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Taking care of your employees will get you the most return, and that means paying them well, providing benefits, and cultivating a culture they can thrive in. 

With that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that if you have an unhappy employee, it can infect every aspect of your business--including revenue. When we talk about a return on investment (ROI), it’s important to include attitudes towards staff, because if you’re not mentoring and investing in your workforce your business may suffer.

Ensuring the happiness of your employees may directly correspond to the health of your business, and making your people happy may not require as much from your pocketbook as you may think. Though you should certainly try and pay your employees a competitive salary, for them it isn’t always about money. 

Many people join a company because they believe in its mission. This is proving to be increasingly true, especially for millennials. The best way to give your employees the purpose they crave is to make sure that your business has a strong mission statement. 

The best companies succeed not because they’re just out to make a profit. They succeed because they are driven to do better, as well as provide a unique service that is valuable to their customers. 

Having a purpose isn’t the only thing personnel (and you) need in a work environment. Your employees need to be happy to be productive. And guess what? Happiness makes them healthier. It benefits an employer to strive towards making their employees happy because low morale can result in more requests for sick time. In fact, in the U.S., sick leave costs businesses $160 billion a year

Maybe because of this, many smart companies have adopted wellness initiatives as a means to keep their employees’ minds and bodies happy and healthy. Not only does incorporating wellness into the workplace show that you care about the well-being of your workforce, it can pay back dividends in the decrease in sick time. 

Even if you’re a smaller company or startup that can’t afford meditation spaces like Google, a little goes a long way. For example, offer incentives like coupons for massages, yoga classes or gym memberships to your best-performing employees. Implementing work-from-home days or summer Fridays (a mostly New York City phenomenon) are also good ways to reward good work---and keep morale up.

Another debilitating consequence of not keeping up employees’ morale is that you may lose talented people. And one of the main reasons employees quit? Bad managers. Often, employees love the work but not the boss. 

In my experience, ineffective managers generally fall into one of these three categories: the micromanager, the absentee manager, and the passive manager. The first hovers, criticizes, and over-delegates minute tasks; the second is so laissez-faire, they’re practically absent; and the third would rather avoid confrontation (or communication) at all costs. None of these do themselves, their employees, or their company much good. As a small business owner, it’s your responsibility to hire and train good managers, and adopt the most effective management strategies yourself as well. 

To be fair, it’s not easy to know what makes a good manager, but one thing I think works is to ask yourself if you are. The answer I find most authentic to this question is ‘I don’t know’. That leaves room for a manager to grow and learn--a good sign that he or she is open to pivoting their management strategies based on each case, each employee. 

After all, leadership isn’t one-size-fits-all; it should be an organic process that takes consistent dialogue between two or more parties. In a way, being a good boss is akin to being a good sounding board rather than a bullhorn. 

There is also nothing that says you can’t take a management course, seminar, or some sound advice from a former boss who has mentored you in the past. Not all great managers are born. But all great managers have learned--whether inherently or by experience--to inspire and make decisions based on empathy and knowledge. 

Ultimately, going above and beyond for your employees doesn’t just mean paying them better and providing great benefits, though you should try your best to give them both those things. It involves a combination of being humble enough to listen, and building your company around your workforce, rather than the other way around.