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By Taking a Careercation, David Niu Learned the Key to Employee Retention

Human Resources

David Niu is the founder of TINYpulse and the author of “Careercation: Trading Briefcase for Suitcase to Find Entrepreneur Happiness.” Paychex spoke with David to get his thoughts on how business owners and HR managers can begin to improve employee engagement and retention.

David, in your opinion, what importance does employee happiness have on an organization?

In 2012, I left my second startup because even though business was good, I was severely burnt out. I knew it was time to take a step back and assess what I really wanted to be doing, so I traveled the world to interview entrepreneurs and CEOs, and learn what their biggest pain points really were. It turns out, no matter what industry they were in, that everyone struggled with people management. They'd have their best employee give them notice seemingly out of the blue, and they didn't have the information they needed to even know their employee was dissatisfied.

So employee happiness has an impact up and down an organization. It's not just about the one individual employee but also the rest of the team and its culture.

What are basic initiatives employers can implement to boost employee morale?

The most basic thing you can do is check in with your employees more often. When we asked employees, nearly two-thirds of them want their managers to check in with them about workplace satisfaction every two weeks or more.

It makes sense. Many companies use annual surveys, but so much can happen in a 12-month period. Organizations go through ups and downs, employees come and go, new projects get put on the docket. If you wait a full year before touching base with your employees, they're going to be discouraged and frustrated for the rest of the year.

Our research also tracks the factors that are consistently tied to employee happiness. One of them is feeling valued at work and recognized for doing a great job. Our Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report found that only 21% of employees feel strongly valued, so there's definitely a lot of room for improvement there. An effective employee appreciation program will do wonders for morale, especially if it has a peer recognition component.

Where does creating a company culture stack up on a business owner's priority list?

Business owners should make it their priority to choose the values they want to guide their company and culture. Then build a team around them. Hire and fire based on them. Employees who wholeheartedly embrace your values will help you build a thriving culture that motivates them and creates a great workplace environment.

Culture happens whether you're paying attention to it or not. If you don't do anything to create a culture, it will just develop on its own, and it might become a culture that you don't want for your organization.

When leaders, managers, business owners have a "pulse" on employee happiness, or unhappiness, what should they do to take action?

Taking a pulse on employee happiness means that you can take action before unhappiness festers and attrition becomes a nightmare. Share the results with your employees to spark dialogue and build bridges. Everyone is empowered to build a great company culture.

Most importantly, act on it. We tell people NOT to use TINYpulse if they're not committed taking action and making change. If you survey your employees and don't do anything with the results, they'll lose faith that their feedback is being listened to.


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