group of coworkers on lunch break
From open lines of communication to team-building sessions, there are several proven ways that business owners and managers can stoke satisfaction among employees. — Getty Images/SolStock

Studies find many ways business owners can boost employees’ sense of autonomy, achievement and belonging, which lead to better satisfaction and productivity, said Russell Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of management in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. Johnson has published more than a hundred articles on these topics in research journals, and his work has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and other business publications. For the busy entrepreneur, he offered two dozen suggestions.

8 ways to enhance employees’ sense of autonomy

  • Don’t micro-manage.
  • Involve employees in goal setting.
  • Have employees self-rate their performance during performance appraisals.
  • Seek input, opinions and feedback from employees.
  • Always give choices where possible (self-development opportunities, benefits, the order and pacing of work activities, etc.).
  • Focus on employees’ behaviors when giving feedback, not just outcomes. Employees have full control over their behavior, but not necessarily the outcomes. For example, giving a good sales pitch, which is commendable, does not always lead to the sale for numerous reasons outside the employees’ control.
  • Keep employees “in the know” by openly and candidly sharing information about such things as work procedures, expectations and responsibilities, and staffing decisions.
  • Provide explanations for decisions.

When employees have a clear and accurate understanding of why things are the way they are, it gives them a sense of control at work, even if they don’t necessarily agree with all of the reasons or logic.

Having employees with diverse skills, beliefs and values who are all group-oriented will allow generation of ideas that would not be possible by any one individual.

8 ways to enhance employees’ senses of competence and achievement

  • Set specific and challenging goals.
  • Provide informal feedback, often.
  • Give feedback at the task or behavior level (specific, concrete actions or activities), not at the person level (a person’s general ability or personality, which only causes people to become defensive).
  • Give social praise and recognition for good performance—rewards don’t have to be monetary to be effective.
  • Ensure there is sufficient task variety in people’s jobs.
  • Express confidence in employees. Employees who feel confident actually perform at a higher level, akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Provide opportunities for training and development.
  • Create a learning-oriented environment that treats mistakes and errors as diagnostic information and opportunities to improve.

Employees are not productive if they are constantly walking around on eggshells and worrying about making mistakes. In fact, such worrying is mentally depleting and make it more likely employees will make mistakes.

8 ways to enhance employees’ sense of belonging and relatedness

  • Be friendly, considerate and civil—simple politeness goes a long way.
  • Hold team-building sessions.
  • Train conflict resolution skills.
  • Make yourself available for one-on-one meetings. Just knowing a supervisor is available, even if an employee doesn’t actually meet with her/him, provides people with a sense of social support.
  • Remember important details about people (birthdays, names of spouses & children, etc.)
  • Personalized communications & messages to praise and acknowledge others
  • Coach & mentor others; ask yourself how you can develop and serve your employees
  • Emphasize group values and goals. Using “group-y” language such as “us,” “our” and “we” actually causes people to feel a greater sense of interconnectedness and activates a collective or group-oriented mindset

Having employees with diverse skills, beliefs and values who are all group-oriented will allow generation of ideas that would not be possible by any one individual. Conversely, if a collective mindset is absent, then there is more task and relational conflict in diverse groups.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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