Unless you’re some sort of hyper-dynamic entrepreneur (or simply a freelancer), there’s a good chance that your business cannot survive without employees. It’s important that you try to hire only the most dedicated, passionate, and talented people – and even more vital that you take measures to retain them. A big part of that is keeping them happy.

“[Unhappy employees] are bad news for two reasons,” writes Lauren Drell of Mashable. “First, if they’re unhappy, that could reflect poorly on the company culture, morale, and/or management. Second, it costs 20% of an annual salary to replace a mid-level employee, and it could cost 213% of a year’s salary to replace a C-Suiter.”

Of course, every business owner knows on some level that keeping their staff content leads to greater workplace efficiency and higher retention. Happy people work more effectively, and are better to be around, besides. Where a lot of business owners get tripped up is figuring out how to keep morale up.

“Employers may not realize,” writes Business News Daily Assistant Editor Nicole Fallon, “that simply offering raises won’t make the company’s best workers stick around.”

So…if not by offering higher pay, how do you make your organization a great place to work? How do you ensure that the people you hire love their jobs and want to stick around? What’s the secret?

More than anything else, it’s in making your people feel valued.

There are several ways you can go about doing this, but the most important is to treat them as more than disposable drones. Take an interest in who your employees are outside the workplace – learn their passions, strengths, and weaknesses and use those to help them be more effective workers. More than that, do what you can to help your staff keep healthy, both emotionally and physically.

There are a few pieces of advice I can give to that end:

  • Foster open, regular communication between employees – and encourage positivity with your company culture. A toxic work environment will impact your employees personal lives, to the point that many may resign simply to retain their sanity.
  • Provide your staff with a means of exercise and healthy eating.
  • Offer counselling/therapy to anyone you notice is going through a rough patch. Nip burnout in the bud before it becomes a problem.
  • Don’t force people to work overtime unless you absolutely have to.

Another key component to job satisfaction is ownership.

What I mean by this is trust your employees – give them a say in how they do their jobs and in how your business operates. Presumably, you hired them because they’re good at what they do, right? So long as they aren’t causing any harm to your company, that means that you should let them work their way – trust them, and they’ll repay your trust in kind.

Part of that trust involves offering some degree of flexibility as to where and how employees get their work done.

“The most effective way to retain top talent,” says Nina Zipkin, “is to create a flexible company policy that encourages people to work where and when they want.” Citing a study by audio tech company Plantronics, Zipkin goes on to explain that staff who are given collaborative workplaces and given a choice of where to work are more innovative, focused, and content than those who are forced into a rigid, inflexible work plan.

Ownership, flexibility, respect, and communication. Those are the cornerstones of a great workplace.

Pretty simple once you get down to it, no?

Few businesses are capable of surviving without a team of dedicated, passionate employees. To attract and retain top talent, a positive workplace environment is absolutely required. As a small business owner, it falls to you to provide your employees with that environment, making your business an awesome place to work – both for your staff and for yourself.

Image credit: haydenweal