If you asked me what the key to a successful business was, I would say that's a no-brainer: It's ensuring your employees' needs are met. When you're able to accomplish that, you have a team of happy employees -- and a much higher chance of achieving your goals.

Why? Well, study after study shows that when employees are happy, they're more engaged. As a result, they're more productive, more likely to deliver high-quality results and more loyal to the company. Not only does this ensure that the organization runs more smoothly, but it also increases profits and reduces turnover.

With employee happiness carrying so many benefits, what exactly makes people fall in love with their jobs? How can you, as a boss, deliver on those expectations?

Provide an Attractive, Competitive Salary

We all want to make good money. Without a decent salary, we can't pay our bills -- and if you've ever been in that position, you know how stressful it can be. A good income also helps us enjoy the lifestyle we want -- you can't travel the world if you're making minimum wage, unfortunately.

At the same time, money can only buy happiness to a certain point. In fact, psychologists have found that the ideal income for individuals is $95,000 annually for life satisfaction and $60,000 to $75,000 a year for emotional well-being. Believe it or not, when that threshold was exceeded, happiness decreased. We get accustomed to what we've been getting, and the more we make, the more we want. This adds stress because we start comparing ourselves to others more often.

As a small business owner, you may not be able to provide such a salary initially. However, you do need to pay your employees what they're worth.  

Additionally, you can supplement income with life insurance or disability insurance to protect their incomes and ancillary benefits, such as dental and optical. To protect their wellness, provide gym memberships. You could also offer perks like unlimited vacation time, free food, tickets to sporting or entertainment events or permission to bring their dogs to work.

Build a Company Culture That Thrives

While perks and benefits may help increase employee happiness and subsidize salaries, it's not really about beanbag chairs and ping-pong tables. It's all about the company's culture.

A company's culture is a surefire way to retain employees and keep them satisfied. After all, this defines an organization. It reflects the goals, values and mission of the company. It creates a positive work environment where employees feel appreciated and clearly understand why their work is valuable.

How can you build a company culture that thrives? Enlist, encourage and empower employees to shape the company's culture so they feel like they're an influential and valuable part of the team. That foundation has to include treating everyone with respect and squashing toxic behavior, like bullying and gossip, before it becomes an epidemic.

Encourage collaboration. Have teammates eat lunch together or participate in team-building activities. This helps everyone get to know each other and build camaraderie and trust. In that vein, strive to be as transparent as possible with people.

Being transparent doesn't just mean giving negative feedback -- recognize employees' progress, and reward their accomplishments. Get to know what's important to them so you can give them opportunities to work on passion projects and tackle new skills and responsibilities.

Offer Development and Learning Opportunities

To that point, a 2016 Pew Research Center Survey found that 87 percent of respondents believe it's vital to receive ongoing training and development opportunities.

You can encourage this by having employees volunteer for new responsibilities so they can discover hidden talents and work on new tasks. You should also provide them with developmental support, like training opportunities and career mentoring to deepen their skills.

Another perk is that it keeps employees excited and engaged; it counters the apathy and boredom that can set in with long-held positions. A whopping 91 percent of Millennials have stated that career progression is a top priority, so this boosts retention over the long haul.

Foster Employee Well-Being

A culture focused on well-being doesn't rely on gimmicks. It's one where employees are valued and praised for their accomplishments rather than punished for their faults. There's autonomy, and work-life balance is prioritized. These, according to research, are the keys to happiness.

Let's say you have an employee who can work remotely. That's not a stretch, considering that a 2017 study of startup businesses found that 57 percent had at least one remote employee.

Let's say this employee also has children. This means if he were to go to the office, he must rush out the door, commute to work, and find childcare. That's a stressful and expensive endeavor just to enjoy a workplace with free food. But what if he could work from home? This way, he isn't commuting and can get his kids to school without being pressed for time. He also gets back more valuable work time.

What's more, having this work-life balance makes employees feel empowered and trusted: You're giving them the freedom to work when, where and how they prefer. Does this mean you're completely hands-off? Of course not. You give employees guidelines, clearly communicate expectations and periodically check in on them.

Don't forget to provide positive reinforcement. When someone turns in an assignment, shoot her a quick email thanking her for meeting the deadline and delivering high-quality work.

When your employees are happy, they'll be more productive and loyal to your organization. As you can see, it starts with paying them what they're worth, creating a thriving company culture and focusing on their well-being. When you do, you'll reap the rewards of a satisfied team that loves what it does.

Published on: Feb 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.