No matter the size of the team, business owners and managers set the tone of a company. They have the ultimate influence in creating a positive work culture.

A positive work environment means more than just chatting with coworkers by the watercooler or sending around funny emails; it’s about keeping employees engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs. With the right guidance and encouragement — and occasional perks — workers are happier and more likely to be advocates for your brand.

No two workplaces are the same, but here are some things that companies with a positive culture do in common.

Define Expectations

Being a part of a small business means you’re probably doing a lot, and amid the bustle, sometimes communicating clearly about goals gets pushed off.

But when team members aren’t up-to-date about their roles, it’s easy for them to get off track.

As a manager, set expectations and guide your team, but don’t micromanage. Check in regularly to keep a pulse on project goals and progress.

Put it in action: Try holding a daily departmental standup meeting. Team members stand in a circle and go over what they plan to achieve during their shift.

This allows the team to share their goals and lets managers to intervene when necessary. And since everyone’s standing up, they’re motivated to keep updates to-the-point.

Be Open to Feedback and Criticism

Accepting criticism isn’t easy, especially for leaders. Creating a way for employees to provide feedback without fear of repercussion is so important when you’re trying to make a positive culture.
Something as simple as a suggestion box or an email address reserved for in-house complaints can go a long way to encourage employees to offer feedback for office improvement.

Put it in action: Pick a day each week to feature a specific piece of feedback and try to implement solutions. Follow up a few weeks later to see if the suggestions helped to alleviate the issues.

Take for example, the shared office refrigerator. If someone brings up the problem of people leaving old food in there and proposes the solution of cleaning it out every Friday at noon, try it out for a few weeks and see if the solution works.

Addressing and tackling challenges as a group shows your team that you value their input and that you’re taking their suggestions seriously. It also encourages them to continue to be open with you — about their work and about the general office culture.

Make Time for Team Bonding

Some offices are all about ping-pong and foosball. Other teams hardly get up from their desks all day. Team bonding lies somewhere in the balance. It’s not all fun and games — because actual work does have to get done — but you should certainly have some fun doing it!

Appeal to the team dynamic. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming to be effective. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that everyone in the office can enjoy and that it’s voluntary.

Put it in action:

  • Take the team bowling on a Friday afternoon.
  • Cater in lunch after a big meeting.
  • Host a happy hour after work.
  • Recognize co-workers birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Plan a company picnic where employees can bring their families.

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Have an Open-Door Policy

You may be in charge of the team, but that doesn’t mean you should be secluded in your office all day. Privacy for meetings and phone calls is important, but leave your office door open the rest the time. This shows your team that you’re available. It’ll promote communication and encourage suggestions.
Be accessible — whether for a quick hello or to chat about an issue that might be brewing under the radar. An open-door policy encourages transparency.

Put it in action: Allot time with each team member in a casual setting to reconnect and see how things are progressing.

Chats and check-ins shouldn’t be reserved for when something is wrong. Schedule short, face-to-face meetings with team members on a regular basis.

Praise the Team

While you’re preoccupied with running the business, it’s easy to overlook the personal side of the job and your employees.
A leader’s job is to push the team. And a vital part of pushing your team is by encouraging them and celebrating their successes. Words go a long way.

Put it in action: Take a moment at the end of each project or week to recognize good work and give constructive feedback on a team level. This will allow the whole team to see value in every team member, and it will motivate everyone.

Invest in the Workforce

A good leader can see the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on their team. It can take time for a new worker to learn the ropes and be comfortable with their environment, but after that, you can look for ways to encourage their strengths.

By investing in your team members, you show that you care about their careers while creating a stronger team and more confident worker.

Put it in action: Investment comes in a lot of forms. If an employee has expressed interest in continuing education, let them attend a local convention during work hours, sponsor a trip to a nationwide seminar, or reimburse the fees paid for career-related college courses.

While this will progress your employees’ careers and hopefully improve their work, it can also incentivize high performers to join your team.

Give Room to Grow

An entry-level new grad doesn’t hold the same authority that a senior-level employee with 10 years of experience does. Jobs may be similar but titles and privileges are different.

Is there room in your company for employees to move up or over to a more appealing position? If there is, workers tend to work harder to achieve that foreseeable goal.

Encourage upward mobility within your company, and make sure employees can see examples of workers who have been promoted and worked their way up; this gives employees something to aspire to.

Put it in action: Create a goal-driven atmosphere for workers. Encourage hard work and productivity and then help them earn their way. Show them those feats can result in being promoted.

Looking for more ways to improve employee morale at your company? Check out this article from Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran on how to create a happy and creative company.

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