10 Ways to Encourage a Positive Workplace

Your organizational leaders should ask every day, “How can I support a positive workplace?” Developing and nurturing a positive workplace takes real effort because it involves a lot of communication and a relentless effort to engage employees. The rewards of success are enormous – greater financial success, a productive and happier workforce, and a strong likelihood of staying union-free

The following are ten recommendations for encouraging a positive workplace. 

1. Reinforce the company’s mission and values

Keeping employees aligned with the company’s mission and goals is a key strategy for keeping employees excited about their work and contributing to organizational success. Gallup has done considerable research on the mission-driven workplace and found that most employees feel disconnected from the organization’s purpose. One such survey found that only 4-out-of-10 employees strongly agreed that the company’s mission makes their job feel important. 

Just as importantly, Gallup research found a direct link between their company’s identity and business health. Just a 10 percent improvement in the connection would lead to a 12.7 percent reduction in safety incidents, a 4.4 percent increase in profitability, and an 8.1 percent decrease in turnover. Additional research led Gallup to conclude that employers must help employees compellingly answer one important question: Why do you do what you do?

Part of this equation is values. A value-driven company has leaders who have a dialogue with employees about purpose. This leads to a better understanding of the employee perspective. This strengthens employee engagement, which is important to keeping unions out. Of course, a values-driven organization is only possible if values-driven leaders are supporting the organization’s vision. These are leaders at every level who make a conscious commitment to lead. They make decisions on a foundation of values like transparency, honesty, and ethics. Most importantly, they have a true desire to help employees meet their needs and goals. 

2. Identify and talk about what makes the company culture special 

What makes your company culture special? Is it the level of employee collaboration and teamwork that takes place every day? Do you encourage employees to be creative? Is their creativity appreciated, recognized, and rewarded? The tech staffing company builtin describes 25 business cultures that get high marks for making employees feel valued, united in support of the mission, highly satisfied and happy at work, and truly believe management cares about their success. The cultures are called “great” for many different reasons. Still, there are some common themes – great communication between employees and managers, sharing of core values, and transparency are three of them. Talk about your company culture with your employees regularly. Culture matters to the employee and organizational success. Culture matters to staying union-free too.

3. Talk about the unique benefits and perks your employees enjoy – 

Does your company invest in decision-support technologies designed to help employees better understand and choose the best-fit health and retirement plans? Perhaps you initiated a whole health program that is rising in popularity. 

Using the whole health program as an example of unique benefits focuses on a healthy body and a healthy mind. However, it’s more than just offering health insurance plan options or healthy snacks in the vending machine. Management focuses on reducing stress in the work environment, ensures good indoor air quality, rewards employees who walk a certain number of steps each month during breaks and lunchtime, provides mental health counseling, addresses safety, etc. 

Cigna offers a good example of this new trend in its Health Accelerated: Life Connected program that addresses physical, emotional, financial, social, and environmental areas impacting employee well-being. Cigna conducts a well-being survey. The 2018 Cigna 3600 Well-Being Survey report found that workplace wellness programs have taken on greater importance in managing stress, and half of all employees report they don’t get support from their employers. Over-stressed employees, no matter the stress source, are much more likely to take an interest in unions. Even if you can’t afford a whole health program, you can implement a whole health approach. 

You may also offer non-insurance perks, like one paid day off each quarter to participate in a charity event, employee discounts, recognition and rewards program, or relaxation rooms for employees. There is an amazing array of perks available today, and you need to promote them to employees.

Too many employers implement wonderful and unique benefits and perks but never adequately promote them. They are promoted during onboarding, but you also need ongoing promotion and communication to keep the benefits in your employees’ minds. 

4. Leverage diversity for innovation 

There is more than one way to approach giving employees a voice. Numerous studies have shown that diversity in the workplace brings many advantages to employees’ teams and the bottom line. The Boston Consulting Group conducted a study of 1,700 companies in eight countries and found that the ones with above-average diversity scores reported 19 percent higher innovation revenue (revenue from new products and services launched with the prior three years.) The great thing about this strategy is that companies successfully leveraging diversity ensure all employees are included on project teams, given opportunities to share their unique perspectives, and appreciated and valued for their differences.

