10 Tips For Keeping Your Best Employees Happy

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Jan 29, 2015

Your best employees are the people who drive your organization forward – they are more creative, more productive, and bring more value to your organization.

So, keeping them happy must be a priority, because these are the employees that are typically not replaceable.

Here are 10 tips on how you can do that:

1. Know what motivates them

Your best employees are likely intrinsically motivated. That means they are motivated by their work and their outcomes, and not as much by external rewards like money or extra days off.

Sure, those things are nice, but if you really want to get them excited, give them a great project to work on that is in line with their professional interests and the freedom to make it better than you ever thought it could be.

2. Remove the obstacles

The first job of any great boss is to remove obstacles, but this becomes especially important with your best employees.

Think specifically about any political battles and power struggles they may encounter in achieving their goal. It’s not necessarily that they don’t know how to navigate those obstacles, it’s that they consider it to be an incredible waste of time and energy since power struggles shouldn’t get in the way of doing good work.

Take them out of the equation entirely to keep your best employees’ eyes focused on the prize rather than the pain points.

3. Treat them unequally

Yes, you read that correctly. Your best employees are not equal to the rest of your staff, and treating them as such does nothing to help your organization.

When you treat your best employees equally with the rest of your staff, you force them onto the same playing field as your average, or even mediocre, employees. Not only is this incredibly annoying to them (see points 1 and 2), but it also doesn’t take advantage of the value they bring to your organization.

In other words, when you treat them equally, you are literally wasting organizational resources. Think of it as an investment – when you put more resources into your best employee, you’re going to get far more of a return.

4. Involve them

Your best employees understand that there is a bigger picture involved and want to see how their work contributes to it.

So, don’t withhold information. Communicate with them. Involve them in the process. Be transparent.

It will be a big motivator and likely spurn all sorts of additional ideas that might contribute to the bottom line.

5. Be flexible

Being flexible can have a number of different interpretations. Here are just a few:

  • Don’t force them to always come to the office – let them work remotely.
  • Don’t force them onto a 9-5 schedule. Let them come in late and work late…or come in early and leave early.
  • Don’t force them into a stuffy business dress code when it has no impact on their success. A pair of jeans never hurt anyone.
  • Don’t force them to follow dumb rules and policies. You know which ones we’re talking about here.
  • Don’t get in the way of their side projects – encourage consulting and freelance as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their work. It’s not that they’re not committed to the job and the company; they likely want to explore a variety of interests and outside work allows them to do that. If you keep them happy, they won’t leave.

In other words, as long as they are being productive and meeting their goals, let them do their thing. You will ultimately get more out of them when they are happy, comfortable, and not being bogged down by red tape.

6. Listen to them

Sometimes, your best employees are just going to need to talk ideas through out loud, or even vent.

Let them. Don’t interrupt. And then show that you value the effort and thought they’re putting into things.

It doesn’t mean you have to act on it, just show them you care enough to listen and understand their perspective.

7. Give them critical feedback

Your best employees are constantly questioning their own work and looking for ways to make it better. So, telling them their work is great all the time isn’t particularly helpful.

When you take the time to give them thoughtful, critical feedback about their work, you are actually showing them that you value them, their effort, and that you want to develop them and help them become better.

8. Don’t waste their time

This point is particularly true for meetings.

Forcing your best employees to leave their work one or several times a day and go sit in a room talking about things that aren’t relevant forces them out of their flow and really cuts into their overall productivity.

Meetings themselves are not the problem. Bad, unorganized, unproductive meetings are the problem.

9. Pay attention to culture

Don’t underestimate the role the social aspect plays in keeping your best employees happy.

They could probably sit in their office all day as an individual contributor and be fine but you can really enhance their working environment by giving them opportunities to work and engage with people that like them and rally as a team.

Not only will they enjoy coming to work more, but the group will collectively push each other to the next level.

10. Give them innovation time

Your best employees need time to experiment and try new things to keep them interested and motivated.

Build it into their schedule. Let them tinker with things that are interesting to them as long as they are meeting their other goals. Denying them can be very de-motivating and if the project doesn’t prove fruitful, they’ll likely abandon it anyway.

This may seem to be counter-productive but look at it this way: Your best employees are likely producing double what your average employees are, so even if you allow them to tinker with a side project for 15-20 percent of their time, they are STILL producing more than your average employee and possibly innovating you to your next big thing.

It’s a good use of time.

This was originally published on Zen Workplace.