While many entrepreneurs are already aware of the importance of their employees to the well-being of their business, not many realize that something as simple as employee morale can spell the difference between profit and loss. Look at it this way, as far as your customers are concerned your employee is the face of your company. If your employees are happy, that positive mood is what they bring in their interactions with your clients. Study after study has shown that happy employees are more efficient, more driven and much more productive. But some entrepreneurs have this mistaken notion that keeping their employees happy always entails a lot of expense. In truth, there are quite a few ways to keep your people happy without breaking the proverbial bank; some do not even require you to spend a single cent. Here are 17 of them: \tThe Personal Touch One of the most common complaints of rank and file employees is that the people high up the company ladder, often including the business owner, do not even know them. It does not cost much to discuss their hobbies and passions once in a while, but taking the effort to know your people’s personal interests can pay off handsomely. The more valuable your employee is, the more you need to let him know you care about him on a personal level. \tFlexible Working Hours On the other end of the spectrum, one of the most appreciated benefits is flexible working time. If your business is something where achieving goals do not necessarily require the physical presence of your employees at specific times, offer flexible work schedules. This would apply to such types of work as programming & engineering design. Your employees would be less stressed and more productive if they do not have to follow very rigid schedules. \tListen To Your Employees If you find value in personal interactions with your employees, then it follows that you should also listen attentively to what they have to say. Their comments may not always be positive, but there is always value in them. Rank and file employees are generally good sources of insight about the particular activities they are involved in. Properly encouraged by an attentive ear, they can come up with money saving suggestions, and practical fixes to many common problems, some of which you may not even be aware of. \tFacilitate As a business owner or a manager, your performance is measured by how well you help your employees perform their tasks; and how well you manage ultimately reflects on your bottom line. Thus it is very important that each of your people is equipped to be able to achieve the tasks and goals you have set for them. If your some of your people feel you don’t provide enough of the proper tools, you cannot expect them to be happy and productive. This is especially true of business activities requiring specialized equipment, such as graphic design. \tBe Generous With Praise All of us have a need to be recognized and appreciated, your employees included. When an individual performs well, achieves a set goal or exceeds expectations, be sure to voice out your appreciation. A small pat on the back is enough to inspire an employee to keep up the good work. If you happen to recognize your people’s achievement publicly, it would even be more effective – think of regular meetings, getting your praises published in your monthly newsletter or even using your company’s Facebook account to commend better than average performance. \tConsult With Them When Making Business Decisions Praise is not the only way to let people know you appreciate their value to the company; letting them know you respect their opinions can make them feel ten feet tall. Always consult with them when setting performance goals. It not only makes people happy, but also gives you the benefit of practical insight from people who actually do the work. But for this to be effective you have to really listen to their ideas and implement the best suggestions you receive; and don’t forget to give them credit for it. \tResist The Urge To Micro-manage In most cases you need to trust people to have better skills at the tasks you have assigned to them than you are. That means giving them the freedom to make small decisions about how best to do their job. You only need to give general goals without giving a step-by-step set of instructions. As a manager, you can’t tell a janitor what the best type of mop is, or an electrician how to install wiring. This is sure to make your people feel you trust their abilities and gives them room to be innovative. \tOrganize Group Activities Help foster camaraderie among your employees by organizing friendly competition among different departments. This can take the form of work-related sales or performance competitions or simple sports activities such as bowling or pool on Friday nights can provide lots of fun. The positive vibes from these types of stress relieving events usually last long after the last cheer is heard. \tInvolve Them In Community Outreach Programs If your company has community outreach or corporate responsibility programs, it would be a good idea to involve your employees. Almost everyone gets a warm fuzzy feeling after helping someone; that the opportunity comes as part of a company sponsored program does not change that. As a bonus, your employees get to feel proud of their company for being the source of the benevolence. \tTake A Few On Company Trips When you need to attend conventions, conferences, and trade shows, take some of your best employees along. When the subject is related to their jobs, such trips broaden the skills and outlooks of your employees while acting as a sort of a reward for good performance. Through these business trips some employees may even come up with improvement suggestions you can implement. \tMake Sure They Get Fed Well Well fed employees perform better. You may consider feeding your employees while at work, if your budget is up for it and the perceived benefits are greater. However, a few companies manage just by ensuring the cafeteria concessionaires offer the kind of quality food their employees want at the prices they are willing to pay. You can offer short duration contracts for the cafeteria concessionaires and let your employees to choose from a set of bidders at the end of each period. Your people will feel empowered and will have no reason to complain about food choices. \tOrganize Small Parties To Celebrate Triumphs A luncheon to celebrate a completed project, a box of donuts and coffee to rejoice over landing a new client, or a slightly bigger affair for beating yearly sales targets, are very powerful ways to inspire employees. The size of the celebration does not matter as much as the fanfare that goes to show their efforts are appreciated and rewarded. You will be surprised to find how much your people will strive to win the recognition that comes with an achievement, even if it costs you just coffee, snacks, a printed certificate, and a few minutes of time. \tEstablish An Effective Complaints & Suggestions System Many people who are hesitant to speak out fearing their views would be met with ridicule or, worse still, with retaliation. Getting a truly effective complaints and suggestion system which allows for complete anonymity is what’s needed to get their opinions out. Some may vent out anger and frustration, but that only gives you the opportunity to address problems before they can worsen. If you regularly open the suggestion boxes publicly and address each condition outlined, your employees will be happy to know you value their opinions. \tMentor Struggling Employees Not all of your employees will be rock stars, but all of them contribute to the welfare of the company. If some of your people look to be struggling, find a way to lend a helping hand. You can do the mentoring yourself or assign someone to help their buddy out. This way your employees will realize that help is always at hand, and you are genuinely concerned about their welfare. \tAsk Them For Their Insight Some people will not give suggestions even anonymously unless you personally ask for their insights. But when you do ask, these employees somehow feel empowered and provide suggestions which would make their jobs easier, or reveal problems you never realized existed. The caveat here is that they will watch to see if you take their views seriously. You should therefore make the changes necessary to implement good suggestions or correct problems. \tGive Employee Discounts There are so many companies which give discounts to their employees that it has come to be something people expect. The discounts must be substantial but restricted for the personal use of each employee. Such discounts encourage the employee to patronize the company’s products and help you avoid the embarrassment of your own people using products made by a competitor. \tCultivate Pride In The Company And Its Products Providing monetary incentives has its limits. Make it a point to instill pride in the company and its products instead. This not only results in better employee performance but significantly improves employee morale. If you can make your people proud of your company, they will soon become some of your greatest advertisers. Keeping your people happy and motivating them to ever higher levels of performance do not always involve monetary rewards and huge expense. Often all it takes is a bit of common sense, an attentive ear and showing concern for their welfare. Lunch or dinner now and then also helps a lot – but that is nickel and dime stuff when compared to the benefits of having a happy and content group of employees.