17 Business Owners Share Unique Ways to Keep Employees Happy

If you think that you are on the fence about creating a stronger office culture, you might want to consider the benefits of having a happy workplace.

There are so many working people on this planet and more than a half of them report being unhappy at work. Employees prefer to work for a company with a defined set of positive values. An office packed with happy people is a better place to work. Besides, investing in employee wellbeing results in higher productivity and increased profits as well as building value for your business.

Here are 17 business owners who share their insights into what makes workers happy and motivated.

Ray Lim, I-credit

Ray Lim

As a business owner, there are a lot of variables to look at.

Our main consideration always revolves around profit margins and lowering cost.

But we tend to dismiss the working parts, people.

We have to look at the culture of our business and sustainability of our employees, it's all part of a bigger equation to maintain as we grow bigger.

At scale, there will be more variables, conflicts and disputes are unavoidable. Toxic workplace culture starts from small amount of resentment that having good perks, like dental insurance & gym passes alone can't resolve. Mental health, stress levels and team work cannot be easily measured as compared to numbers and data. Talk to the people, ask them what they want - give it to them, as much as you can.

There's no way around proper communications to getting your employees happy. They'll stay as long as their needs are fulfilled.

Jordan Choo, Kogneta

Jordan Choo

I've found that the biggest thing to making employees happy is by giving them "ownership" of their role. What I mean by this is empowering them to lead the way and contribute to how things are done. That way you're no longer delegating tasks, instead you are delegating outcomes.

This level of ownership lets your employees dictate specific parts of their job and also holds them accountable for their work as well. In a sense it's almost like allowing your employees to become internal entrepreneurs for your business which has worked wonders for us.

Amanda Thomas, Konstruct Digital

Amanda Thomas

If you want to retain and keep your best employees happy, unfortunately that means making some tough decisions about your other employees.

Work relationships between managers, employees, and coworkers can make or break the happiness of your employees. In your working years, you spend approximately 30% of your time working. That time should be fulfilling.

Toxic, unproductive, and bad-fit employees can take away from the experience of everyone else. It’s important to identify those individuals early so that everyone can move on.

But what happens if you have an insanely productive individual who is toxic to the rest of the staff? We’ve all heard stories about the "sales guy" or "executive" that the company can’t afford to lose. It might not be an easy decision to make, but this individuals toxicity might be keeping down the productivity of everyone else.

Move on, you won’t regret it. You’ll wish you had done it years sooner.

David Denholm, Kung Fu Commerce

David Denholm

My three favourite things to do for employee satisfaction are;

1. Public recognition - It is all too easy to fall into the trap of trying to improve someone’s performance with timely (in your opinion) advice or some sage words. The most significant boost is found by finding out what the employee is doing right, telling them and others about it.

John Harvey-Jones, chairman of ICI in the 80s, famously would walk the various factory floors worldwide and find out who was doing well. Upon return to his office in the U.K., he would ship a gift to said worker’s home for their partner.

2. Passion Projects - I would suggest is giving time to employees for passion projects and provide them with space to share their experience and learnings with the team.

Employers are often worried about staff leaving, but I feel you are better to embrace it. If someone is entrepreneurial, it is better to be a mentor and have them learn the ropes instead of going off and falling at the first hurdle you have already tackled before. Give them space to grow in your organisation. Who knows, maybe they become your next right-hand person or, better still, take over for you.

3. SWAG - While perhaps not unique, I think creative ways to embrace fun competition are the best way to offer up some cool SWAG. Challenges - not necessarily business-related - can be a great way to bring together and team and offer up camaraderie.

Bill Widmer, Widmer Enterprises

Bill Widmer

One of the best ways to keep employees happy (and more productive) is by matching them to the right kind of work. An analytics person won't typically do well in creative work like web design or copywriting, and a people person won't do well in data entry.

One way to help you match employees to their best work is by giving them a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram test. These tests tell you what kind of role they typically excel at.

In addition to the tests - just ask them! Ask what their favorite tasks are and what kind of work they'd like to do for your company. Chances are, they have a good idea of what they do and don't like.

Carlos Obregon, Bloom Digital Marketing

Carlos Obregon

Keeping everyone in the team happy is certainly a priority for me, both from a business perspective as well as an ethical concern. Different people need different ways of communicating praise and recognition. Some more outgoing team members enjoy the public pat in the back, but other more introvert people may prefer a more personal and private message instead.