5. Address unconscious bias 

Unconscious bias causes a lot of damage to even the sincerest efforts to create a positive workplace. It’s expressed in a multitude of ways – hiring managers always justify not hiring the minority job candidate, or all employees are expected to “fit in” (a euphemism for adopting majority perspectives and behaviors), or supervisors stereotype employees without realizing it or language in policies creates barriers for certain groups of people. Talking about unconscious bias is not easy because it requires people to assess their personal life experiences and perspectives. However, ignoring it exists is harmful to the workforce and the business.

Don’t ignore or pretend unconscious bias doesn’t exist — because it does. This creates a frustrating employee experience and preventing people from bringing their authentic selves to work. Instead, hold a regular dialogue about it, making it clear that unconscious bias will be weeded out. The company wants employees who are comfortable being authentic in the workplace. Train your leaders on how unconscious bias influences their decision-making and publicize the training. Make sure employees feel comfortable discussing situations or policies where they feel bias is at work. 

6. Breakdown power distance

Managers and supervisors need to communicate with staff. There is a principle called power distance in which managers focus on their authority instead of connecting with people. For some managers and supervisors, power distance enables them to justify, in their minds, their lack of feedback to employees or their poor communication skills. “Here’s your work assignment,” is not feedback. It is an order. “Here’s your work assignment. I would like to talk about any concerns you might have or hear your ideas about possible approaches,” is asking for employee feedback and closes the power distance. 

7. Develop ethical and compassionate leadership

The quality of leadership in any company is the most influential factor in a positive workplace. Compassionate leaders recognize that every employee is important as a person and as a member of the organization. They recognize that people have personal lives that can impact their work lives, appreciate others’ ideas, and learn from them, know how to inspire their workforce, and rely on influence instead of authority. They lead with high ethical standards that support corporate values, strive to help their staff achieve goals by ensuring they have guidance and resources, and truly care about their team members’ feelings and experience. 

8. Special events that get people involved 

One of the best ways to encourage a positive workplace is to have special events and activities for employees designed to improve people’s lives, show appreciation, and build a collaborative workforce. Special events are activities like cultural days, employee appreciation days, wellness groups, health challenges, and innovation contests. 

9. Ask employees 

Sometimes, the simplest way to achieve a goal is to simply ask. You should regularly ask employees about their needs and how they feel about management, the company, and policies. Ask them how they feel about the organization’s culture, teamwork, roles, and work, and how well they believe management supports their professional development goals. You can do pulse surveys, engagement surveys, and send emails. You can communicate via social media and talk to them face-to-face or via a program like Zoom if working remotely. Managers and supervisors need to maintain an open-door policy, which may mean asking for an online meeting for remote employees. It’s important to ask all employees how they feel about the culture and their jobs. Two things are accomplished. Employees are empowered by giving them a voice, and employees know leaders are listening. 

10. Keep the union-free message alive and fresh  

Talking about staying union-free is number ten, because numbers one through nine are important to staying union-free. All nine suggestions strengthen employee engagement. One of the things to recognize is that the union-free message needs to be fresh and relevant. Putting up a union-free website that says employees can choose to stay union-free, and then never updating or reinforcing the message, leads to stale messaging. Who wants to keep returning to a website that is static and never has any new information?

Even if there is no union activity or no union campaign in progress, you need to have a website that explains the company’s philosophy on unions, updating it regularly with videos of employees talking about their job successes, teamwork, management support, and other positive things about the company. You can also post video messages of managers praising their teams and reinforcing the message that management cares about them. Utilize social message to send out periodic messages, respond to any indications that unions are taking an interest in the company (always staying within the law), discuss the impact of unions on competitor workplaces, and take any other opportunity to keep the union-free message alive, fresh and relevant. 

CEO and Founder of UnionProof, Walter Orechwa, offers suggestions for communicating about unions in 9 Things You Must Communicate to Employees to Stay Union Free

It Takes Ongoing Effort and Resources

If you have the impression that encouraging a positive workplace takes a concerted leadership effort, you’re right! It won’t happen unless you invest in leadership training and stay focused on employee engagement. You must also stay knowledgeable about what is going on in your business. The only way to stay knowledgeable is to communicate with your employees regularly. You will not only enjoy higher productivity and a happier workforce; you are more likely to stay union free.

A Better Leader and UnionProof have developed high-quality, award-winning leadership training and resources for staying union-free to assist with the ongoing effort to engage employees. Experts in their fields bring your organization a wealth of data-based research and decades of experience. 

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.

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