Who wouldn’t want their business to make it on a “Best Places to Work” list? These rankings are highly coveted for good reason; they can help you attract great employees in an increasingly competitive job market.
Perhaps even more important, creating a good environment for employees will help with retention and productivity.
So how do you build a company culture that attracts the best and the brightest, keeps them happy and fosters productivity and creativity? You don’t need to spend heavily on nap pods, laundry service and other perks. Here are four strategies that small businesses can use to foster a “Best Place to Work” Environment.
Infographic by David Foster
1. Recognize the Importance of Work-Life Balance.
A healthy work-life balance might be the defining quest of our time. We all strive to have fulfilling careers as well as personal lives, but the truth is, the lines are blurring everyday. For some employees, work-life balance means having more time to spend with their kids and families. For others, it might mean having the opportunity to work on personal passions or enjoy leisure time with friends or traveling.
Though work-life balance means different things for different people, one thing’s for certain — flexible work options is a big selling point for job seekers, especially millennials. A recent Harvard Business Review study shows that in North America, as part of a healthy work life balance. And demand for flexible work hours isn’t just limited to millennials — HR managers also see the benefits. In fact, 91 percent of HR professionals believe implementation of formal flexible work arrangements had a positive impact on employee morale, and helps keep good workers around longer.
To create a “Best Place to Work” environment, recognize the importance of flextime and realize it means different things to everyone. Be flexible about letting employees work remotely or splitting up their work hours beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. An environment which values open communication helps ensure everyone’s needs are being met, in and out of the office.
2. Make Work Fun.
There’s no reason that the work environment at your small business shouldn’t be fun. And having a fun workplace doesn’t mean having ping pong and foozeball tables for everyone in the office. There are plenty of other ways to build a lively and fun-loving culture at work.
Start by celebrating the small things —acknowledging birthdays and anniversaries is fun and offers everyone something to look forward to. It also makes everyone feel rewarded to be recognized by the whole team. You don’t have to buy a cake for everyone’s birthday - make it a monthly tradition to celebrate everyone who had a milestone that month.
Try being pet friendly. Obviously this depends a lot on the type of work environment you have — it’s probably not a great idea to have pets at a construction site or a doctor’s office, for instance. But if you can, be accepting of your workers’ animal companions. It’s surprising how much having a dog or cat can make the office feel more homey and comfortable.
Finally, don’t force fun down your employees’ throats. A mandatory company activity can easily go from “a fun outing” to a “tiresome obligation.” Get your team’s opinions on what they would like to do for fun and include that input into your decision. Again, a “best place to work” environment is where everybody’s opinions matter and people feel their input is heard.
3. Invest in Employees’ Success.
Today’s job market is defined by change — skills are more important than degrees and tenure as a new generation of employees enters the workforce. What’s more, today’s ob seekers aren’t done learning when they receive their diploma - they want to keep developing personally and professionally beyond the classroom. That’s why investing in employees’ careers is imperative for companies looking to attract and retain top talent.
In 2014, American companies spent 15 percent more on corporate training programs than the year prior, adding up to $70 billion. And today’s employees aren’t only looking to classrooms or work-sponsored training sessions for lessons — a Bersin report showed that nearly 20 percent of corporate training is delivered via mobile device.
Corporate training is also creating future leaders — management and leadership training makes up 35 percent of employee development training at today’s top performing companies, according to HR expert Josh Bersin.
4. Encourage and Reward Employee Innovation.
An innovative small business environment hinges on the CEO and other leaders encouraging workers to think outside the box. Employees will automatically be more motivated and think more creatively when they see their superiors supporting this innovative culture.
For example, have brainstorm sessions that encourage everybody to throw in their ideas to solve a particular problem. Pair people from work groups or departments that wouldn’t normally interact to see how employees can learn from their colleagues.
And once you’ve established a culture that values innovation, measure it and include it as part of the feedback and review process for workers. It’s important for employees to know that new ways of thinking are appreciated.