How to Build a Happy Workforce


This is a common issue that companies of all types, industries, and sizes face. As we all know there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. While I can’t tell you the perfect recipe for this, there are several areas you need to evaluate to determine what fits best for your company and your employees. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Get their feedback

Start with the most direct route: ask your employees what would make them happy at work. Yes, you will get some unrealistic answers ($1,000/day bonus), however, it will give you a good idea of what your employees are thinking directionally. Is the common theme money? Then perhaps it’s time to sit down and evaluate who may deserve a pay raise. Does your employees’ pay match industry standards? If they’re going above and beyond, let them know.

Or maybe it’s clear they need a flexible work schedule or work environment. Is that realistic? If so, how can you make it happen for them? And if not, what alternatives can you come up with? Are there certain days of the week or situations where you can give them that flexibility?

You will also probably get some ideas that are very simple to implement that mean a great deal to your employees. Some examples could be allowing jeans on Fridays, bringing in pizza for lunch once a month, or the ability to have an extended lunch occasionally. These little things cost the company very little, are easy to implement, and make your employees feel appreciated!

Brag about your employees

Recognition goes a long way, both big and small! Recognizing employees for the big wins is important, however, celebrating the small wins (or maybe just progress) can be just as effective if not more motivating for everyone. If someone is making good progress, they might need some recognition to help them get a second wind to finish strong.

Also, focus on several factors to provide recognition. If Bob is always #1 in sales, many people are probably trying to take over that spot, but after many failed attempts it gets frustrating. So, what else can you recognize them for? Try to think outside the box—sometimes it’s the small things!

Make them see themselves climbing the company ladder

Many employees may not realize how their daily job fits into the big picture of the company or how their position can be a stepping stone to future opportunities. Communicate how they are contributing to the company overall and what opportunities are available from where they are currently.

Be proactive about these conversations; if you’ve never talked to an employee about this and they do have an interest in a new position it might be hard for them to come forward about a different position because they might think you’ll think they are unhappy where they are. Talk about it and make it a common conversation to talk about moving jobs, gaining experience, and their future at the company.

Only you know your employees

These are just a few ideas, but it’s so important to try to figure out the perfect recipe for your company. Happy employees are more productive, more creative, better team players, and eventually better leaders. Just when you have it all figured out, something will change in your company, industry, or in the world that will make you re-evaluate it. And you should constantly re-evaluate this.

What made people happy 20 years ago (heck even 2 years ago!) does not carry as much weight today and new priorities have emerged. Be flexible and willing to take a risk here and there and even try something crazy to see what happens. It might just work out.


  • Amber Overla

    Amber Overla is an HR professional with over 20 years’ experience in a variety of different industries. She serves as Vice President of Organizational Resource Development for CU*Answers. She is responsible for leading CU*Answers’ overall human resources strategy, talent acquisition, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, organizational design and cultural development, employee education and development, compensation and benefits, HR operations and technology, employee relations, and security.

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