6 simple ways to foster a positive work environment

Learn how to set up your teammates for success by creating the best workplace culture

By the team at SlackFebruary 1st, 2019Illustration by Giacomo Bagnara

Building a team is a two-way street. On one side, your employees agree to use their talents and experience to drive the organization forward. On the other, companies agree to compensate them for their work.

But there’s more to it than that. Setting your team up for success comes down to the emotional, intellectual, and physical ways that you support them. And it’s not as complicated as it may seem—the simplest things can foster a positive work environment and leave employees feeling like valued members of the organization.

1. Prioritize onboarding and training

Companies are realizing that a sink-or-swim mentality doesn’t work when the aim is to cultivate high-performing teams and a positive work environment.

In fact, a BambooHR survey identified ineffective onboarding as a major reason why 17% of new hires quit in the first three months. That’s why the online shoe retailer Zappos provides new employees with a five-week course that teaches them about the values and culture of the company.

Not every organization can dedicate five weeks to onboarding. But employees’ first two weeks, at least, should be planned out in full. If possible, make sure to include scheduled time for the following to get them through the awkward initiation phase:

  • Shadowing coworkers
  • Sitting in on meetings
  • Locating and reading through important company files and process documents

Employees should also be educated on workplace safety and codes of conduct to help them understand how the organization works as a whole.

2. Create a comfortable work environment

A workspace should empower employees to do their best work. But as Judy Village, the president-elect of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists, explains, it’s not just about physical comfort. “It’s also about designing work to suit workers’ cognitive and psychological characteristics,” she writes.

Adjustable standing desks and well-positioned computer screens can not only alleviate pain but can also affect employees’ emotional well-being and promote focus.

Remember, employees can’t do their best work in an office they find disruptive. Consider creating a comfortable, productive space that encompasses everything from ergonomic furniture to temperature-regulated interiors.

3. Conduct regular check-ins

It’s no surprise: People who actually like coming to work do better work.

And contrary to popular belief, creating a positive work environment for your team doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, 39% of American workers say regular check-ins are the number-one thing that makes them feel happy at the office, according to a recent Ernst & Young survey.

Stop by your employees’ desks and ask for their opinions. Or, if you have a remote workforce, send them a quick informal message. Then show care and attention by following up. You’ll be surprised by how much these small actions can boost productivity across an organization, regardless of an employee’s location.

4. Encourage collaboration and communication

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that new hires don’t feel left out.

Of course, you can’t always be there to facilitate the team atmosphere. That’s why establishing efficient and effective communication is essential. A few ways you can do that include:

  • Using dedicated channels for new projects
  • Including coworkers in appropriate email chains
  • Posting team priorities in a public space for all to reference, like a whiteboard or Google doc

Simple, straightforward, and honest communication builds a team’s foundation. It also creates a sense of community that will contribute to the group’s success moving forward. Plus, it can make new hires feel supported, even when the management team isn’t available.

5. Develop a strong workplace culture

According to McKinsey & Company, companies with a strong, clearly defined identity see anywhere between 60% and 200% higher returns to shareholders. That’s because everyone knows and understands the company’s primary goals.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos—which has become so famous for its workplace culture that it actually offers Zappos culture tours—agrees. “Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand,” he says.

But he’s also made it clear that it doesn’t matter what these values are. “What matters is that you have them and that you align the organization around them,” Hsieh explains. “And the power actually comes from the alignment, not from the actual values.”

Values and priorities will differ from one company to the next. The main thing is to create a culture that unites employees and sets a clear direction.

6. Facilitate opportunities for learning

When it comes to setting teams up for success, it’s tempting to focus on the things that will make them more productive in the short term.

Workplace learning and experimentation, however, is equally important. Employees thrive and performance increases when a company becomes a true learning organization that prioritizes professional development.

Providing opportunities for informal learning and knowledge sharing is also key, especially with new hires. A company can save millions in lost productivity by making sure that employees have access to the information they need to do their jobs.

A positive work environment begins with a collaborative foundation

Building high-performing teams hinges on the team atmosphere that you cultivate, the physical environment you create, and the relationships you build.

If you want to retain your best people, you can’t just put them to work; you need to give them something that can often be rare to find: a workplace and work that they find fulfilling.

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