10 Tips to Keep Employees Happy

happy employees

As job-hopping millennials infiltrate the workforce, employers need to be aware of the value of keeping their employees happy.

Considering the time and money investments associated with the hiring and training processes, it makes much more sense to keep current employees than take on the challenge of bringing in new ones.

So how do you keep employees happy?

The best place to start for employers is to understand why people quit their jobs and, conversely, what makes people stay.

Why Employees Leave

Based on my experience helping some of the world’s largest enterprises with their approaches to HR, the top five reasons employees quit are:

1. Feeling Underutilized — If employees feel like their strengths aren’t being taken advantage of and have expressed that, they probably won’t be very happy in their current position. Employees want to feel like they add value to the company, so they will seek a role where they have that opportunity. After all, there are only so many times one can reorganize their desk in one day, right?

2. The job is Not What They Expected — The job description reads “Marketing Assistant” and you think, “Great, I’ll get to be part of the creative process!” First day on the job and you’re in a hot dog costume handing out fliers on the street.

Not quite what you thought the job would entail, right? When accepting a job, people want to have a good sense of what their main responsibilities will be and what an average day will consist of. If the job does not match the advertised description, you can expect a frustrated employee that isn’t going to stick around.

3. No Room for Growth — Most people – especially millennials – enter the workforce with the mindset that they will gain skills and experience over time, and therefore, they will grow within the company. If there is no opportunity for advancing, employees will look elsewhere for the chance to grow their career.

4. Negative Work Environment — Considering most of your waking hours are spent at work, it makes sense to want to spend those hours in a pleasant work environment. If an employee gets to the point where they dread going to work each day, you can guarantee that they will eventually decide to stop going.

What makes a work environment so destructive? It can be anything from an unrealistic workload to a lack of respect among coworkers … which brings me to my next and final point.

5. Personality Conflict — Sure, it’s important to keep your personal issues separate from your work environment, but when there is a true personality clash, it can be hard to ignore. Whether it is a condescending boss or a peer that you can’t seem to get along with, there will come a point when you decide its best not to work together. How long do you think Captain Hook and Peter Pan would have lasted working together?

Why Employees Stay

Aside from just addressing those reasons people quit, there are plenty of factors that can boost employee retention. Let’s look at the top five reasons people are compelled to stay at their jobs:

1. Company Culture — The work environment, combined with how employees feel and interact, can have enormous pull on how long someone stays at their job. Have you ever been in the situation where you may have been unhappy with the work you’re doing, but thought “How can I leave my coworkers?”

This is a perfect example of how much a company’s culture weighs into staying at a job. Participating in group activities like ice-breakers or a March Madness bracket can help boost morale among employees.

2. The Perks — Paid vacations, annual bonuses, season tickets, oh my! I’m not saying that it’s a good idea to bribe your employees to keep them from quitting, but if your company offers these incentive and rewards programs from the get-go, it shows that the employer cares and wants to put in the effort to create a happy workforce.

3. Work/life Balance — As I mentioned above, an overworked employee is not a happy employee. To retain employees, companies should make the effort to promote a healthy work/life balance.

Enforce a strict eight-hour rule, or encourage employees to avoid checking email once they’ve left the office. Flexible hours also promote a healthy balance between work and home, especially for employees with young children. Respecting an employee’s free time is a way to show the company cares.

4. Salary and Benefits. This one is a given. When looking for a job, competitive benefits are increasingly being sought out by potential employees. It is important to be aware of this consistently — not just when offering a job. For example, consistent raises over time can help retain your top employees.

5. Passion. Simply put, people are compelled to do what they love. During the hiring process, it is important to determine if this is the career a potential hire is passionate about or if they simply need a job.

Hiring people that care about their work will go a long way, because they enter the company already driven to succeed in the industry. Passion also helps reinforce company culture, because sharing a common goal will encourage cohesion among the team.

There is always something new and innovative a company can be doing to attract and retain talent. But by following these dos and don’ts, you should be able to stay ahead of the game and put your best team forward.

(Photo by highwaysengland / CC BY)

Chris Wakely has been with Thomsons for more than nine years. He has worked in HR technology for the last 15 years, previously with the global accounts team at Microsoft. He has worked with clients such as IBM, Cisco Systems and GSK on their benefit programs and understands the important link between software and benefit management. For more information please visit www.thomsons.com.


  1. Todd Corbett on the 22nd May

    Hey Chris,
    Great post! I think personal workspaces play a role in employee morale also. Making people “feel at home” creates a good vibe. A nice personal space, allowing pictures, a plant maybe, natural light, aka a window near by. Sounds good right? But being crammed in a tiny gray cubicle in the middle of 100 others is a real mood-killer.

    Todd Corbett

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