The Payroll Blog

News, tips, and advice for small business owners

10 Things That Make Up an Ideal Work Environment

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Anne Perisho

A group of a variety of employees smiling and high fiving each other at a conference room table.

The job market is booming, with unemployment at its lowest level in 49 years. With job seekers faced with more workplace options than they’ve likely experienced in their lifetimes, how can you draw in the right candidates to your business?

Glassdoor just released their 2019 Top 50 Top Places to Work for small and medium-sized businesses, and the list demonstrates that an ideal workplace is more than just competitive pay and good benefits. To not only draw in the right candidates for new positions, but to retain your valued employees, a defining factor for employee success and happiness lies in workplace culture. Making sure that your employees feel supported and inspired to come to work every day will help employee retention and drives loyalty to your company. It’s also important to keep in mind that an ideal work environment might differ from generation to generation, so being flexible is key.

We’ve found the top things that drive employee engagement and make your company attractive to potential candidates:

1. Competitive Pay 

While this may seem like the most fundamental aspect of any job, it’s amazingly common for small businesses to offer compensation based on what they think a role is worth, not the actual going rate. Do your research before posting the position: if the going rate in your area $10.00 an hour, you won’t stand out as much to potential candidates if you offer $8.50, even if it happens to be above minimum wage.

2. Benefits Package

Additionally, keep in mind that benefits are hardly considered a perk anymore; they’re a business necessity. Offering a solid benefits package to potential hires could be the deciding factor for them going with your company or not, and also demonstrates that you care for your employee’s wellbeing outside of work. This includes items such as health insurance, a 401(k) plan, and match, commuting reimbursement, and discounted cell phone plans. 

3. Encourage Work/Life Balance 

The average full-time employee will spend over 1/3 of their life working. That’s over 90,000 hours. Because of this, it makes sense that employees are often just as concerned about their work/life balance as they are their pay. Keep in mind that if you’re hoping to attract new employees or keep your current staff happy, you should take into account their personal lives as well as their work life. Maybe one of your employees is a single parent that needs to be home in time to meet their child’s school bus, or maybe they’re commuting an hour-plus to work every week, and it’s draining their family time. Offering flexibility, like flexible hours or work from home benefits, can improve morale and may make your business more attractive to potential hires

4. Offer Professional Development

No one takes an entry-level job hoping that they’re going to do doing the same base-level gruntwork for the rest of their career. Offering employees paths to upward mobility shows that you care for their professional development and their success. Employees appreciate knowing that their bosses are committed to them succeeding and growing, and businesses benefit from the education and skills these employees bring to the business. Take the time to research professional development courses you could offer your employees to teach them more advanced skills they can use to push themselves and the business further.

5. Be Creative with Incentives

As a small business owner, you may not be able to offer workplace perks like a cafeteria or gym in your office like some larger corporations do, but you can still do small things to keep your employees happy. Consider providing a catered team lunch once a month or providing fitness trackers or coupons to local gyms to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Little things like this can help you motivate your employees and show them that you recognize their efforts and are thankful they’ve decided to join your team.

6. Recognize Your Employees

Recognizing success is hugely important to employees. At the end of a long workday, most employees want to know that the time and effort they’ve put in means something, especially when they’ve gone above and beyond. Incentive programs inspire employees to outperform and are also a huge draw for prospective employees. Think about creating a system that rewards employees for going above and beyond – say, a points program they can exchange for cash or prizes.

7. Communication and Input

The most qualified people to provide input on your company are the employees themselves! Employee engagement surveys, especially when done anonymously and securely, are a great way to gain valuable feedback on aspects of your company you may not see as the owner or manager. However, gathering feedback is only useful if you adjust and react accordingly.

8. Offer Feedback

Similarly, make sure that you are transparent and open with your employees. Often employees feel they are not getting enough feedback or that the feedback they are receiving is not helpful to them. Set clear expectations and let your staff know they can come to you with questions if they’re unclear on those expectations. A common practice is to conduct year-end performance reviews. However, a lot goes on in the year that both you and your employee may forget by the end of the year. Consider setting up weekly 1:1 meeting or structure reviews so they are quarterly, giving you and your employee more time to connect and receive feedback. 

9. Offer a Shared Vision

Employees want to work for a company that shares their values and motivates them to work their hardest. As a business owner, it’s your job to help employees understand how they contribute to the company’s mission and provide them with reasons – aside from their paycheck – to feel good about showing up to work every day. Doing so with aligning an employee’s interests with your business, and they’ll be more willing to go that extra mile.

10. Managerial Support

Employers often expect loyalty from their employees, but don’t always provide their staff with the support they need to succeed in the workplace. While you can’t promise your team that they’ll never face difficulty at work, employees should feel that they have their manager’s support when dealing with stressful situations. Having someone to turn to when they’re frustrated or stressed is crucial for employees, and giving them support during those times creates loyalty.   

Bottom Line

Today, the job market is being driven by the candidate, not businesses, which is why it’s important to make your business stand out. While not every day will be ideal, and every workplace will have problems arise, it’s important that the perks of your small business outweigh the bad. As a small business owner, you have the power to develop a truly ideal workplace for your employees.

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