Elements Of A Positive Workplace Culture

There’s no denying that this isn’t your father’s Corporate America. Since Don Draper’s day, workplaces have become more casual, more connected, more innovative, and more flexible. But have they become fun? Maybe so, or at least, that’s what the latest crop of employees hope to find when they settle into their new environment.

According to a recent report from Accenture, 60 percent of Class of 2015 graduates said they would take a pay cut to work where there is a “positive social atmosphere.”

“Most employers don’t actually need to see the results of a study to know that a positive, even fun, company culture is a deciding factor for young people who are entering the job market,” according to Michael Houlihan, co-author along with Bonnie Harvey of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People and The New York Times bestseller The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.

“And since Millennials now account for the largest share of the U.S. work force, those employers had better take this generation’s expectations seriously — even if they themselves are members of the ‘it’s called work for a reason’ camp,” according to Houlihan.

Don’t worry, assures Houlihan, you won’t have to put in a basketball court or bowling alley. And, injecting a little more fun into your organization will benefit everyone.

“It’s a myth that productivity improves when company cultures are rigid, serious, and businesslike,” Harvey notes. “The reality is, productivity improves when people enjoy being at work and enjoy the work they’re doing, regardless of the decade in which they were born.”

In The Entrepreneurial Culture, Houlihan and Harvey, who founded Barefoot Wine, share the methods and tactics they used to make their brand so successful. (And yes, that included proactively making their company an enjoyable place to work.) Here, they share six components of a positive company culture:

  • Fun: While going to work might not ever beat a day at the beach, it’s still possible to make time at the office enjoyable. When possible, allow your employees to work in highly collaborative teams and make group work areas available. Give these teams clear goals and celebrate when they’re accomplished. You might even want to introduce a little friendly competition.
  • Respect: Yes, your new millennial hires will be the low men and women on your company’s totem pole. But that doesn’t mean they can be treated dismissively or viewed as a cost. No one, regardless of age or experience, will enjoy coming to work if they aren’t treated with respect and viewed as an asset.
  • Philanthropy: A 2014 report by consulting firm Achieve showed that not only do Millennials think it’s important to give back to their communities, 57 percent would actually like to see their employers offer more company-wide volunteer opportunities.
  • Flex-hours: If your organization has a rigid attendance policy, Houlihan and Harvey ask you to seriously consider: Why? Thanks to technology, many of today’s jobs don’t require employees to be in the office, at their desks, from nine to five. And believe it or not, almost half of millennials say they’d choose flexibility over pay.
  • Appreciation: When your employees work hard on your behalf, they deserve your thanks and appreciation. Don’t take it for granted when your employees put in extra hours, land a coveted client, or turn out an incredibly well-thought-out proposal, for example. Make sure they know that you have noticed their efforts. For that matter, don’t even take it for granted that they show up every day. As the economy continues to improve, employees have an increasingly wide array of potential employers to choose from.
  • Family: Accenture’s report also showed that only 15 percent of 2015 grads “prefer” to work for a large corporation. Houlihan and Harvey confirm that today’s employees want to be known and treated as individuals, not merely as “human capital” or cogs in the proverbial machine. They value kinship, shared values, and being part of a supportive group that has one another’s best interests at heart. They want to feel proud of their “tribe” and look forward to the company of the group with whom they spend the majority of their waking hours.