How to Keep Employees Happy Without Breaking the Bank

Written on Tuesday, 09 January 2018

happy worker.jpg

Are your employees happy? Do they enjoy coming to work? How can you influence that as an employer?

These are important questions that, especially if you are a new employer or an SME with a small team that is beginning to grow, you may not have thought about before.

If you’re an entrepreneur who started a business, chances are you love it and enjoy spending time working. Getting your employees to do the same takes a little more consideration.

Don’t just think about throwing money at the challenge, higher salaries and bonuses may work as a long-term benefit for some and a short-term boost for most, but you can quickly find yourself overstretching your finances if you think that’s the only way to make your workforce happy.

Increasingly, particularly with the Millennial generation born between 1980 and 1997, salary boosts are secondary to benefits that improve their quality of life.

One window into the psyche of the Millennial is a piece or research radio group Bauer Media conducted, which sought to update Mazlow’s Hierarchy of needs for the new generation. The results split Millennials into five groups with different motivations and ways of validating themselves, but money barely features.



Happy employees are more likely to stick around, which eliminates the cost of recruiting and training new staff. A positive attitude also rubs off on others, including your clients, so the benefits are magnified. So how do you create a content, engaged workforce?


Hearing what your employees have to say is vital. If your staff feel like you don’t listen, it can come across like you don’t care about them. If they have a concern and want help with something, it is important you show them that you are doing all you can to help them, even if you don’t succeed, just knowing you tried is often enough for them.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 56% of frontline employees have ideas they believe can improve business practices and 43% believe their ideas will save the company money. However, a third said they were only canvassed for their opinions once a year and half of them said employers didn’t ask the right questions.

Creating an open line of communication, perhaps through a suggestion box, is a good start, but clear demonstrations that you have taken suggestions on board help employees feel invested in the company. If they feel valued, like they are making a difference and influencing positive change, they are more likely to stay.


Too often employers worry that recognising success means you need to offer a pay rise, which you may not be able to afford or which may not be warranted. Never underestimate the power of ‘well done’ or ‘good job’. Being recognised and appreciated is something all employees strive for, it pushes and motivates them to continue their hard work.

If someone has done something which has made a real positive impact on your business, pull them aside and say thank you. Let them know they’ve made a valuable contribution. Consider letting the rest of the business know, publicly if the employee is comfortable with that, but at the very least on an update email.


Employees don’t like surprise announcements from their employers. A shock new arrival or change in methods may be a positive move for all, but it’s easy for employees to view the shock the wrong way and wonder if a new person or system is being brought in to replace them. Let them know at an early stage if you are looking at a new system and get their input on it.

If you are recruiting, explain exactly why and how the business is expanding and needs more capacity. Employees will appreciate being kept in the loop and will have more respect for you than if you were to act secretive.

Make work fun

We understand you are there to work. But these days, the younger members of the workforce in particular have realised how much of their life they spend in the office.

As a result, they want some enjoyment built into their job.

Some companies, such as Netflix, offer benefits like unlimited holidays for staff, so they can take as long off as they wish so long as their work is delivered to the required standard. Other places, like Google, offer dedicated relaxation spaces with bars, video games and more.

You don’t need to go over the top, but simple things like dress down Fridays can have a similar effect. Friday staff playlists or dedicated time for ‘bonding’ through team games like bingo or an office quiz can bring smiles to employees faces. Figure out how to add a little togetherness to your business.

What works for them?

One way to find out how to motivate your employees is to ask them. Often their suggestions will be much less expensive than what you may come up with.

Employees, for the most part, want to enjoy coming to work and will help you improve your office environment if you ask. They will tell you if some flexibility around working hours would be a big deal for them, if they would like a table tennis table or if the most important thing for them is that the business is more active in Corporate and Social Responsibility - helping local charitable projects.

There is no single answer to how to keep employees happy, they will tell you. But remember, you don’t need to spend a lot to build positivity and goodwill. The benefit you’ll get from doing it, however, could be huge.


happy, workforce, staff

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