10 Ways to Build a Better Workplace

Making time on the job more pleasant for employees will reduce turnover and generally improve your life and theirs
10 Ways to Build a Better Workplace
Judy Kneiszel

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In many areas of the country, the labor market is tight. Help wanted signs seem to be popping up everywhere. And younger workers are not afraid to job-hop if it means better working conditions or greater rewards. As an employer, that means you have to up your game. Here are 10 ways to improve your company’s culture. Any one of these suggestions could be the difference between keeping a good employee and having to post that sign again.

1. Show some appreciation

Paying fair wages is a must if you’re going to attract and keep good employees. Beyond that, show appreciation for a job well done with a sincere thank you, a pat on the back, a box of doughnuts or a free lunch. Consider bigger rewards when deserved, like monetary bonuses or extra time off. Employees who feel valued are more likely to work hard and be committed to the company.

2. Provide feedback

Showing appreciation is important when things go right, but employees also want to hear from you when things go wrong or when things are going just OK. Providing thoughtful, constructive feedback will help an employee grow and do better in the future, and it will be appreciated if you go about it the right way. If you have to be critical, be tactful and have the conversation in private to help the employee save face. Look at it as a teaching opportunity, not a critique. Be generous with both positive feedback and positive reinforcement on a daily basis and also in a more formal annual performance review.

3. Don’t micromanage

Show appreciation, offer feedback and then back off! Let people do their jobs. Sometimes this means letting people make, and learn from, mistakes. Micromanaging can hurt morale and decrease the productivity of both the manager and the employee being managed. Learn to delegate tasks, and trust employees to complete them. You’ll be surprised at what people can accomplish if you give them a little room.

4. Get to know your employees

If you refer to one of your drivers as “the tall one with the tattoo” and another as “the bald guy,” you’ve got your work cut out for you. Know every employee’s name. Talk to them, and get to know something about their interests, whether it’s the team they cheer for, a hobby they pursue after hours, or where their kids go to school. It’s a lot easier for an employee to quit if they think of the boss as a mean, faceless stranger. On the other hand, if you recently bonded over the pain of your team’s heartbreaking overtime loss, they might not want to kick you while you’re down.

5. Give clear direction

No one likes feeling uncertain or directionless, especially on the job. If an employee doesn’t understand what they are supposed to be doing, they can’t do a good job, and this leads to frustration, which may lead to them walking off the job. Good communication is the key to a successful workforce. Explain expectations to employees. Have clear job descriptions, safety procedures, a chain of command and company policies. Provide more than adequate training.

6. Provide inspiration; set goals

Whether you offer a group reward for a certain number of accident-free days, award an employee-of-the-month plaque, sponsor sales contests with prizes, or organize some other incentive program, these types of tactics can be fun and effective. If you want to see results, set goals for people and reward them when those goals are met.

7. Be flexible

Work-life balance is crucial to a happy workforce. Be generous with time off and understanding about scheduling whenever possible. A mom or dad might be happy to stay late one day if it means they are able to cut out early and catch their daughter’s softball game the next day. Actively encourage employees to take vacations too. Well-rested employees are happy employees.

8. Don’t play favorites

Maybe your crew includes family members or friends. Maybe there are just some employees who you get along with better because you have similar outside interests. That’s fine, but when it comes time for raises, promotions, and job assignments, you’ve got to treat everyone fairly. Any hint of favoritism can lead to long-lasting resentment or defection.

9. Don’t hog the credit

Recognize employees for their achievements. If a particular employee went above and beyond for a customer, give credit where credit is due. It could make better customer service contagious rather than spreading the “why bother?” attitude that comes with the frustration of seeing the boss take credit for an employee’s hard work.

10. Handle all disputes immediately and fairly

Nothing hurts morale like a disagreement between co-workers, especially in a small company where employees can’t easily be reassigned to a different partner or team. An employee who has a beef with management can also spread negativity through a company like the plague. Nip it in the bud. Listen to all sides, try to get the facts, and settle things fairly. If necessary, bring in a neutral party for mediation to resolve the issue.

If your company could improve in any or all of these areas, take steps to implement changes this winter when business is a little slower. Concentrate on making your company a great place to work, and it will help you sail through the upcoming busy season with a full crew. Preventing workers from leaving for greener pastures will reduce the time, effort, and money needed to find last-minute replacements.



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