Awareness and Action: Promoting a Positive Work Environment

11/29/2021 | Matt Oswald

Happiness makes people about 12% more productive at work, according to the latest research from the University of Warwick. No surprise, right? Promoting a positive culture is crucial in retaining employees.

But, did you know that businesses with highly engaged employees enjoy 100% more job applications, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review? So, word gets around about a company’s solid culture and attracts great employees.

What is surprising is how some organizations fail at establishing, maintaining, and promoting a positive work environment. I’m happy to share what we’ve discovered at Stecker Machine, a high-end CNC machine shop that excels in teamwork, clear communication, and quality workmanship.

Proof of a Positive Work Environment

Before diving into the two keys to creating a positive work environment, let’s recognize what that environment looks like. These are actual quotes from employees of Stecker Machine, and they serve as proof that something impressive is happening here:

  • “Top-notch work environment, staff, and teamwork.”
  • “Great supervision and easy-to-use machines.”
  • “Everyone is friendly; production and office employees have a lot of interaction.”
  • “Stecker is an outstanding place for someone that interacts well with others and wants to learn.”
  • “Coworkers are very welcoming and willing to help.”

Notice how these don’t mention the company’s mission statement, industry leadership, technical innovation, or even positive company culture. It’s mostly about people treating people well. There are two keys to making this regularly happen.

Key #1 to a Positive Work Environment: Awareness

Every business wants the kind of employee engagement and empowerment that builds a great work environment. However, the challenge is often understanding exactly how to spark that inspiration in employees. What do they want? What do they not want?

A company must be aware that the things employees want are constantly changing. Yes, some basics always remain: feeling a sense of purpose, having engaging work, being part of a team, and knowing they’re contributing to the company’s overall success.

Yet, especially during recent pandemic times, priorities do change. For instance, more and more of today’s employees demand safety in the workplace; want not just a job but a fulfilling career path, and appreciate participating in some form of community involvement through their employers.

Determining a workforce’s level of engagement is important. Conduct regular company engagement surveys, self-appraisals, and one-on-one conversations with employees. It’s amazing what you can learn when you ask, “What can we do to help you become more satisfied with your current position?”

The effort it takes to keep aware of employee needs pays off with really knowing what’s on employees’ minds. Employee feedback should help define goals and inspire action.

Key #2 to a Positive Work Environment: Action

The Harvard Business Review report mentioned earlier found that disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. Disengagement often results from inaction. When leadership knows an issue exists yet refuses to act, it can turn off motivation and hurt the bottom line.

Truly positive work environments develop when leadership isn’t afraid to put new ideas into action or address issues that are grinding down productivity. This can come down to balancing change with tradition.

Long-time employees enjoy the security of knowing and living a company’s values, so change can be seen as threatening if not presented properly. Newer employees, or even top-talent candidates (see the next section), need to know that positive change is a regular occurrence. Excitement rarely results when someone hears, “Things have always been done this way, so we don’t need to change.”

Constant improvements should include updating policies, developing more team-building events, and implementing training that pays for itself with more connected, understanding, and effective relationships across the board. It all comes down to leadership nurturing a positive work environment by taking action.

Hiring People That Fit

One important action step is hiring the best people. What is seen as “top talent” has changed during the past decade. CNC machine shop experience or the right skills may have been the biggest determining factors in hiring a new employee, but now it goes deeper.

Today, management needs to consider how a person fits with the company’s unique culture, which forms the work environment.

Personality traits of team members that fit the job may include:

  1. Loyalty — A commitment to daily success; not just a tally of years of service
  2. Initiative — Voluntarily going beyond a job description is a positive sign
  3. Thirst for Knowledge — A dedication to personal and professional development
  4. Courage — Employees need to feel empowered to speak up and suggest how tasks can be done better or more efficiently

That final trait is worth a deeper look. Empowerment needs to be a point of emphasis, both with current employees and potential hires. Being able to propose new processes or ideas is an important way to build a trusting, energetic work environment.

More than ever, candidates research a company before applying to get a feel for the work environment. Any chance to explain that on a website or through social media helps potential employees know if this is a good fit for both parties.

How do Benefits Support a Positive Work Environment?

A great work environment has never been more important to employees than it is today. People feel (and perform) best when their employer’s workspace empowers and inspires them. The physical space — a comfortable, clean, and safe workplace with important amenities — goes far in determining how people feel about their jobs and employer.

Hand-in-hand with where they work is what they get from work: the benefits. Typical benefits include a competitive wage, health/dental/vision insurance, vacation time, and a 401K plan (a company match is important).

Here are 9 work environment benefits to consider:

  1. Sick Time
  2. Profit Sharing
  3. Holiday Pay
  4. Short-Term Disability
  5. Life Insurance
  6. Safety Reimbursements
  7. Continuing Educational assistance
  8. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  9. Sign-On Bonus

The overall impression a company makes cannot be improved without creating awareness backed by action. If what you’ve read sounds interesting, check out the career opportunities available at Stecker Machine.

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Matt Oswald

About the Author

Matt leads Stecker Machine's marketing efforts and manages improvement projects. Matt's skills stem from engineering and and adapt well to robotics, website, marketing, and leadership. Currently, he is focusing on a couple key recruiting and retention improvement projects. Matt has 14 years of electrical engineering R&D experience and continues to transition into CNC machining, inbound marketing, and everything else. Matt and his wife, Karen, are part owners of SMC.

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