At the end of each month, what are your employees taking home? A paycheque? Or a sense of accomplishment at a job well done? If it’s just the former – that’s a problem. Because despite conventional wisdom, what employees want most from their job is not money. In fact, research has shown that money comes in 8th of 8th on a list of what employees want from their work! Which means if you want to keep your people happy and productive, the answer is not simply to throw more money at them. Instead, give your people more of these:
1) Good company culture
This encompasses the way employees relate to each other, and to you, the management. A good company culture emphasises warmth, mutual respect, and cooperation. Instead of simply pitching up at work every day, employees want to want to be there. Having friends at work, including being on good terms with supervisors and clients, makes work much more pleasant and enjoyable.
In order for your people to like and respect one another, they need to know one another. But even in SMEs, not everyone has the chance to work with everyone, and many colleagues will slip through the cracks of social interactions. So, it’s important to create opportunities for employees to simply hang out. Having communal chill areas and eating areas is a good first step. In fact, many large companies such as Google have extensive play areas for their teams to do just that.
Kalido is another great way to foster better relations in your company. You can create a company-wide network, where all your employees are members. Members will be able to see other members’ profiles, including their skills, hobbies, and interests. They’ll learn things about their colleagues as people, rather than thinking about them purely as a job title. From there, you can encourage them to organise interest groups, like running clubs, movie Tuesdays, baking evenings, or gaming weekends. The free chat and call features on Kalido make coordinating a breeze.
Making it easier for everyone to get to know everyone else in the organisation is good for both your company, and your employees. Colleagues can be upgraded to friends, and when one works with one’s friends, everyone’s work environment is improved immeasurably.
2) Career progress
The classic interview question of ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time’ may be the bane of every interviewee’s onboarding experience, but it does touch on a very good point. The position someone is in now is rarely the position they want to be in forever. Career progress and skill accumulation is an important consideration for employees (and if any of them don’t think so, you should be wondering how committed they are to their job).
As an employer, you should be continually upskilling your employees, so that they can tackle bigger, better projects. Giving someone more responsibility shows your trust in them. However, there are two things to keep in mind: First, you can’t expect someone to do something you haven’t trained them for. So, whether you’ve paired them with a mentor, sent them on an external course, let them job-shadow a colleague, or made some other resource available to them – let them know that you’re not simply throwing a problem at them, and expecting them to sort it out. Second, you should give people more or better work to challenge them, not just as a cheap way to get more labour. If someone is consistently performing, a bonus, an award, a raise, or a promotion should certainly be on the cards.
As an employer, your employees’ personal development should be a priority. To quote serial entrepreneur Richard Branson: ‘Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to’.
3) Sense of purpose and meaning
Does your company have a purpose beyond making money? Does it want to help your clients achieve something? Does it want to make the world better in some way? In short, does your company have a higher purpose? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’ or ‘I don’t know’, you might have a problem keeping your people interested. Particularly for Millenials and Gen Y, money has taken a backseat to finding meaning in their lives. If they don’t think they are actively contributing to something bigger than themselves, employees may not feel like they’re accomplishing anything. That’s why it’s important for your organisation to have a higher sense of purpose. You might not want to have something as corporate as a Mission Statement, but all your employees should have a clear understanding of the problems your organisation wants to solve, or the good it wants to do.
Having a big picture helps everyone keep their eyes on the ball. It also helps people understand unpopular internal processes. Employees aren’t always privy to why things have to be done a certain way, and only see the hassle or bureaucracy involved. If you can explain why one painful step is necessary, and how it fits into the greater whole and contributes to long-term success, your people will be much less antagonistic towards such steps.
Having a sense of purpose creates unity and cohesion in your team, as you’re all striving towards a common goal. The goal is often a long-term endeavour, so be sure to celebrate the small wins. Circulating company or individual success stories (easily done through your Kalido network) is great for boosting morale.
4) Less commuting
Where you’ve decided to establish your office is a decision not easily changed. You likely looked at the location of your suppliers, competitors, and clients before making your decision. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you could take your employees’ travelling into consideration. Which means if your employees are anything like a typical employee in the UK or US, they could be spending anything from 26 minutes to 90 minutes each way getting to and from work. That works out to more than a year spent in the hell of traffic over an average work life! And while you might not think that’s your problem, research has shown that the longer a person spends commuting to work each day, the less engaged and productive they are, the more stressed and anxious they are, and the more health and emotional issues they experience. Which means that anything you can do to cut down on your employees’ travel time has a direct impact on their productivity and happiness.
So, consider letting people work from home sometimes. With remote working tools helping you stay in touch, and letting you share or send work digitally, it’s often possible to get a lot done without having everyone in the same room. And if your meeting involves a small group, you can also do it at a convenient location that’s not the office. For example, members of your Kalido network can see where other members are located and arrange to meet at a café midway between everyone instead of having everyone trek to the office for a 45 minute meeting.
Remember that the point is to get the work done, not to control where people are getting it done. If your people will be just as productive (and almost certainly happier) working from home, or somewhere closer to home, you should definitely be encouraging this.
5) More flexibility
In addition to the option of working from home, jobs offering a high degree of flexibility are highly sought after. As an employer, you can provide flexibility in a variety of ways. Above, we discussed giving your people greater freedom to choose where they want to work. You can also give them more freedom with regards to their time. For example, instead of having a strict 9-5 schedule for the entire office (contributing to more of the gridlocking traffic we discussed above), you could consider instituting flexi-time. As long as they’re meeting their deadlines, it really shouldn’t matter all that much when your employees prefer to work. If they want to drop the kids off at school in the morning, or have a leisurely breakfast, or hit the gym first, then start working at 10am – that’s fine. If they’re early birds and want to get started at 4am – that’s fine too. You’ll likely have both chronotypes (whether a person is an early bird or a night owl) working for you, so let them choose their optimal work schedule.
You could also provide flexibility in how they’re remunerated or rewarded. You can let people swop their cash bonus for days off, for example. Or a dedicated parking bay for a gym contract. Instead of specifying a certain amount of leave days annually, you could let leave days carry over into future years allowing a longer holiday. Instead of a company-wide provident fund, you could let people choose their own retirement plan, and match their contributions there. Maybe more flexibility is as simple as letting people choose their own screensavers, instead of forcing everyone to stare at your company logo.
If you’re unsure what options to offer, talk to your people. It may not be a one-size-fits-all. And you may not be able to satisfy everyone. But knowing that you care enough to ask, and that you’re doing your best to give them more flexibility (in whatever form this takes) will go a long way in endearing you to your employees.