If you imagine a warehouse or manufacturing operation as a dirty sweatshop where workers come and go with regularity because employers fail to value their efforts, then you’re living in a different time. The days when workers toiled in desperate conditions for meager wages they handed over at the company store are LONG gone. As the economy emerged from the pandemic, wages climbed and the “great resignation” (which actually started before the pandemic) brought the notion that you must keep your staff happy if you want your business to succeed and grow. This notion of a happy shop being a successful shop extends well beyond the warehouse to include other types of labor. For instance, creatives need a less structured environment to succeed, while knowledge workers need a way to unwind. That’s why many tech companies offer perks like relaxation chambers and gaming in the office.
How to keep your staff happy
Highlighting this notion of a modern workforce, a recent Forbes survey found that even if every skilled worker in America chose to work, there would still be a deficit of 35%. In other words, there just aren’t enough skilled workers out there to meet demand. As an employer, this emphasizes your duty to ensure the well-being of your staff.
When HR professionals talk about managing the well-being of your staff, they break efforts down into two parts: hygiene factors and motivators. You need to consider both as you build your effective workforce. Below is an image of factors considered part of the hygiene element. Note that poor hygiene factors decrease job satisfaction and are shown in the bottom column, while motivators encourage productivity and job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many hygiene factors, such as more money, have success over a relatively short time before the employee needs further raises to maintain their satisfaction.
Your efforts to keep your staff happy should include:
- Paying a reasonable wage commensurate with their experience and contribution to the firm. While every industry has its norms when it comes to wages and high wages don’t guarantee a happy staff, it’s a good start to scan your competition to ensure you’re offering reasonable wages. Profit sharing is another way to keep your staff happy, as they see their contributions in a tangible form.
- Show a commitment to the safety of your workers. This not only shows your respect for them but ensures you meet governmental regulations such as those from the US Department of Labor and OSHA. Start with an analysis of the dangers that could befall an employee on-site. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for keeping staff safe. Depending on the nature of your work, this might include material handling equipment, ear protectors, hard hats, work gloves, or steel-toe boots. There are cases where the management was criminally charged in the death of staff because they didn’t provide adequate protection.
- Ensure equity and fairness in hiring, promotion, and dispute management.
- Hire and promote managers who are coaches first, rather than bosses. A manager’s job should be to clear impediments and ensure a cohesive group rather than dictate all aspects of the work. We call this servant leadership. Efforts to monitor every aspect of job performance often result in employees spending an inordinate amount of time and thought on how to cheat your systems.
- Staff respond when treated as individuals and have input into their jobs. Sometimes staff is in the best position to solve a problem or offer suggestions for improvement. Listen don’t just assume you know best.
- Offer reasonable accommodations for childcare, birth and adoption, illness, and more. These accommodations show respect.
- Benefits keep your staff happy. For instance, offering sick days means workers don’t transmit diseases that can decimate your staff and lower your productivity. Offering education assistance means you have more highly skilled workers.
- And, these are just a few of the many options available to keep your staff happy.
Why you need to keep your staff happy
Keeping your staff happy is important for several reasons, both for the well-being of the employees and the success of the organization:
Happy employees are more engaged and productive. They tend to work harder, contribute more creatively, and are more willing to go the extra mile. Gaining this improved productivity is hard to encourage without draconian measures, such as high pick rates in Amazon warehouses that mean workers aren’t able to go to the bathroom. Boycotts of Amazon resulted from these measures along with efforts to unionize, which negate some of the benefits of this type of management. Plus, the ability of these performance-based metrics to improve performance is very limited.
High employee satisfaction reduces turnover rates. And, replacing employees means you lose the tacit knowledge and productivity of these experienced workers. Inevitably, the new workers face a learning curve that means lower productivity for some period of time.
Plus, the process of hiring is expensive and time-consuming. Also, note that it’s hard to hire the best candidates when the company faces an unhappy staff just waiting for the opportunity to jump ship.
Better work performance
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you know about the problems faced by Boeing after serious defects were noted in their planes, such as a door falling off mid-flight. Do you really think these were a function of workers who didn’t know how to assemble a plane or were lazy? NO. More likely these errors were a function of employees who didn’t care enough about their jobs to put in the mental effort needed to check over the work to ensure it was done properly.
Improved team dynamics
A positive work environment fosters better teamwork and collaboration. Happy employees are more likely to support and motivate each other, leading to a more cohesive team. This is the other possible explanation for the failures at Boeing. Happy employees cooperate versus competing with each other.
It’s important to remember the teachings of Deming, who said that most failures are due to the business process rather than the laziness of employees. You need to fix the process, including building happier, more collaborative teams.
Healthier work environment
Happiness at work is linked to better mental and physical health. This can lead to fewer sick days and a more vibrant, energetic work environment. Plus, when you take care of your staff by providing medical benefits and sick days, you not only motivate your staff toward excellent productivity but also reduce absenteeism due to illness.
A happy workforce feels safe and encouraged to think creatively and outside the box, leading to innovation and improvements. For instance, at Johnsonville Sausage, staff suggested an e-commerce business that led to improved sales figures.
Better customer service
Happy employees tend to interact more positively with customers, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Happy employees generate happy customers.
Beyond business benefits, there’s an ethical argument that employers should strive to create a workplace where employees feel valued, respected, and happy. More and more, customers want to support these companies with their dollars rather than spend on the companies out there who act irresponsibly when it comes to the way they treat employees.
You need to work to keep your staff happy and I hope this post helps you achieve that goal.
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