Building a Positive Work Environment to Improve Performance and Retention

As a manager for a productive, cutting edge company, nothing is more important than making profits and keeping the upper-level management happy. Right? Well, not necessarily. Rather, in order to do both of those things, your focus needs to be somewhere completely different. It needs to be on keeping those under you as happy as you reasonably can.

The fact of the matter is that working to create a great environment for the employees that you manage can actually pay dividends. Happy employees are known to be more productive and more likely to come forward with ideas that will continue to propel the company forward. Ultimately, this will make more company profits and happier upper-level management in the long run.

How exactly to make this happen is the big challenge though. Millennials are not exactly known for their loyalty to companies like previous generations were. In fact, they are fairly likely to move companies — even take a pay decrease — in order to gain some of the workplace benefits that go along with a positive work environment. Losing employees is expensive, especially when you add up all the training you put into them and then will have to put into a new employee.

Here are a few ways to boost both workplace happiness and, in turn, employee retention.

Creating the Right Environment

The first step to building a happy workforce that is going to stick around for awhile begins in the office and, really, it begins with you. As a manager, it is absolutely your job to check in with employees, make sure they are following procedures or getting help if they don’t understand them, and take care of any issues before they become big problems. You may not be able to fix everything, but you should be taking steps to avoid a toxic work environment.

One of the biggest differences you can make is to start by building trust and communication. Bosses that micromanage every little aspect of employee projects are typically not looked upon favorably. Let the small things you don’t have to agree on go and focus on being a person who an employee can reach out to with questions. Set deadlines and clear expectations but don’t shove them down everyone’s throats.

Becoming a motivator isn’t necessarily easy, especially if you are having a hard time thinking of things that you can change about your own habits or management style. Perhaps the first step is to reach out to employees that are doing well and personally thank them. An email is okay, but it really means a lot more face-to-face. Additionally, give them perks where you can such as allowing great employees to telework on occasion and fighting for quality benefits packages.

Building in Perks

For millennials, the workplace perks really are where the money’s at. Plenty of millennials will tell you straight out: it is more important to have good workplace benefits than to make a lot of money. These benefits can be a variety of things and may vary on an office-to-office basis.

One example may be having a flexible work schedule that allows employees to build work around their lives. It includes things such as a variable workweek where employees are required to get 80 hours in a two-week pay period but can work 4-10s one week and 5-8s the next. It also includes the ability to work from home on bad weather days or take off early for an appointment when necessary.

Another example of a good perk is offering small amenities within the office space or perks at local businesses. This can include things like a well-stocked snack stash in the break room or the freedom to bring a well-behaved dog into the office. Local perks could include discounts at the nearby coffee shop with an ID badge or a percentage off gym memberships. These things can build a more positive workplace culture, a unique one that brings people to your door wanting to work for you.

Giving Time

When asking what the most important benefit is for most young people, one thing you will hear over and over again is how valuable time off is. Sure, most companies have paid time off (PTO) and sick leave, but they can be structured complicatedly and difficult to use. This leaves employees budgeting for the days they can take off all year long and doesn’t really give them the ability to take time off just because they need a break or for emergencies.

A company that offers flexible paid time off or the ability to earn time off by working more at other times is really what everyone is after. Flexible paid time off allows employees to work more hours when they need to and take the flex time off work for a longer weekend or just a relaxation day later down the road. It can even be used as an alternative to overtime. Overall it serves to lessen workplace stress and give people the opportunity to do more of what works for them.

Ultimately, this idea of doing more of what works for them is key to capturing the hearts and minds of your young employees. This ability to have a flexible work schedule with an emphasis on taking care of yourself is a cornerstone of promoting employee mental health and wellness practices. Creating a non-judgemental environment for those who use sick leave for mental health purposes is another good way to create a safe space for everyone.

Employee retention and long-term happiness are key aspects to the productivity and success of your company overall. Working to create a positive workplace environment with supportive managers and good communication is the foundation. Offering great workplace perks, benefits, and a flexible work schedule are the next steps to ultimate success.  


Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a mom, writer, and entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest. She loves all things literary, doggish, and plant-based. Of those, words are her favorite. You can find more of her work on Twitter @faulknercreek.

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