Happy and motivated workforces are critical to business success, with a more happy and enthusiastic workforce translating into an increasing number of staff who are loyal and productive.

As such, the way that leaders manage their employees will have a great bearing on the direction of the company and future profits - something that is particularly important for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who will often have a lower number of staff compared to the bigger firms.

A workforce will be the driving force behind a business, and it is the team that will help the company to expand into new and bigger markets.

Therefore investing more time and effort into boosting the morale of your employees will pay dividends in the long-run.

A recent report published jointly by Warwick Business School, University of Western Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and the Industrial Research Organization found that job satisfaction is the key to a proactive workforce.

According to the study,  if job satisfaction is low then employees quickly lose the will to go the extra mile.

As part of the analysis, researchers tracked 75 workers for two years, measuring their job satisfaction levels and how proactive they were; their results revealed that those with high levels of job satisfaction remained proactive two years later, but those with low levels tailed off in terms of proactivity.

Interestingly, there was a small group of people who had high job satisfaction but did not promote change in their organisation over the duration of the two years.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Karoline Strauss, who is part of the Organisation & Human Resources Management Group at Warwick Business School, said: "Proactivity is important for innovation and implementing organisational change. So it is important to sustain a proactive workforce and we have found that job satisfaction is important, not just as an instigator of proactivity, but as a force for maintaining momentum.

"There has been research showing that job satisfaction leads to a more compliant workforce, and we did find that highly satisfied employees who had not tried to promote change at work were unlikely to do so in the future. But we also found that those with high levels of job satisfaction who were proactive maintained that over two years."

However, for best results, it is important that SMEs invest in strategies that will benefit their workforce for the duration of their employment, as the study found that effective change in an organisation requires proactivity among the workforce to be maintained over a long period.

Ms Strauss added that although workers with low levels of satisfaction will be more proactive initially in order to make changes, this cannot be sustained over the long-term.

She stated: "Our findings suggest that these workers will either succeed in changing their environment at work and so no longer see the need to seek change, or fail, become frustrated and not persevere with their proactive behaviour.”

Another important thing that SMEs can do to motivate their workforce is ensure that any changes they make to their organisation are clearly communicated to employees, as adaptability is critical to business success and staff members who find themselves unable to adapt are less likely to be productive.

"This research found a significant positive link between a worker’s adaptivity and proactivity. Those who fail to adapt to change seem to be less likely to initiate change in the future as they may see change as threatening and may lose confidence in their own ability to be proactive," Dr Strauss said.

"Irrespective of their past proactivity, we found that employees’ proactivity may decrease if they fail to adapt to change and that may impact on a company’s performance and profitability."

The findings coincide with another recent report published by Buck Consultants at Xerox, which showed that a rising number of employers are recognising the value of investing more resources into building staff members.

Its figures show that 43 per cent of business leaders that were polled say they created a brand identity for their employee wellness programmes, 52 per cent offer health insurance premium reductions, and 65 per cent believe wellness programmes are extremely or very important to attract and retain workers.