How to Build a Happier Workplace Culture in 2016

Build a happier workplace culture with these tips!

Redefine and re-energize your employee engagement goals in 2016 for a happier workplace culture. (Photo via Anthony Quintano, Flickr)

This year, make goals that naturally build and sustain a happier workplace culture!

Define, refine and re-energize engagement goals to be clear, simple and fast-working — employees aren’t waiting around to get happy.

More than two-thirds of U.S. workers still aren’t fully engaged. A Gallup statistic that remained stagnant in 2015 hasn’t budged much in more than a decade.

“Speed and simplicity” are the top HR priorities in 2016, according to Altisource’s Bradford Wilkins, a 2015 Workforce Game Changer. Things like employee feedback and performance evaluations need to keep up with changing needs and expectations.

“Complex performance reviews that require a nuclear physicist to decipher won’t be tolerated,” Wilkins recently told Forbes.

Employees of all ages, not just Millennials, need more timely employer feedback to help them advance their “3 C’s” — career, compensation and contentment. In pursuit of better employee support and professional development, Wilkins encourages employers to set goals in five areas (CLEAR):

  1. Career Paths
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Expectations
  4. Accountabilities
  5. Rewards

If employees don’t get the feedback they need in those five areas, they’ll leave! “Or even worse, they might stay,” Wilkins says.

Don’t over complicate your goals for a happier workplace culture! Even simple changes can have a big impact, according to Wilkins.

“Shifting your mindset, discovering a new way to approach a problem, or making difficult decisions aren’t always comfortable but they are usually easy,” he says. “Avoid the status-quo and phrases like ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘We’ve always done it that way.'”

Read on for ideas to help you define your unique 2016 goals, boost employee engagement and guide everyone to a happier workplace culture!

How to Build a Happier Workplace Culture

1. Conduct “Stay Interviews”

As HR Bartender’s Sharlyn Lauby points out, preventing exit interviews with “stay interviews” is not a new strategy, but it is a smart one!

“Stay interviews” help employees feel heard and acknowledged, plus they’re a useful tool for companies to improve workflow, engagement and culture. Lauby offers suggestions for how to make the most of stay interviews, including how to gracefully handle employee responses that aren’t easily accommodated.

On average, two in five employees leave their job within six months of being hired. According to Lauby, stay interviews are a great way to decrease high turnover and hear employee feedback before it’s too late.

2. Develop, Not Manage

Sometimes the most powerful changes begin with a simple language shift. Make it a goal in 2016 to replace a key word in your vocabulary — management — with development.

In an HR.BLR.com blog post, Ceridian’s Market Strategy VP Jayson Saba calls for a shift from “performance management” to “performance development.”

“The word ‘management’ by definition is a top-down process. ‘Development’ on the other hand is about the employee. Companies will need to set goals that align to an employee development path,” he writes.

3. Celebrate Team Engagement

Build a happier workplace culture by celebrating your team!

A focus on team engagement is another one of Saba’s ideas to “rethink engagement” in 2016.

“As we observe in the world of sports and our respective companies, having a team of high-performers doesn’t always necessarily equate to a high-performing team,” he writes.

As you plan engagement initiatives and activities throughout the year, don’t forget teams! Regular, low-key celebrations are a great way to recognize team achievements, improve relationships within teams, build team cohesion and foster a culture of appreciation that everyone participates in.

4. Be Transparent with Millennials

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and deserve a fresh managerial approach, according to a LinkedIn post by GamEffective CEO Gal Rimon.

“Millennials are generally considered to be less comfortable with rigid corporate hierarchies. They expect information to be widely shared, and not kept in silos. They expect to rapidly go up the ranks at work, and get constant feedback,” Rimon writes. They want “the feeling that their boss sees they are doing well and commends them for it.”

That feedback and transparency goes both ways when it comes to retention and engagement. Millennials are typically more comfortable being tracked and measured at work than older workers, especially if it helps them see their own progress and receive more frequent recognition.

“For a generation that may prefer digital communication to a face-to-face conversation, getting that feedback digitally — through gamification, recognition, OKR systems — may be just what they need,” Rimon writes.

5. Talk About Culture First

Fair pay matters to employees, but a hefty compensation and benefits package can’t compensate for lousy company culture or too few development opportunities. In his SHRM post “2016 Predictions for Employee Engagement & Recognition,” HR and leadership veteran Jim Hemmer encourages companies to focus directly on development and culture to keep employees happy.

Employees “want to grow and learn in their careers and be a part of something they can be proud of,” Hemmer writes.

Make sure you’re telling your employees about the cultural and developmental benefits already available to them. Are they fully aware of training and recognition programs? Does the company make it easy to join or participate? Communication is key to building the sense of belonging that embodies a happier workplace culture.

6. Give More Meaningful Gifts

The branded pen or mug are no longer enough to communicate gratitude to employees. Employees want the gift of an experience or social recognition, according to Hemmer’s SHRM post.

This year, seek out employee gifts that can be experienced and shared (food gift certificates, movie tickets, etc.) and be sure to share them with a sincere message of gratitude. Try giving gifts in person and share recognition on social media or company message boards online.

Looking for more ideas as you set your goals for 2016? Download gThankYou’s FREE 2016 Day-to-Day Celebration Calendar for tips on how to plan daily recognition and organize regular celebrations throughout the year. This one-of-a-kind eBook will help you to build an everyday culture of appreciation with month-by-month guides, case studies, research highlights, how-to recognition advice and celebration ideas for specific holidays and anytime!

Download Free How-To Guide to Building a Culture of Appreciation


About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at [email protected] or 888-484-1658.
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