on in recent years. However, there are many options for professional development that go beyond tuition reimbursement programs. For example, you could create a formal mentorship program or offer internal training, collaborative learning sessions, and access to external courses.

Just keep in mind that providing regular and structured feedback sessions is key for each of these programs, and shows the employee you’re committed to their success.

Employee Recognition

Friends, who doesn’t like to be recognized for a job well done? Recognizing the work that a team member has done to help your business doesn’t take much effort. Better yet, internal recognition can be a strong influence on improved employee retention. Don’t believe me? Let’s see what the average American worker thinks.

A 2019 study by SurveyMonkey, revealed that 82% of American workers claim they’re happier when they’re recognized at work. The same study found that 63% of employees who feel recognized are “unlikely” to look for another job. Folks, that’s a big return for something as simple as saying, “Thank you for all of your hard work!” 

However, employee recognition offers even more benefits than just helping you keep good employees. When your team feels recognized, it promotes:

  • A healthy corporate culture.
  • Reduced management dependence.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Employee motivation.
  • Strong employee relationships.

Embrace Flexibility

With so many US workers placing an emphasis on location and work schedule flexibility, this trend looks like it’s here to stay. In fact, the Consumer Technology Association’s 2021 Future of Work Study found that 92% of the companies surveyed felt that flexible schedules and remote work are vital for retaining employees. But how does flexibility improve employee retention?

Schedule and location flexibility enables your team to work without missing out on major life events. This can help prevent workplace burnout and reduce stress. Additionally, offering flexibility makes your company more attractive to job seekers and promotes loyalty among your current employees.

Host Company Events

Like offering a flexible schedule, making time for your team to engage in fellowship is a great way to reduce stress, build friendships, and foster company loyalty. Having friendships and community is such an important piece of the human experience. In fact, a 2018 Gallup poll found that those who had a “best friend” at work were twice as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher-quality work, have a greater sense of well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job. 

Friends, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Just get the team together for an after-work cookout or go bowling. If you have offices all over the country, as we do, perhaps you could host a virtual town hall or schedule an annual retreat. The point is to allow a space where the team can unwind and develop relationships that go beyond the office.

Wrapping Up…

Friends, each of these retention methods could help solve the problem of how to keep good employees happy. However, if you’re like me, you want to see a return. You want something tangible that you can measure. That’s my challenge to you. Calculate your retention rate each year. Can you outperform your industry average? If you find that you’re struggling in this area, you might benefit from a business coach. You’re so close to the business that you’re susceptible to proximity blindness. A trusted advisor can help identify blind spots.

Look, life is hard, but life is good. In an era of mass voluntary turnover, keeping good employees can be frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be. By implementing retention methods like these, and working with a solid business coach, you can make employee retention at least financially simple. Let’s go out and make it a great day!

Are you outperforming your industry’s retention rate? If not, reach out to our team. We have advisors all over the country that help business owners like you find working solutions every day.

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