In today’s job market, employers must offer more than just high pay and benefits to attract top talent. Modern-day job seekers want companies with a great work environment that makes showing up each day enjoyable. Not only does a positive workplace culture help attract and retain employees, it also has a direct impact on a company’s success. Research shows that employees who love their jobs are more productive and invested in the company’s success.

Knowing how to create a great work environment is one of the most valuable assets for your business. But, it is also one of the most difficult challenges that business leaders and managers face.

As a result, organizations have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars trying to solve the problem. Words like “culture,” “flexibility,” and “cause” have become buzzwords to business leaders trying to create the ideal workplace for their employees. And, while culture and cause are definitely important, adding a Ping-Pong table to the break room isn’t solving the problem.

Characteristics of a Positive Workplace Culture

While every workplace is different, companies with happy employees tend to have a few basic things in common. Here are five characteristics of a positive workplace culture that we’ve observed while working with companies of all sizes.

1. Good Communication

Nothing is more frustrating for an employee than ambiguous job expectations, which is what makes effective communication one of the most important things for a positive workplace culture. Managers shouldn’t make themselves inaccessible but should instead strive to give their employees frequent feedback on performance. Employees themselves should also be encouraged to communicate with each another and be provided with the proper tools to do so. All company communication should stick to three principles: being clear, courteous, and proactive.

2. Opportunities for Growth

The best employees want more than to just punch a time clock each day for a paycheck. They want a chance to better themselves and grow on the job. Companies with a positive work environment provide employees with clear expectations for advancement and the tools and training needed for success. This can be done by establishing on-the-job training programs and creating specific goals for employees to reach promotions and raises.

3. Culture of Collaboration

Humans are social beings who thrive on working together as a team. Companies that encourage collaboration help foster a camaraderie among employees that boosts both performance and morale. Creating a sense of unity makes employees feel like they are working for something bigger than themselves.

4. Reward Systems

Recognizing good work is an important morale booster and helps encourage employee engagement. Employers should have a formal reward system in place that provides other benefits to employees who help meet company objectives. Informal rewards—like notes, special events, or gifts—can also make employees feel valued without greatly affecting a company’s bottom line.

5. Strong Purpose and Core Values

Creating a sense of purpose among employees is a key ingredient for any sustainable business. Building a purpose-driven culture starts first with a set of core values that are then reflected in the company’s long-term goals. For businesses with successful, purpose-driven cultures, the company’s core values are much more than just bland mission statements printed on the back of the employee handbook. These values should be woven into every one of the company’s actions. Core values give employees a clear reason for their work and can also help uplift the company at large.

The Gen Z workforce are the first generation to prioritize purpose over money. They read company mission statements and values to determine where they fit best. This generation expects consistency and authenticity and will call you out if they think you are not aligned.

3 Universal Characteristics of a Great Work Environment

So, what makes a great work environment where employees can thrive personally and professionally? While there might be specific areas to address, here are three universal characteristics of a great work environment, regardless of your industry or age of employees:

1. An intentional focus on boosting morale and improving company culture. 

A great work environment doesn’t create itself. It takes intentional effort from everyone within the organization. Leaders are responsible for setting the tone and making the culture a priority. Employees are aware of the role they play in company morale and actively seek out ways to improve it. Companies that are renowned for being a great place don’t just say culture and morale is a priority, they put that belief into action by always finding ways to boost company morale and improve company culture.

2. Managers who invest in their employees.

Most people think money is the primary reason people quit their jobs. However, a recent study by Gallup found that managers are responsible for up to 60 percent of all the reasons people quit. Companies that have created a great work environment are often made up of leaders and managers who truly value their employees and are committed to helping them grow personally and professionally.

3. Clarity and candor when communicating with employees. 

Ambiguity, uncertainty, and gossip are toxic in any work environment. When employees aren’t sure about their responsibilities, what success looks like, and how they’re performing, it’s really difficult for them to show up with a desire to “lean in” and give 100%. On the other hand, work becomes meaningful to employees when they know how their work contributions affect the organization. Companies that have created a great work environment are absolutely clear with employees. They avoid inter-office gossip that talks about employees rather than to them.

Investing in what it takes to create a great work environment can seem like a lot of work. It’s a lot more work than buying an espresso machine for the office. It’s far easier for a leader to say, “Employees just need to get over it, show up to work, and do their job.” However, taking the time and effort to create a great work environment is worth it.

Tips for how to make feedback in the office more constructive.

No employee or company does everything right all the time, but it’s impossible to improve without a clear idea of what is wrong. Giving constructive criticism to employees and soliciting constructive criticism from them is critical in improving company operations.

However, making critiques isn’t easy for anyone. Sometimes, managers can be too negative and end up hurting employee morale rather than improving their performance. Employees often don’t take satisfaction surveys seriously and can feel intimidated bringing criticism to their superiors.

  1. Be specific. Generalized feedback is easy to ignore and undermine. The more specific a critique, the more likely someone is to remember it and the easier it will be to apply to a real-life situation. Focus feedback on situations that really happened, not imaginary future scenarios.
  2. Don’t forget about positive feedback. Not all feedback should be negative. It’s important to make sure that success is recognized so that it can be replicated. Positive feedback doesn’t have to be given through a formal channel. It can be as simple as a friendly, “Hey, great job on that report.”
  3. Be straightforward. All feedback should be concise, straightforward, and clear. Don’t pepper criticism with positive feedback to make it seem nicer. That can end up just confusing the issue. Make sure that all feedback is laid out in the simplest way possible.
  4. Be timely. Don’t wait for an issue to pass and blow over before delivering feedback. The more time that passes after an incident, the more time a person has to repeat it. Late feedback loses its impact and urgency.
  5. Train employees. Employees should know who they can turn to when things aren’t going right. If they feel intimidated, they may never come forward with feedback. Train employees to recognize the situations where they can deliver feedback and teach them what qualities make that feedback constructive and not destructive. Emphasize the importance of employee engagement surveys, and be sure employees know that their voices are being heard.
  6. Train managers. Managers should set an example for other employees by giving constructive feedback. The manager should be the one to set the tone for all employees with how they address problems and deliver praise. In order to achieve this, managers need training on how to give feedback and a clear understanding of their roles in the company’s purpose and goals.

Is It Time for a Positive Workplace Culture Makeover?

Do these characteristics describe your company, or does your workplace need a cultural makeover?

Changing employee interactions and boosting morale can seem like a daunting task, but prioritizing the people in your organization is critical for growth. At LBMC Employment Partners, we’re experts in workplace culture and can support your efforts to improve the work experience of your employees.

Through our PEO services, we provide full HR support, efficient payroll processing and payroll tax administration, as well as access to Certified HR Professionals. Let us help you alleviate those complexities of Human Resources Management so that you can focus your attention on what matters most.