Everything you need to know about employee happiness and retention


5 min read

Everything you need to know about employee happiness and retention

Nikki Thorpe

Nikki Thorpe

Jul 8, 2016


    Everything you need to know about employee happiness and retention

    It’s a situation every manager a dreads. A key employee decides it’s time to move on, leaving some big shoes for your business to fill. This stressful scenario is one that more employers have been facing recently.

    One study reported that 37% of employees at least considered looking for a new job in 2015. That’s up from 35.7% the previous year. The Center for American Progress says that retail, leisure, hospitality, accommodation and food services were the fields with the highest percentage of workers quitting to pursue other jobs.

    When workers get restless, employers take a hit financially. The cost of replacing workers making $75,000 a year or less is 10 to 30% of the worker’s salary. And the cost of turnover isn’t just financial. Productivity and morale may also suffer when an experienced employee leaves.

    Reducing turnover has clear benefits to your business. But how can you keep your employees from seeking out greener pastures? The following ideas can help.

    Make salaries competitive

    Salary is probably the first thing you think of when it comes to keeping employees happy. And inclined to stay at your business. And it is indeed important. Forbes reports that 66% of dissatisfied employees said they were unhappy about their salaries.

    It’s easier than ever for employees to know how their pay compares with salaries at other workplaces thanks to job listings on sites like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor. You don’t have to pay the highest salaries in your area, but you should make sure your pay is competitive. If you’re at risk of losing talent to competitors who can pay more, consider making counteroffers than involve non-salary benefits or perks.

    Examine your benefits

    Those benefits and perks are an important part of the equation for employee happiness and retention. Fifty-eight percent of workers said better benefits could improve retention. And keep in mind that benefits don’t have to be costly. In the same survey, 51% of respondents said more flexible schedules could boost employee retention. On top of that, one study found that a lack of work-life balance was one of the main reasons people quit their jobs.

    Make employees feel valued

    But salary and benefits are not the end of the story. Forbes reports that 65% of dissatisfied employees said they don’t feel valued. And feeling under valued is just behind salary as the reason for employee unhappiness. Helping employees feel more valued can make a big difference in retention without a big cost to you.

    According to research, simply being treated with respect is what employees most want from their leaders. Show employees you value and respect them by taking time for face-to-face conversations. Asking employees for their opinions also makes them feel valued. Regularly ask questions like “How would you assess your opportunities to grow and advance?” and “How confident are you in the leadership of this organization?” via anonymous online surveys.

    Create a healthy culture

    In addition to leaders who make employees feel valued, a happy and engaged workplace culture can also help retain workers. But improved employee retention isn’t the only reward of improving your culture. QualComm, a company that’s been lauded for increasing employee happiness, saw a boost to business after taking steps to create a happier work culture.

    What are the hallmarks of a workplace culture that will help you keep employees? Fifty-four percent of employees who don’t intend to change jobs said it was because they liked their co-workers so much.

    You can celebrate your employees in lots of ways and thank them for a job well done even when you’re on a tight budget. American Express’ OPEN Forum has 101 ideas that won’t break the bank. Some of our favorites: Write a thank-you note praising an employee, reward great performance with a prime parking spot, host a pizza party for employees’ families.

    Give opportunities to grow

    Finally, we all want to be jobs that give us chances for growth and to develop our skills and talents — and we get restless when we feel stuck or stagnant in a job. According to CEB, a best practice insight and technology company, “70 percent of employees to be dissatisfied with future career opportunities, leading to potentially massive turnover costs.” E-consultancy recommends looking for ways to offer training and skills development to help retain employees, as well as mentorship and coaching programs.

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