Many entrepreneurs start their own business in an attempt to find happiness by pursuing their passions. Starting your own venture can be an exciting and fulfilling challenge. But once you expand and hire staff, how do you keep them happy and productive as well?

Experts believe that happy employees are better leaders, less adverse to risk, and more productive. They also bounce back more quickly from failures, experience less burnout and can better manage stress. Intuitively, it makes sense that happy employees are more creative and better team players, and that they help foster a positive culture to attract additional high-quality talent.

Employee happiness is related to numerous factors including financial and non-financial rewards, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and more. Here are a few tips for how you can foster happiness in your employees:

  1. CREATE A SENSE OF “COMMUNITY”: When you start a company, you are also creating a culture, either consciously or unconsciously. Often, the best cultures are built using a strong foundation of authentic relationships among employees. A good way to foster these relationships is through interactions in non-work settings. For example, think about taking your employees out for after-work drinks once a month, or encourage them to engage in other social activities, such as company softball leagues. If doing something outside the office is tough, find ways to bring everyone together at work. A Friday lunch ritual can help create a sense of community and break up the work-flow after a long work week.
  2. SHOW INTEREST: Even if your title is “boss,” it’s important to foster a genuine connection with your employees. This may seem obvious, but often many leaders don’t do this well. Take a genuine interest in who your employees are, just like you would any friend. Make them understand that you view their role in the organization to be a necessary, vital one.
  3. REWARD CONTRIBUTIONS: Obviously most employees are interested in salary increases and bonuses. If that isn’t within budget, find other ways to reward your employees. Recognize milestones when employees make progress, or have been with your company for a certain period of time. If an employee shows interest in another area of the business, give them that exposure as a reward for doing their primary job well. Often, congratulating employees on their success publicly is a good way to show appreciation without breaking the bank.
  4. GIVE FEEDBACK: Provide regular, consistent feedback in one-on-one meetings. Employee feedback is a critical part of the education process, and shouldn’t just be relegated to an annual review. Emphasize what they are doing well, and where they can continue to grow for their own professional development. To be effective, feedback should be specific and actionable.
  5. EDUCATE: For employees, one of the single most important motivational factors is the ability to learn. Bring in specialists to teach employees new skills. Think about sending your employees to seminars or conferences where they can learn and network. They may come back invigorated by their new knowledge and the skills you can offer your company. In all cases, make it clear that these are rewards for their efforts in supporting the company.
  6. FOSTER FUN: Give employees some time to wind down and get to know each other better. Let them joke around and take breaks when necessary. The workday doesn’t have to be a constant grind . Fostering fun can also help your team be more resilient, appreciating the humor in difficult situations and not just focusing on the downside.
  7. DON’T MICROMANAGE: Let your employees feel like they have some control over the work they are producing on a daily basis. While you need to keep an eye on their progress, give them autonomy and encourage them to problem solve on their own before getting your sign-off on everything.
  8. OFFER PERKS: Perks for employees can come in a variety of forms. Some companies offer discounts on cell-phone plans or gym memberships – often businesses are happy to extend these types of offers free of charge, especially if you have some scale to your employee base. Another way to offer perks is through flexible hours, telecommuting options, and/or extra vacation days (perhaps offer a whole day off on some of those less-than-productive pre-holiday half-days).
  9. CONTINUE TO CHALLENGE: Research shows that people who have stimulating and challenging job tasks tend to have higher levels of job engagement and company commitment. Find ways for your staff to use their skills to the fullest. Give them opportunities to add value in their unique way. If you find ways to challenge without overwhelming, employees will often rise to the occasion, and your company will reap the benefits.
  10. GIVE EMPLOYEES A VOICE: Take the time to listen to your employees. Ask what they look for in their company culture, and empower them to create that culture. Discussing these types of things individually, as well as through group feedback sessions, can lead to great ideas. Moreover, if employees feel heard and as though company decisions were made with their feedback in mind, they are more likely to be invested in and pleased with the outcome.

There are many ways to keep your employees happy without having deep pockets. New companies and start-ups often don’t have the funds to give annual raises and bonuses. With a little creativity, you can find ways to keep your employees happy and productive, without extensive financial resources.