Happy employees pay huge dividends. 

According to research conducted by analytics and consulting firm Great Place to Work, organizations with happy employees:

  • Have three times the revenue growth

  • Outperform the stock market by a factor of three

  • Have half the employee turnover

But according to that same research, only 40 percent of employees report being happy at work. That's a lot of unhappy people going to work every day.

Perks are nice, but not happiness drivers

Certainly no one strives for unhappy employees. That's one reason why Silicon Valley salaries and perks have ballooned out of control. Keeping employees well-fed and entertained is meant to keep them happy and productive.

Great Place to Work CEO Michael C. Bush says all those perks are missing the point. They're not making your employees happier.

"It's not about ping pong tables, massages and pet walking," Bush explains in a video for TED Conferences. You don't even need to spend a lot of money.

The shocking, are-you-ready-for-this secret to driving employee happiness? Treat them well. It all comes down to trust. Yep, it's really that simple. But here's the tricky part: You need to actually walk the walk.

Building trust and respect

Organizations with happy employees trust their workers. And this empowers employees to do their best work.

You can easily put these words in a mission statement, but how you execute trust in practice is what really matters. Here are some very common ways companies erode trust on a daily basis:

  • Need to know what your employees are doing at all times

  • Constantly check in on employees and micromanage them

  • Encourage employee feedback, but aren't truly receptive to it

  • Keep employees in the dark about important directional changes

  • Favor certain employees over others

  • Prioritize the opinions of higher-level employees

  • Let bureaucratic processes balloon out of control, making it impossible to get even the simplest tasks done or approved

  • Limit employees' ability to make their own decisions

  • Punish employees when they make small mistakes

Trust isn't built overnight. Many employers make the mistake of assuming trust from day one. You need to earn it -- especially if your culture has become one of distrust. Then you have to work doubly hard to undo the damage.

A few actionable steps

Bush offers a few basic tips to begin to build a culture of trust:

  • Treat your employees fairly, no matter what their level.

  • Take a back seat in projects. Let employees drive. Mistakes may happen. Be OK with that. Use those as learning opportunities.

  • Open your ears. Truly listen. Invite ideas from anyone in the organization.

"The one thing that everybody appreciates and wants when they're speaking is to know that what they say matters so much, you might actually change your mind," Bush concludes.

Remember, having a workforce of happy employees tends to drive more revenue. So if you really want employees to be happy, you have to trust them to do the right thing. ​

Published on: Dec 20, 2018