It’s less about money than you might think.
Wow! That’s an interesting topic, right? You’re probably thinking, “we all know the answer. Double their salary, put beer in the water cooler, give them every Friday and Monday off, and name them all Employee of the decade!” But, how can you do all that?
Another way into this is that this post will take a look at what it is employees value the most, what are the clearest, most efficient ways into their hearts.
It was Mary Kay Cosmetics entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash who said, “everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.” Employees want to be appreciated, and they want to feel valued. While verbalizing it, as Ash suggests, is probably crucial, it’s really more important to create a culture of value for your employees. This can mean giving them tasks that only he or she does and can do, making it palpable that if his or her contributes aren’t there at that particular moment in time that the company will suffer; it can mean allowing for individuality and initiative in tasks, so that the employee can assert his individuality. These are all reported as desirable in surveys and reports.
More Carrot than Stick
Unless you’ve employed humanoid robots, your employees won’t be happy if they feel stagnated. To keep employees happy, be sure to allow them to feel some chance for advancement of some kind. Now, I realize it can be hard for employees to move up in small companies. Often, a “department” is one person, so moving up can’t mean heading up a department, but having your job. Thus, advancement has to be a bit of a creative entity, a fluid construct. It can mean advancing in the sense of mastering greater skills, doing more interesting work, and yes, getting a raise. It can mean moving up to a position of supervising new employees when there’s a chance to expand and hire them (instead of just hiring them and neglecting to reward good employees). It can even mean affording an opportunity to exhibit the sorts of skills that might allow them to move on to some other firm or start their own business, though you’ll hope this happens later rather than sooner.
Under this heading are items such as passing on information you’re privy to in your position, sharing or giving away chances to travel and represent the company or attend conferences, etc. Basically, mentoring. Lavishing attention on employees. This dovetails with the value concept, showing them that you value them enough to take them into some confidences, make them feel equal in some ways. It constitutes a bit of advancement if more advancement isn’t going to be available to them. If they get in on boss stuff, they’ll be stimulated and happy.
It’s hard to be happy when your employees aren’t. We have a word for people who are happy when those around them aren’t. I’m not going to print it here, but we do have a word for it. Don’t be that.