Going to work shouldn't be synonymous with being miserable or bored. Not only is workplace happiness essential to someone's work-life balance, but being happy also tends to make a person more productive. This means it's especially important for you as a business leader to keep your employees happy on a day-to-day basis.

Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. Offering a raise will definitely make someone's day and be appreciated, but maintaining that satisfaction requires more than a cash-focused solution. You have to give people a reason to show up every day other than because they have to.

When employees are happy, everyone's happy. A positive outlook is not only contagious, but it can also make workers more independent and adaptive to stressful situations.

There's a reason successful companies like Google have beanbag chairs and video games in their offices. It's not a cheap way to buy their employees' affection, but an outlet to keep them relaxed. Making sure employees maintain a healthy perspective is an investment in your company's future.

Keeping your employees happy takes a bit of commitment and creativity, but it's well worth the effort. Here are four strategies for satisfying your staff and boosting their productivity in the process.

1. Use noncash awards.

When you're brainstorming gift ideas during the holidays, cash often comes to mind. It's perfect because people can buy whatever they want with it, right? That's the problem. Cash is too generic. It proves you don't know that person or care enough to think about what they really want. He or she is probably just going to spend it on gas or groceries, and they're not going to be thinking about you when they're munching on that newly purchased celery.

The same rules apply when it comes to your employees. Participants in a study by the Maritz Institute and the Incentive Research Foundation underwent a virtual awards presentation, and in the simulation, most indicated a strong emotional preference for noncash rewards.

Charlotte Blank, chief behavioral officer of Maritz, says noncash incentives are more memorable for employees from all generations. "My dad still remembers the set of luggage he received for hitting his very first sales target," Blank says. And a 2016 survey by Aon Hewitt and O.C. Tanner found that Millennials' most preferred form of recognition was -- wait for it -- a simple handwritten note. So, the next time one of your employees reaches a goal or milestone, consider a reward that requires more thought than handing out some cash.

2.  Keep employees in the loop.

Rewarding your employees is great, but to keep employees happy, you've got to also consider how you're treating them on a daily basis. Research has shown transparency is a top factor in employee happiness. Your employees will appreciate being kept up to speed through honest and transparent communication. A 2017 TINYpulse study found that transparency and employee professional growth were linked: Companies lacking in transparency saw a lack of professional growth among their employees as well.

Being honest and candid with your team can go a long way. Even weekly meetings can provide a platform for gathering employee input, helping team members feel a sense of purpose. After all, if your goal is to make your employees as productive as possible, making them an integral part of the conversation will give them a reason to be there.

3. Plan a cultural event experience.

Perhaps the best gift for employees isn't a gift at all. A Harris Group study found that Millennials -- currently the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce -- value experiences over cash. A memorable experience will give them a better reason to bring their A-game to work every day.

You don't have to plan an elaborate field trip to accomplish this task. There are many options that require little planning on your part, such as renting a luxury suite where your work team can enjoy watching their favorite team. Scott Spencer, president and founder of Suite Experience Group, says "the in-stadium fan experience has never been better." Be mindful when you plan an outing: There's nothing worse than surprising your employees with a trip to a football game and making them sit in the nosebleed section -- or a cold rain. When done right, you can rejuvenate your team members with the full experience.

Of course, I'm not a football kind of guy, and your employees might not be into it either. There are many ways to make an experience memorable for your employees. Take time to consider what type of experience or event would be most enjoyed by the personalities you have working for you.

4. Facilitate your employees' career paths.

If your employees see their job as just a means to pay the bills, they probably won't find much satisfaction in their daily tasks. Help them develop a career path within your organization, developing new skills or enhancing existing ones.

Training and development are great ways to match each employee's interests to a unique role in your company. Otherwise, they're likely to find that role somewhere else. Millennials especially tend to care more about fulfillment than money, making it crucial that you consider their career interests if you want them to stick around.

By rewarding your employees with more than just cash and showing a vested interest in their careers, you won't just be making your employees happy -- you'll also be creating a more productive work environment.

Published on: May 21, 2018
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