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Workplace morale should be a top priority for employees and small business owners alike. Spending time in a positive work environment is important for productivity and retention. With the increasing demands across work and home, employees need to feel valued when they clock in. Create an environment that employees want to join by encouraging communication, team relationships, and overcoming mistakes.

The approach to company culture, and the specific techniques, vary by the business environment and the people involved. Whether you are adding new people to your team and you are designing company culture, or you are repairing a company culture problem, the following considerations will help you get started. 

Clear Communication

Conduct frequent and consistent conversations. Meetings, emails, and even text messages are methods you can use to stay in touch with your team. Spending time with the group may be more efficient, yet individual conversations offer insights into front-line issues that need to be addressed. Engage in tough conversations as soon as the need arises rather than leaving issues unresolved.

Expectations vary widely. Clearly identify the expectations that you have for the role or the shift, and when those expectations are not met, ask how you can help these areas improve.

In Action: A small business manages a small team with very little overlap between staff. Team meetings are nearly impossible. The owner creates a weekly 5-minute video of herself on her cell phone explaining the current news updates for the team. She shares the video through a group message. Staff then reply with questions and comments.

Learning is Individual

Facilitate an environment that welcomes learning. Create space and time for questions. Front-load difficult and cumbersome tasks and provide support through training and shadowing.

In Action: A clothing boutique has a team of three staff, including the owner. The owner rotates her own shifts in the store to overlap with each staff member to provide individual support. At the end of their overlap, she requests a short recap to highlight the highs and lows of the shift. “What is one thing that went very well today, and one thing you feel needs improvement?” She follows up with, “What can I do to help?”

There is no ‘I’’ in Team

Your team is working together to provide your product or service. It likely cannot be done easily without the effort of the entire team. Practice stating the ways everyone contributes to the process. This practice builds trust and accountability.

In Action: One small business installed a large whiteboard in the hallway to the restroom. The board displays friendly notes written by anyone to another person on the team. “Gloria, thank you for always smiling.” “Pete, thank you for unpacking the pallet!”

Build, Don’t Blame

Avoid the blame game when things go wrong. Create a culture that accepts failure as a learning opportunity. Build employee knowledge by breaking down the error and finding where the gap in understanding exists. Rebuild together.

In Action: “I need to review the closing routine with you. Here are the tasks that need to take place after every shift. What is your process? How can I help you remember to do ___ and ____?”

Empower Everyone

Each member of the team brings skills and assets to the business. Identify these passions and skills early on and apply them as soon as possible. Assign projects and duties that give autonomy and encourage initiative. Create opportunities for staff to pair up and build relationships while tackling less-than-favorite tasks.

In Action: A small business must inventory several small products on a regular basis, a laborious task. They ask for two volunteers to tackle this task as a team. With parameters and metrics, the duo works together to make the task more manageable.

Employees spend a lot of time at work. Morale is a major factor in employee retention and productivity. For more help on building a company culture that invites employees to stay longer and work more productively, contact the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network.

About the Author: Devan is an entrepreneur and teacher. Devan launched her consulting career in the public school system, specifically in Special Education. For the past 10 years, she operated her own small business, providing consultation and enrichment to families and early educators. Her work with the SBDC began in April 2021, advising small business startups through the first important steps of their journey. Outside of work, Devan loves camping and attending her children’s many sporting events. She enjoys a strong cup of coffee to start the day and a thick steak to celebrate a successful week.

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