happy employees

In the old days, people went to work and moved from one job to another once or twice in a lifetime. Many were “lifers.” We know that doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone is their own employment agency. Companies and nonprofits no longer retain people that don’t serve the interests of the organization. And because of it, workers don’t feel the loyalty they used to for the places where they work.

The Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit, has found that employee dissatisfaction continues to increase. Ever since 1987, they have been taking an annual survey of work satisfaction, including job security, pay, vacation, benefits, etc. As of their last report:

  • In their last published survey, 52.3 percent of Americans are not happy at work.
  • The first year of their survey, 38.9 percent of Americans were unhappy with their jobs and work.

I don’t think we’re going back to the “Mad Men” days, nor should we have to. The world has moved on, but it doesn’t mean we neglect employee satisfaction. While employees work for your nonprofit, business or social enterprise, you should care about keeping your employees happy. The reality is that it’s good for business and the bottom line, as much as it’s good for your employees. Happy employees will work harder for you.

Promote Transparency

When employees understand business decisions, they’re able to make better decisions within the scope of their work. Help your team understand all of the pieces of your organization and what you’re doing. This will ensure they understand the big picture. And, when they know what the big picture looks like, they can make better decisions in their own day-to-day work. Transparency also helps eliminate gossip and misunderstandings. The fact is that if employees don’t understand what’s happening and why they’ll complete the “story” with their own versions.

Treat Your Employees Like Adults

Micro-management is not the path to greatness. Yes, as an executive the buck stops with you, but you have to give your employees a certain degree of freedom to do their jobs. If you’re calling them into your office each day to chew them out about every little thing, you’re wasting your time and theirs. You’re breaking the trust between you and your employee. They’ll begin to walk on eggshells around you and you’ll then find yourself making every decision–no matter how minute–because you’re essentially treating your employees like children. Give clear expectations and direction around what you want to get done. Then allow them to do it and review results.

Get Feedback

Managers always want to provide feedback to their employees. That’s their right. But a lot of times, managers don’t ask feedback from their employees. Engaging your team in the work you do means asking them to be participants. Ask for their feedback on the programs, initiatives and management process. Open a forum for dialogue. At my offices, we’re meeting with our entire time regularly and asking everyone to exchange updates and ideas. Managers on my team encourage their team to give their honest assessment and review of things. Your team members may know something much better than you do, especially if they’re the ones doing the work each day. Ask their opinion and get their input.

Be Consistent

Everyone knows you’re the boss and leader within the organization. You don’t need to say it. Just be it. But, however you work with your employees and whatever your style, be consistent. Don’t try to be their buddy and friend and the next day come in ready to tear someone to shreds. This only serves to put your employees on the defensive, and while I know some bosses like that, it only leads to more expenses due to high employee turnover. Don’t be the buddy of your employees. That’s not your job. You’re not their peer. Just be consistent as the boss.

Don’t Waste Your Money On Perks

We always hear about the big tech companies that provide their employees with the best perks. They have everything they could ever want on business campuses. This mindset trickles down to smaller organizations that think they should be giving their employees some fun perks on the job, such as massages or free lunches. Studies have shown that employees really want to be a valuable member of the work team. That’s a motivator to happiness. Save your money. Find ways to empower and engage your employees around the work they do instead. Show them what being a valuable member of your team means.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


© 2016 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.