In business, we're always told to keep the customer happy. But what about the employees? One of the things I've learned over the years is that a happy team results in a better work environment, higher levels of creativity, and, most of all, a healthy bottom line.

As someone who has most likely held a number of different jobs, you know the difference between a happy environment and a group of malcontents watching the clock. Businesses that keep morale high outperform their competitors by 20 percent and are on average 12 percent more productive.

The energy of a satisfied team is palpable and can serve as a great recruitment and retention tool. As VARIDESK eloquently states: "Employees today do their best work when they're surrounded by an office built for and able to accommodate their dynamic needs...the key to this pillar is putting the right tools in the right hands for the right purpose, because the office's design should promote productivity and creativity, not hinder it."

With the specter of the 2008 recession in the rearview mirror, employees aren't as willing to stay in less-than-desirable working conditions, making it harder for leaders to hold onto the best team members. It costs companies an average of six to nine months worth of salary just to replace an employee.

While money may seem like the only way to keep team members content, that's not always the case. Thirty-six percent of employees say they would take a $5,000 pay cut if it meant a happier work environment.

So, instead of focusing solely on monetary incentives, try out some tactics that will get to the root of employee unhappiness and help turn things around:

1. Set up long-term lines of communication.

Transparent communication from the moment new hires start is essential to keeping them in for the long haul. By thoroughly explaining job expectations and policies, as well as walking them through some routine tasks, you can help ease the new-hire nerves and also ensure the transition of new team members goes as smoothly as possible.

More importantly, these communication investments must continue past the new hire phase. Not only do regular updates and future-focused conversations help employees feel like part of the larger purpose of the company, but they also provide opportunities for dialogue. When employees trust that they can discuss issues frankly with leadership, it's far easier to discover and correct any issues before they lead to turnover.

2. Invest in ongoing professional development.

With the business landscape constantly evolving, it's imperative to keep your staff ahead of the curve. Eighty-seven percent of Millennials believe professional development is important for job performance, and employers are even offering tailored training in different realms like leadership development, mentoring, and career counseling.

Spending on employee education reached $70 million in 2016, and in the same year 68 percent of employees said that training and development was the most important workplace policy. By pairing this with the previous goal of communication, leaders can learn of their team members' passions and provide them with training to lead them there while strengthening the company as a whole.

3. Bring creatives into senior leadership.

In 50 milliseconds, someone forms a first impression. That's why it's more important than ever to pay special attention to your brand identity by valuing it just as much as the other branches of your business.

"No one will know or care about your company if important items such as your visual identity, communications, and branding don't resonate," says Adam Tompkins, co-founder of the creative talent community Working Not Working. "A vital step toward building this attractive creative culture involves offering senior-level creative positions."

Why does this matter for employee happiness? Because your employees are experiencing your brand, too. Your image counts, and whether subconsciously or not, it affects the way your employees feel about their workplace. If your leadership team is made up exclusively of finance and marketing types, you may be lacking in diversity of opinions within high-level conversations. Placing a creative in those conversations will help keep important issues from going unnoticed.

4. Offer consistent praise for quality work.

Even in the workplace, people still like to receive a gold star for a job well done. Oftentimes bosses focus only on the employees that are slipping, but praising those who have made strides within your company boosts morale. In fact, 69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they knew they would be recognized for their efforts.

Providing both formal and informal opportunities for employees and leaders to share praise can go a long way toward improving the overall atmosphere of the office. That's why employee feedback tools like 15Five bake that feature right in. You already know that you value your high performers, so make sure they know it as well. Even offering your struggling employees a little encouragement along with the constructive criticism can help boost their performance in the long run.

5. Don't chain employees to their desks.

Part of what makes a work environment productive is allowing employees the option to leave that environment if it isn't conducive to their best work. Seventy percent of people are more attracted to a job if it offers a flexible environment, and 53 percent say they feel they would be more productive working outside the office.

Moving to a full-scale Google-like office with nap pods and in-house pets might be a bridge too far, but consider taking small steps. Off-site meetings at coffee shops are a great way to start, and a change in scenery can help boost creativity.

While implementing all these tips might seem overwhelming, think about them strategically. Try out the ones that make the most sense for your business, then adapt from there. Your employees will enjoy the change of pace, and chances are you'll enjoy the new vibe as well.