But any personality type will always react well to a positive expectation. If we expect everyone to do great work they will! It is called the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect.

If there is need for support and or validation during the work process then it is up to the team lead to provide that as required. So in a nutshell the way we keep people happy around here is to always expect a good outcome and to show appreciation when that happens. If there is a need to correct the course along the way that is done respectfully and discreetly.

Nick Eversion, Startups Anonymous

Nick Eversion

I like to keep all my employees working towards the same goal, that is to grow the business. I do this by very clear performance based incentives, for new employees of course its very low but managers in high positions can close to double their salary with bonuses. This keeps motivation high and avoids a scenario where the employees resents the company.

Jason Schulz, Maid2Match

Jason Schulz

What I've observed is that people treasure "freedom". This keeps them happy, motivated and loyal. One day it's remote work, other day it's comfortable clothing at work, sometimes it's "We pay for a fraction of your brand new laptop, you pay the rest, but finally you own it", or even it can be something like "My wife/husband needs my helps ASAP at home" and they can have the freedom and space to do that. Without impacting their results and goals of course.

That type of freedom, combined with zero micromanagement, and also an understanding attitude that sometimes people make mistakes and should not be embarrassed but learn from it. This will create loyalty from your employees to your company and finally to your brand, customers, products and services.

Keep in mind, there is no one-size fits all approach to keeping your team happy. Unless you hire all the same type of people. Often there will be nuances to how you will need to motivate different types of roles and people.

Kas Andz, Kas Andz Marketing Group

Kas Andz

In our experience the best way to keep employees happy is showing true appreciation and that the work that is being done is being received and is appreciated. Appreciation can come in different ways, sometimes it can be a promotion, a raise, extra time off etc.

In our experience the mode that works best is the verbal communication from the higher ups in the company, physically setting the worker aside and showing their appreciation for a job well done.

All the other bonuses are a perk, but the human, personal touch from our perspective is the one that surpasses them all and makes a truly positive and uplifting work environment and increases employee retention and overall work quality.

Mohit Tater, BlackBook Investments

Mohit Tater

Provide Entertainment Access

Nothing says you care about an employee more than facilitating ways for them to let loose and relax. Access to a streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon Prime is a great way to do something special for all the employees in your company and a perk that will mean much more than occasional freebie tickets or vouchers.

By providing entertainment options, you’re letting them know that the company understands how vital unwinding is for productivity -- and it’s an unconventional perk to boot. It’s also an undercover team-building exercise! It’s difficult for remote employees to get integrated with company culture without a shared workspace, but TV shows and movies have the power to bring people together across the globe. As long as no one’s streaming during work hours, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Sam Wright, Blink SEO

Sam Wright

In our sector (digital marketing for eCommerce), recruitment and retention is challenging. There’s a lot of competition for roles, and high expectations regarding working environments. We definitely see this as a positive though - our team are young, ambitious and want to work somewhere they feel matches their ideals.

This is one of the core aims behind our use of a 4 day week. There’s a lot been written around better productivity for businesses that use this system – and we’ve definitely found that this is the case - but there’s other benefits too. Our employee retention has been 100% for several years, for example.

All our team have individual wellbeing budgets and access to a dedicated wellbeing platform. This can be used to buy anything from workout equipment to craft materials, as well as providing a large resource of apps, videos and other content related to wellbeing. We also have an in-house wellbeing officer, who provides practical support and guidance where necessary, and have other perks, like a company-wide profit share.

However, this isn’t the most important point. Teams are at their happiest - and perform best – when there is a clear goal, and they are given the trust and responsibility to carry out their part in achieving it.

We trust our team to do excellent work, and so we trust them to make decisions on how they structure their day, when they sleep, when they want to take time out to take care of themselves and their loved ones. This is what makes the biggest difference, not the perks and incentives.

Zach Doty, Zach Doty

Zach Doty

I’m a big believer in the fundamentals, and that truly executing the fundamentals in the absolute best way possible automatically sets you apart from other businesses. So while it might seem silly to say this, but my first way of keeping employees happy is talking to them!

