What Will Keep Your Employees Happy?

When our kids were young, a friend told us a great idea to incentivize them for good behavior: Get two empty jars, fill one with marbles, and move a marble from the full jar to the empty jar every time they do something right. When the empty jar is full, they get a prize of your choosing. It’s a visual way to help them see how their good behavior leads to a reward. We tried it, and all that positive reinforcement really worked. Our kids loved the many rewards they received for brushing teeth, doing chores, finishing homework, and displaying good attitudes. If you’re a Baby Boomer, I’ll bet you used a similar method.

Flash forward about thirty years to find that those incentivized children are the workers of today. Did you read our recent post on Understanding Your Millennial Employees? In it, recruiter Candice Sherman told you about what workers in their twenties and early thirties are looking for from employers. Now, another survey of 1,006 multigenerational workers has been published with more information about what all employees (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials) want from their place of employment.

Have you wondered what will keep your employees happy in a time when so many are looking for better opportunities? Here are a few things the Kelton/Addison Group survey  found that employees want from you:

  • 63 percent of all workers want you to care about their work/life balance. This is more important to them than benefits, learning opportunities, or internal career growth.
  • The majority of respondents (44 percent) want you to pay them  more money. These workers say they would leave their current job for a better financial opportunity. Millennials particularly expect at least one raise and bonus per year, if not more.
  • About one third of workers expect you to give them their own office, and not as a reward for performance (Baby Boomers 31 percent, Gen Xers 28 percent, and Millennials 38 percent).
  • Three fourths of employees are looking for a better fit. Only approximately one fourth of all employees surveyed feel they are in their ideal role at work.
  • About one third of Millennials want you to give them clear promotion tracks.
  • All generations want you to give them your honest feedback more than anything, although Millennials also want you to help them figure out where they should be heading in their career.

As an employer, you undoubtedly feel that running a business is challenging enough without having to try to meet some of these high expectations.  While you may not be able or desire to accommodate all of them, it’s important to be aware of what will keep your employees happy in a time when about one third of workers are constantly browsing the job boards. With the current candidates’ market, you’ll need to be attentive and creative in order to retain your top talent.

Are there small ways in which you can flex or improve your workers’ hours to accommodate a better work/life balance? Is there any room in your budget to give a raise to your best workers? Could you build another floor on your office building in order to give each employee his own office? (Okay, I’m kidding on that one!) Can you add one responsibility to each worker’s role that each would be passionate about doing? Could you take each Millennial to lunch just to talk about his or her career goals? Would you be able to drop your guard enough to honestly tell your workers how much you value their contributions…or where they need to improve?

I keep thinking about my kids’ marble jar. We’re all wired to be praised and rewarded in order to be motivated to keep performing. More than raises or individual offices, your watchful eye for what your employees do right will create an atmosphere that everyone will enjoy…even if they eventually decide to move on. Realistically (and statistically!), you can’t keep them all, but there are positive actions you can take to keep them happy as long as they’re working for you.

If actions speak louder than words, how is your company culture being formed?

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