How to keep your workforce productive and happy

What’s needed to create and sustain a positive workplace?

When assessing the state of our careers we quickly turn to determining how satisfying our workplaces are. After all, it’s hard to feel our careers are on track if the place where we work is lacking in some fundamental ways. Since each of us is ultimately responsible for growing our individual careers as optimally as possible, we rightly feel justified in influencing our workplace environment to be the best it can be.

Also, business owners and organizational executive directors naturally care a lot about the productivity of their respective workforces. It’s certainly no secret that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. Therefore, it is in the direct interests of bosses to facilitate their workplaces to be environments that increase satisfaction, and by extension production.

The question then naturally arises as to what steps are needed to be taken to create and sustain a positive workplace. Ideas can be derived from a variety of spots, including in-depth research done by organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management, but other sources of opinions and suggestions can come from surveys, blogs and LinkedIn threaded discussions that give a more candid and authentic perspective into the issue.

My eavesdropping of the chatter reveals several consistent themes centered on values such as respect, flexibility, equity, stability, fairness and jocularity. When we listen to the concerns about women in the workplace, for example, we find that work-life balance competes strongly with income.

Accenture, the management consulting firm, concludes that women prefer work-life balance first, money second and recognition third. Given that women make up 47 percent of the workforce, their opinion matters a lot.

Google still holds a reputation as one of the best places in the world to work. It topped a recent survey of 6,200 companies conducted by Great Place to Work, a global consulting firm. So what is it about this place? Yes, we know about the perks such as massages, horseshoe pit, and slides that take you from one floor down to another, but is that all there is?

It certainly helps that every employee is a stockholder, and a share is worth north of $500, but there is also a community culture that encourages giving, growing and being bold along with supports for creativity and risk-taking not apparent in many other places. At Google, management has made a science of calibrating the right mix of benefits and cultural values resulting in high retention rates and maximum productivity.

Culture changes

But it’s expensive to offer Google-esque perks to employees. For most companies and organizations it may be worth noting coming changes to the workforce, so benefit and culture changes can be considered and possibly implemented without breaking the bank.

For example, the definition of workplace stability may be undergoing a change whereby more workers may be thinking of freelancing, temp working and short-term contracting as the new stability. Flexibility becomes key.

Another workplace condition to prepare for will be the increasing number of older workers who can’t or don’t want to stop working. What might this cohort want? We can start with respect for their historic knowledge and proven dedication to employers along with wellness programs, good lighting and diminished information overload.

Another key morale enhancer may involve candid discussions of how technology is used. It’s great when tech actually increases productivity instead of being a distraction or job killer. However, many employees will become increasing distrustful of how management leverages technology, given its workplace disruption potential, so bringing employees into conversations about the role of technology could show worker respect.

Yet the most apparent ideas to foster great workplaces are actually quite old-school, but effective. Most of us simply want to trust the people we work for, have pride in and recognition for our accomplishments and enjoy the people we work with. Is that too much to ask?

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, can be reached at 603-724-2289 or

Categories: Workplace Advice