People want to work where they love what they do, where they feel supported by their team, and where they can grow and successfully reach their goals. These positive work environments require time and effort on part of business owners to create. However—the hard work pays off by helping you avoid a toxic work environment. Toxic work environments lead to high turnover rates, job dissatisfaction, and low levels of productivity.
What can we do, as small and mid-sized business owners, to foster positive work environments that attract and retain top talent? In order to create a workplace that produces high-quality work, innovation, and motivates employees to work as a team, we need to also create a workplace that supports remote and in-person employees and sets them up for success.
One of my business core values is people first—I’m always looking for connection and understanding among different people. Right now, that includes lots of discussions about preferences for remote or in-person work, whether tasks require individuals to be in-person or not, and how we can find a good balance for both the business and each individual.
This is just one piece of how I’m helping to create a positive work environment, but there are many other moving parts. Here’s what you can do to set up your team for a successful, healthy, and happy work life.
Prioritize Onboarding and Training
Your team is only as strong as your onboarding process. If you don’t want to constantly replace team members, then you need a complete onboarding plan. This plan gives your new hires everything they need to be successful as they step into their new role, including responsibilities, expectations, and more.
Training is a key piece of this. Carve out time to hold important training sessions or explain standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help new hires get adjusted and feel confident. This is especially important for virtual teams, where employees need to learn how to use many different online tools. Also, be sure to help them understand the hierarchy of your business. If you run a small business, they could be reporting directly to you. However, if you’ve grown your team significantly, it’s helpful to introduce new hires to whomever they should report to on a daily basis.
Conduct Employee Check-Ins
Use regularly-scheduled meetings as a time to address questions, concerns, and ask your employees what their long and short-term goals are. It’s a great opportunity to understand what your team needs to feel supported, and how you can help them make progress towards their career goals.
Additionally, use this time to acknowledge successes and show your appreciation for their hard work.
Fostering a positive work environment means you also need to create a workplace where everyone is excited to work together toward common goals. Collaboration is a huge asset to your business, as it yields more ideas, better solutions, and enhanced problem-solving. Get your team used to working with one another in order to develop more collaboration. This could mean hosting brainstorming meetings when a big project is coming up to ensure everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and share what their version of success looks like. Or, it could be as simple as pairing people up to work on specific projects or deliverables based on their skillsets.
Allow Mistakes to Happen
Rather than punishing employees when a mistake happens (because they always do!), use it as a learning opportunity to understand where your employee needed more support, training, or information to avoid that error. Also, give them a chance to meet one-on-one with you to understand what happened and how your team can work together to prevent that mistake from happening in the future.
Allowing—and even sometimes encouraging—mistakes to happen means you’re also opening the door to innovation.
Have Tough Conversations
An important factor of being a leader is being the one who needs to lead difficult conversations. Hard conversations have better outcomes when you manage the message, so communicating difficult information effectively comes from the way you approach the conversation. Approach these conversations with empathy, listen to understand, and come up with next steps that both you and your employee agree on. This will build trust with your team because they know they can trust you to have tough conversations without flying off the handle.
Your business is only as successful as your employees are healthy and happy. Giving them space to create a healthy work-life balance, ask questions and make mistakes, and work with other members of the team will develop a positive work environment that leads to more productivity and more profit in your pocket. Take stock of your current work environment and ask yourself, what needs to change? Where is there room for improvement? Making small changes can lead to huge impacts on the well-being of your employees.