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5 Effective Employee Retention Strategies | How To Increase Employee Happiness On Your Team

Updated: Apr 9

Let's face it, being an adult can be hard. In a world filled with change, conflict, and challenges, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and sometimes a little hopeless as we work to progress our careers and access opportunities in the workforce.

That is why it is more important now than ever before that we all work to help the people on our team find moments of joy in their day to day.

Managers are increasingly under pressure to prioritise employee happiness, especially as organisations strive to recruit top-tier talent and leaders are challenged to implement effective employee retention strategies for their staff. In today's evolving talent landscape, employees globally are willing to accept lower salary packages in favor of organisations with exceptional culture. As businesses work to build teams capable of attracting, retaining, and nurturing high-caliber talent, employee happiness is rapidly transitioning into an essential key performance indicator that demands continued investment and monitoring.

Having worked with leading organisations around the world to help them attract top young talent, I wanted to share some of my insights into how you can spark joy in your team and increase not just employee satisfaction, but employee happiness in your organisation.

What Are The Business Benefits From Happy Teams?

The benefits of cultivating a great culture and increasing employee happiness aren't just the smiling faces that you will see around the office every day. Happy staff provide very clear benefits appear on business balance sheets.

A Forbes article on a similar topic cited that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees and happy salespeople specifically have 37% higher sales than their counterparts. The same article also noted that happy employees are also good news for a company's stock price as it was found that the stock prices of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for" rose 14% per year from 1998 to 2005, while companies not on the list only reported a 6% increase.

Whilst there are undoubtedly recruitment benefits that come from happy teams, these benefits are also evident in company reports and on organisation balance sheets.

What Do Effective Employee Retention Strategies Look Like In Action?

Organisations around the world are realising that employee happiness is a key performance indicator they need to be investing further into. Here are some examples of what leading companies are doing:

Smile Activated Vending Machine

Simple Technology Solutions | Smile Activated Vending Machine

One of my favourite examples of a brand sparking joy in their community is the Smile Activated Vending Machine initiative led by Vaillant. Installed in a busy train station in London, this vending machine rewarded busy morning commuters with a free coffee or hot chocolate in exchange for a smile. With the simple act of smiling shown to lift your mood, lower stress levels, and boost your immune system, this initiative was a smashing success with 1,584 hot drinks dispensed to smiling members of the public in just one day. Using basic facial recognition technology, this is a simple but effective example of a brand that is boosting joy in their community.

Zappos Employee Rewards Program

Small Acts Of Kindness | Zappos Employee Rewards Program

An organisation that has done a brilliant job of empowering its employees to spark joy in their teams is Zappos. Known as one of the best places to work due to its outstanding onboarding programs, deep investment in professional development, and the high value placed on employee wellbeing, Zappos management has worked hard to ensure all their employees genuinely love coming to work. One way they have done this is by implementing small but simple reward programs that allow colleagues to recognise great work and reward each other regardless of seniority or reporting line. These initiatives involve the 'Master Of Wow' award which provides a handful of high-performing employees with highly coveted shaded parking at the office for a week as a reward for going above and beyond. A coworker bonus program has also been implemented, allowing colleagues to reward each other with $50 gift cards for helping out in a time of need. Finally, a Zappos-Dollar (Zollar) program provides employees the opportunity to earn credits for day-to-day performance, that they can redeem for a range of perks including branded merchandise, gift cards, and tech tools. This is a great way for management to empower colleagues to recognise and reward each other on a day-to-day basis.

WeWork Events

Finding Reasons To Celebrate | WeWork

Globally co-working giant WeWork is renowned for going above and beyond to create vibrant workplaces where the energy is electric. One of the ways they do this is by offering small but frequent events and surprises for members to brighten up their day, often led by their team of Community Managers. Whilst many of the day-to-day initiatives aren't incredibly costly, they are simple but effective ways to boost morale in their spaces and increase interactions between members. Initiatives include snack trolleys, pancake-making stations, lunchtime run clubs, and end-of-week movie nights. These simple initiatives aren't complex to organise, yet offer something to surprise and delight members each week, keeping people happy and engaged.

What Can I Do To Make A Start?

If you're wondering how you can apply these types of initiatives into your workplace, here are a few ideas for where to start:

Planning Small Rewards | Dopamenu

Most teams don't have the time or resources to plan elaborate events and initiatives every week for their staff. What I would recommend doing is spending an hour or two to collaborate on crafting a Dopamenu for yourself and/or your team. A Dompamenu isn't dissimilar from a restaurant menu and is broken into four categories of entrees, mains, side dishes, and desserts with a selection of activities under each heading. Here is what each would typically include:

  • Entrees: Quick activities that don't take a lot of time. For example: a short brain break, a Wordle, or a coffee run.

  • Mains: More substantial activities to fill your cup. For example: working on a passion project or nice-to-have task, a team dinner, or an early finish/late start.

  • Side Dishes: Small things that you can infuse with your day-to-day tasks to make them more enjoyable. For example: listening to your favourite music, having a work-from-home day, a casual dress day.

  • Desserts: Your guilty pleasures that are okay sometimes but aren't sustainable long term. For example, binging TikTok, after-work drinks, sweet treats.

As a team, add 3-5 activities under each heading that you can use throughout the week when you need a boost. Once you have created your Dopamenu, put it somewhere easy to access and when you notice that you or your team need a pick up go to the Dopamenu and find something to implement in real time.

Tailor Your Approach | Love Languages Test

As well as having a selection of tools in your belt to help spark joy in your community, it's also important to make sure that these rewards are authentic. Each member of your team is different and as such, will tend to prefer some rewards more than others when it comes to finding joy. To make sure you are tailoring your initiatives to each member of your team, I would recommend doing a Love Languages Test. Whilst often used in relationships, I find using these in a work setting shines a light on how each member of your team likes to be appreciated. It could include the following:

  • Words Of Affirmation: Some members of your team might find the most joy from praise. For them, acknowledging their work in front of their colleagues, or 1:1, in a meaningful way is the ultimate boost.

  • Gifts: For others, gifts might be their love language. These don't have to be big gifts, it could be as simple as buying them lunch, a can of their favourite drink, or a small sweet treat to thank them for a job well done.

  • Quality Time: For many of us, quality time is what we value most. This could be shown by taking them out to lunch to celebrate their performance or letting them finish early on a particular day.

  • Acts Of Service: Finally, for some members of your team, the best thing you can do to thank them for their work is to help take something off their plate in an act of service. Alternatively, you might like to provide them with an opportunity to develop their skills further or work on a passion project.

I highly recommend getting all members of your team to do a love languages test so you know how to best reward them, and give them a boost when they need it, but also so they can do the same for each other.

In Conclusion:

In today's world, the task of attracting, retaining, and growing top talent is harder than ever before for many organisations. Because of this, employee happiness must become a key performance indicator that is invested in and tracked closely by managers.

The act of boosting employee happiness within a team is not only up to management, and doesn't just come in the form of salary bumps and new titles. It can be small, but meaningful, and can come from any member of the team.

As you plan for the next quarter, I encourage you to think about what you can do to spark joy for the members of your team.

Scott Millar

About The Author

Scott Millar is a business leader, keynote speaker, and generational consultant on a mission to help organisations navigate the ever-changing future of work. Launching his business in early high school, Scott has spent the past 10 years working with young professionals and business leaders around the world to explore how technology and innovation are changing the way we live, work, and learn. 

To find out more about Scott and to book him to speak at your next event, head to: 


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