Joy in the Workplace: the Key to Retaining Employees

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Recently, a colleague of mine asked me what I thought was the most important quality in a workplace. My answer was simple: joy.

Every employee wants to be happy at work and proud of what they do. A joyful workplace environment can help them achieve these things — while also fostering growth, encouraging healthy communication, and promoting a positive culture.

While joy is key to retaining employees, many companies struggle to create joyful workplaces. When employees don’t enjoy their work, they won’t hesitate to find work elsewhere. Just over half of employees are looking to leave their current roles, according to Gallup. Forty-seven percent of US workers would take a pay cut if it meant they’d have an “ideal” job with another company, according to Adobe.

When employees leave your organization for more fulfilling work elsewhere, your company pays the price — literally. It can cost 150 percent of a midlevel employee’s salary to replace them, according to TLNT. For high-level and specialized employees, the price tag can be as much as 400 percent of their salary!

Millions of people quit their jobs every month. In fact, voluntary separations are at their highest point since 2000. These high turnover rates put increased pressure on employers to create the kinds of joyful environments where employees want to stay.

What can your organization do to boost retention? Try these three tips:

1. Provide Growth Opportunities

According to a report by Ladders, boredom is the second most common reason why employees leave their jobs, surpassed only by pay. With only 33 percent of American employees feeling engaged at work, you can be sure at least some of your employees are feeling that turnover-driving boredom.

No one wants to have the same job title forever. Top talent in particular crave learning opportunities. They want to feel challenged regularly. When employees have the chance to fully leverage their skills and abilities on the job, they feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and self-confidence. When employees are empowered to expand upon their existing skills through professional development opportunities at work, the good feelings are only heightened.

You can’t offer a one-size-fits-all professional development plan and expect it to work. Different employees have different wants and needs. An individual’s definition of “growth” may change depending on their role and where they are in their career. Some employees may want to refine their skills in their current professional track, while others may want to try new fields and gain skills in multiple domains. Rather than trying to guess what kinds of development your employees want, try simply asking them!

2. Establish Healthy Communication

In employer-employee relationships, as in all relationships, communication is the key to success. Open workplace environments that give employees plenty of chances to interact and work with other people — even beyond their own teams and departments — tend to be more joyful than those workplaces that don’t. Help your employees build networks of professional relationships with fellow experts in their fields. Offer mentorship programs to both new hires and tenured employees. According to a Deloitte study, employees who have mentors are twice as likely to stay at the company for five or more years.

Another hallmark of joyful workplaces is that employees feel senior leaders value, respect, and truly listen to their voices. Don’t limit interactions between employees and company leaders to strictly regulated town hall meetings. Instead, make sure employees of all levels can access the leadership team as needed.

3. Promote a Positive Culture

The best company cultures are those that are transparent. In such cultures, employees of all levels feel like valued members of the team. Transparency also offers employees a clearer understanding of the company’s vision. This enables employees to see both where the company is going and how their individual contributions help the company reach its goals. When employees feel connected to the company’s mission and vision, they’ll feel a stronger sense of purpose and joy in their work.

It is also important that your company culture be a culture of accountability. Empower employees to own their responsibilities and accomplish their goals. This fosters trust, promotes loyalty, and limits micromanagement — which often drives top talent away.

When employees are able to grow and connect with one another inside a transparent and accountable culture, they will better enjoy their work. A joyful workplace benefits not only your employees, but also your organization itself: Those businesses that leverage joy to their advantage will retain more employees, attract more talent, and outperform competitors in 2019 and beyond.

Stephanie Douglass is vice president, people, at Vungle.

By Stephanie Douglass