It's not always easy keeping employees happy

Regular recognition for a job well done is a big part of keeping employees happy and productive. (Photo via U.S.A.C.E., Flickr)

Keeping employees happy and productive takes more than fun and games. It takes a cultural shift.
Happy, productive workers thrive in a certain type of workplace culture — one that values respect, appreciation, innovation and teamwork.
No matter what type of workplace your company has — a factory, office or shipping plant, restaurant, hotel or other service facility, or even a distributed workforce — you can take steps starting today to build this healthy culture among your employees.
Read on to find out why keeping employees happy and productive is actually easier than you may think!

6 Keys to a Happy Workplace Culture

1. Fair pay

Money won’t buy happiness or employee engagement. In fact, research across the board shows a weak correlation between compensation and overall job satisfaction and a weak correlation between salary satisfaction and what people actually make. This holds true even cross-culturally, according to the Harvard Business Review.
But fair and competitive pay is still crucial to employee happiness because money is “a predictable DE-motivator when not managed well,” Jason Lauritsen blogs for Quantum Workplace:

As an employee, if you are paid at or above what you feel is fair, then pay is a non-issue and other considerations become central to your engagement and satisfaction. But, if you feel your pay is not fair, pay becomes your number one issue and largely negates the impact of what may otherwise be a positive work experience.

2. Challenging work

Do your employees feel challenged to meet or exceed clear goals? Are they empowered to problem-solve on the job and do their best work?
Employees crave a challenge. 2012 SHRM engagement survey respondents knocked “job security” from its long-held #1 position and replaced it with “opportunities to use skills and abilities.” “Rookie Smarts” author Liz Wiseman says challenging employees is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective ways for organizations to help employees feel more fulfilled.
“Employees don’t just want their skills used; they want them stretched,” she writes in the HBR article, “An Easy Way to Make Your Employees Happier.”

3. Supportive work environment

Employees need the basic tools and knowledge to do their jobs well, stay safe on the job and feel supported by management. A supportive management team:

  • listens to employee feedback and takes it seriously;
  • gives positive, constructive feedback;
  • and communicates the value and importance of the work.

Supportive work environments also need to be transparent. In Forbes article “Transparency Eats Culture for Lunch,” Kevin Kruse writes that “‘great culture” has become synonymous with foosball tables, subsidized lunches and lots of parties, yet the strongest driver of employee happiness is good company communication.
“What employees want is frequent, transparent two-way communication,” Kruse writes.

4. Flexibility to get the job done

Flexibility with location and schedule builds trust with employees by allowing them to work and play on their own terms. Flex time and working from home may soon be the rule, not the exception, as the up-and-coming generation of workers increasingly expect it in the workplace.
The payoff to flexibility is worth it for employers! Employees granted even a small degree of flexibility show significantly “greater job satisfaction, stronger commitment to the job and higher levels of engagement with the company, as well as significantly lower levels of stress,” according to contributor and “The New Job Security” author Pam Lassiter.

5. Frequent Recognition

Everyone wants recognition at work — yet very few of us give or get enough of it, according to a 2013 Templeton Foundation survey. Of those surveyed, 80 percent agreed that receiving gratitude makes them work harder, but only 10 percent actually express gratitude to others every day. Wow!

Experts say this gratitude imbalance has two main causes: 1) managers who were trained to believe that a paycheck is “thanks” enough, and 2) employees who have no recognition role models — in other words, when recognition is modeled from the top-down, employees are more likely to mimic it!
Thankfully, employers are finally starting to recognize the value of workplace appreciation. Adam Grant, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, calls appreciation “the single most sustainable motivator at work.”
In the Wall Street Journal article “It Pays to Give Thanks at the Office,” Grant says recognition beats extrinsic motivators because it never loses its appeal or meaning.

Extrinsic motivators can stop having much meaning. Your raise in pay feels like your just due, your bonus gets spent, your new title doesn’t sound so important once you have it. But the sense that other people appreciate what you do sticks with you.

6. Community

Community ties everything together. The best workplaces mobilize employees around a common goal and consistently reinforce a sense of community. Employees from different departments in your company should have opportunities to regularly communicate with one another, work together and celebrate together!

“Camaraderie is more than just having fun… It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in it together,” writes Christine Riordan in the HBR article, “We All Need Friends at Work.” 
Community outreach, volunteer outings, inter-departmental lunches and peer-to-peer recognition are all proven methods for building a sense of community, engaging workers, fostering innovation and keeping employees happy and productive!
To learn more, download our free eBook, The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading” and follow these cutting edge blogs for up-to-the minute insights from world-class employee engagement experts. These blogs are loaded with best-practice ideas, insider tips, and the latest research for building superior teams. Don’t miss them!
The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should Be Reading
About gThankYou, LLC
Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any grocery store in the U.S.
gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.
gThankYou, LLC ( is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick Kiley, Chief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at or 888-609-2234.
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