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In order to get the most from employees, it's essential to create a positive work environment for all members of the team, from the CEO all the way through entry-level associates. When people feel engaged, supported, and happy, their performance improves and productivity increases.

What elements are necessary to create a positive work environment? The recipe isn't quite as complicated as it may seem:

  1. Great management - There is an old saying in HR that says employees don't leave jobs, they leave managers. Cultivating strong management can go a long way toward improving employee retention. What makes a great manager? Strong leaders are prepared to give effective feedback, help develop employee skills and talent, provide support, and generally give their team a sense that leadership has their back. Good managers also take the time to understand their employees on a personal level. When leaders are curious about their team members' individual goals and the things that drive them, those employees will become more emotionally attached to the workplace.

  2. Work environment - A good work environment aligns with employee values. That's why it's so important to get the right people on the bus - people who will appreciate your company's culture. This happens during the hiring process. When interviewing candidates, be honest with them about where the company is going - that means sharing the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly. When hiring teams oversell the organization, it won't take a new hire long to figure out that the work environment is not what they thought it would be, and they will quickly move on.

  3. Development opportunities - People don't want to join an organization where they will be unable to use their strengths and learn new skills. They want to know that they will be able to grow and advance their careers through promotions and new responsibilities. Small companies may not have many opportunities for vertical growth, but they almost always allow employees to take on new projects and expand their skill sets.

  4. Competitive salary and benefits - Historically, employees have "followed the money," but work-life balance has become much more important over the last decade or so, and employees are willing to accept less money if it means they can manage both their career and their personal lives. If your company can't compete on salary, there are lots of benefits like flex time and telecommuting opportunities that don't cost much money but will help employees achieve the balance they crave.

  5. Community involvement - Corporate social responsibility is a priority for many millennial employees. They want to work for a company that makes a positive impact on the community and the world around them. Many companies offer group volunteer days, where entire teams take off to build playgrounds, work at food banks, help with Habitat for Humanity, etc. These volunteer days create a sense of pride among employees and also give managers the chance to observe their teams in new settings. Many managers take these opportunities to spot leadership talent and help their teams cultivate a stronger sense of team cohesion.

  6. CEO accessibility - Some of the best companies in the country get their reputation thanks to their CEO. Not always for that CEO's business acumen, but instead for his or her accessibility to employees at all levels. Some CEOs invite 10-12 employees a month to a special lunch. Others make town hall meetings a priority. Many CEOs elect to sit on the main floor among employees, rather than choosing a corner office with a view. Humanizing the CEO and giving employees the opportunity to get to know leaders can do much to foster satisfaction.

  7. Recognition and welcoming of feedback - Employees want to know that their opinions and their feedback are not only heard, but welcome. Town hall meetings and brainstorming huddles that result in the implementation of employee ideas are great ways to show a team that their voices matter.

Business leaders must pay close attention to the environment they are creating for their employees. Nobody wants to work for an organization that doesn't cultivate a positive culture where they feel appreciated and engaged. Leaders should strive to create an atmosphere where employees can collaborate, feel as though their skills are being put to use, and where they feel appreciated and fulfilled.


Larry Hart

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