Shockingly few leaders do regular 1:1’s. (Manager Tools and Baremetrics have great guides for effective 1:1’s.) I would challenge leaders to go beyond operational 1:1’s and offer personal 1:1 times where no work is discussed. Especially as remote work becomes the dominant way of working, it’s so crucial to be intentional about face-to-face engagement with your team.

Why focus on personal time as well? Remember that adage, "If you aren’t talking to your clients, someone else is". Today’s corollary could be, "If you aren’t talking to your employees, someone else is".

Our employees are craving purpose and connection to something more than themselves, as well as affirmation and praise. I can’t stress that importance enough. If you model care and interest for your team, they’ll take very often take great care of the clients and you!

Andrea Barnhill, Socratik

Andrea Barnhill

Though it may be easier as a business owner to only focus on what employees can get done for you and your company, taking an interest in their professional development and supporting their career growth goes a long way.

Our company sets annual business goals, and subsequently, each employee creates their own annual goals that help achieve the overarching business goals, as well as further their own professional development. Strengthening a skill, taking a course on a topic they’re interested in, or leaning into a new passion encourages team members to look ahead, and not just stay in the weeds of day to day work.

It also helps employees to feel like they have a say in shaping the trajectory of their roles. I believe that burnout is not primarily caused by overworking, but rather by boredom and nothing to look forward to. Having an "always learning" culture has not only bettered the company, but has kept our employees engaged and happy with their jobs.

Nestor Vazquez, SEO Mexico

Nestor Vazquez

Where to find talents?

The most effective ways to find the best talent are through networking and referrals. If you want your team to be successful, always work on building relationships with people who know others in other companies as well.

The more connections you have across different organizations, the better chance of finding someone that will fit into your organization’s culture perfectly; or at least give it a shot!

Make use of any social media platforms available like LinkedIn for research purposes if necessary but never forget about old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations from colleagues too!

In addition, some employers offer bonuses when employees refer talented candidates which is an excellent way not only to get higher quality applicants but also to motivate staff members by rewarding them financially every time they recommend somebody else within their company.

Kevin Dam, Aemorph

Kevin Dam

It's important to make sure your team is always looked after because at the end of the day they're helping you deliver.

I start the process of keeping my team members happy right from the beginning, as soon as they're being interviewed and I do this by finding out what's important to them in different aspects of their life - family, relationships, career, personal.

This helps because I'm able to align what they want in their life to how we can help them achieve or attain these things while working in our company. It also shows that we care about them and what their life is outside of office hours and I always appreciated that myself when I was working as an employee.

Setting goals up with my team members is paramount to the whole success of the company because a lot of the times individuals don’t have all the resources they need to thrive, but collectively as a company we’re able to provide opportunities to everyone in the team.

It’s important as leaders we recognise it’s a 2-way street with our team members and we’re taking care of them so they can take care of the company and we all grow together.

James Lee, Monetized Future

James Lee

I might have a unique spin on this answer because all of my employees are contracted workers. I work with the same content creators, developers, link builders, and VAs every month so they are essentially my employees.

The way that I keep my contractors happy is by treating them like they have a vested interest in my company. I incentive them with performance-based bonuses and even send them holiday bonuses just like I would if they were my full-time employees.

Another way that I keep my contractors happy is by treating them like human beings. It can be really easy to slip into the habit of treating VAs like "automated task robots", when in fact they are people with families and lives outside of the tasks you need them to perform. So, try to remember that and you will have much happier employees regardless of whether they are contractors or in-house.

Garrett Graff, Reach Creator

Garrett Graff

Helping out! Jumping in and directing helping employees complete their work, whether it be easy or hard tasks, is a great way to show them that you're all in it together. Often times business owners tend to not help much and just expect employees to get things done on their own, but jumping into the process to lend a helping hand can really show what type of leader you are, and they will really appreciate it too!

Being a boss that goes the extra mile is a sure fire way to keep employees happy, meaning they're more likely to stay around longer and you'll spend less time having to train a replacement or bring other team members up to speed on the project at hand. And, happy employees that feel like they're truly part of the team are likely to be more productive and generate higher quality work!


Shaurya Jain is the person behind Attention Always. He likes traveling and watching comedy shows. Yes you are correct, he is no special than the rest of us.

Related Article: How to Sell Your Business To Your Key Employees



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