A funny thing happened when the Great Place to Work Institute looked at the results of its most recent employee survey. The survey – a tool by which the Institute helps measure employee satisfaction – is used in determining the top large, medium and small companies to work for in the country.

Here is what the Institute found: Employees are becoming more and more loyal. When the bottom fell out of the economy and the downturn lingered longer than expected, a few surprising things happened. Employees valued their jobs more than ever before. Disgruntled workers put job searches on pause. And the metaphorical patch of grass underneath everyone’s feet was greener than it was on the other side.

Today workers want to be loyal. They want reasons to love their jobs. Making workers smile isn’t as easy as ringing the Pavlovian bell, but it doesn’t have to be that much harder, either.

Here are five ways to pump up the loyalty in your workplace:
  1. Double down on employee discounts
    Do you have an employee discount? (Free uniforms and water in “courtesy cups” don’t count). If you have a discount, how does it measure against the competition? Is it sweet enough to market to applicants? If you have a niche product or service – such as vegan chicken nuggets or stained glass window cleaning – partner with other companies to build shared discount programs.
  2. Create a community of workers, not a workforce
    Whether you build a virtual click-and-mortar employee lounge or a brick-and-mortar break room, find a way to help your employees connect with one another. Employees with friends at the workplace naturally feel more vested. A Randstad Work Watch survey of workplace friendships, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, found that 67 percent of American workers believe friends makes work more fun. More than a third said it also reduced turnover. Of course, if management doesn’t engage employees inside and outside the workplace, then how can you expect them to build rapport with one another? And if they know you also care about them, they might even give you a shout-out on Wheel of Fortune.
  3. Seek out alternative HR benefits
    Think about educational assistance, a leave donation program and emergency pet sitting services – even if it means the plastic putting green in your office doubles as a litter box.
  4. Provide sound suggestions for benefits you don’t provide
    If an employee asks you about a perk or a benefit you simply don’t currently provide, don’t just shrug your shoulders and shake your head. Use your network to help steer them toward someone smarter than you who can help. They’ll remember that you did everything you could to help.
  5. Get involved with the community…on their terms
    Following that altruistic urge to help out the greater community is a good thing. So is encouraging your employees to join the effort. But make sure you take the chance to ask them what causes and organizations they’re passionate about. And ask them before you commit them to working your daughters’ bake sale benefiting Spring Break 2011.

Your employees want to work for you. Isn’t that great news? Make it easy for them to love working for you by rewarding them for their loyalty – and encouraging even more.