Toxic Workplaces Part 3 – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Crafting Excellence

As a business founder and CEO, I’ve learned that the true hallmark of success lies not only in financial gains but, more importantly, in cultivating a positive workplace culture. We’ve finally reached part three of this odyssey to come to brighter days. In the previous two parts, we discussed what happens when a company leader faces a toxic workplace and the proactive steps that any CEO, HR professional, or business owner can take to correct those concerns. In the ever-changing business world, fostering a positive workplace environment is essential. It’s not just a nice-to-have but rather a must-have strategic move. A positive workplace attracts top talent, sparks creativity, and helps navigate challenging times. So, let’s celebrate the story of ReEmployAbility’s three-year journey toward building a fantastic organizational culture. I’ve never felt more assured of where we are and so grateful.

Some key factors in fixing poor company culture that I discussed in the early parts of the article were:

  • Open Communication within the corporate structure, with one-on-one meetings with employees, a monthly pulse survey, annual company-wide initiative surveys, monthly company meetings, and more.
  • Maintaining a high standard of respect and accountability across departments and roles.
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles is crucial, but a company’s culture is only as good as the people in leadership. Surrounding yourself with professionals who are aligned with the company’s mission and vision makes it much easier to steer the ship in the same direction.
  • As the company leader, you must take accountability and do all that is within your power to own the problem and diligently work to correct it.
  • Creating a clear company vision through company values, missions, and behavioral expectations is paramount for a cohesive workforce.

Taking all these factors together, as well as many others we’ve learned along the way, ReEmployAbility has now peaked in our company culture. We will explore what a positive workplace is like and how maintaining a healthy, supportive culture is an aspiration and a continuous commitment for leaders at every organizational level.

After the monthly quotas are met and goals are made and reached, what drives me in my business is knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of my employees, giving them a positive and safe place where they can flourish.

The Anatomy of a Positive Workplace

A positive company culture may be hard to pin down, but it shows up repeatedly in the same way across organizations in every sector. Employees feel respected and cared for, knowing their work makes a difference and their voice is heard. The organization is set up to be open to the differences and needs of everyone, giving them what they need to succeed. Employees know that they are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously without the psychological safety of knowing that their managers or team leaders listen to them and understand them. Building a positive workplace is hard when people feel devalued and taken advantage of. Taking care of people is the first and most crucial step.

Employees who are happy, engaged, and connected to the organization’s values are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. They become brand ambassadors who genuinely care about representing the organization positively. This positive interaction between employees and customers improves the customer experience. It builds customer loyalty, leading to increased sales and a stronger brand reputation.

Beyond the standard business furniture and layout (including stand-up desks), our headquarters include both a “Recharge Room” and a “Zen Room.” We encourage all employees to take breaks throughout the day and allow themselves to step away from their work when they need it. Both the “Zen Room” and “Recharge are always available for employees to give themselves the space to reconnect. We also happily encourage employees to take a walk outside when they feel stuck or to schedule “walking meetings” within their departments. We prioritize work-life balance within people’s jobs and in their private lives.  When employees feel that they can take meaningful breaks and vacations, they come back recharged and ready to give their best.

Additionally, a positive company culture promotes innovation and creativity. Organizations that encourage employees to share ideas, experiment, and take calculated risks are more likely to stay ahead in today’s dynamic business environment. An inclusive and collaborative culture unites diverse perspectives, sparking creativity and innovation. When employees feel supported and encouraged to think outside the box, they are more likely to generate fresh ideas, improve processes, and drive meaningful change. A strong, positive culture signals to job seekers that the organization values its employees, promotes a healthy work-life balance, and provides opportunities for growth and development.

Although the specifics of a positive company culture may change between organizations, how it feels doesn’t. I’ve heard from employees, interviewees, and people visiting our offices that it feels good to be in the building. I often hear how peaceful and joyful it feels to enter the building. We’ve even had a current employee choose to work with us instead of going with another offer due to the support they felt during their interview. An atmosphere of trust and encouragement is not one that can be falsely replicated; it comes from doing the initial work that instills a sense of hope in your employees. Ultimately, humans are community creatures, we can always feel when we are appreciated and included.

Employee Fun

As great as it is to buckle down and get to work, we have just as much fun. We plan quarterly happy hours where employees can stay and spend some much-needed socialization time with their co-workers. We celebrate and decorate for major seasons like a Winter Party and Halloween. There’s always something fun and social in the office that provides cohesion and a company bond. Company culture is a critical element in the success and growth of any organization. It refers to the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that characterize how employees work and interact within a company. Company culture shapes how employees think, act, and make decisions, ultimately influencing the overall performance and reputation of the organization.

For Employee Appreciation Day, we spread out the celebration throughout the entire month.  We kicked things off with an employee breakfast, even providing a care package to our remote employees.  We are having an employee appreciation luncheon, bringing in puppies for national puppy day, got everyone outside with a cornhole tournament, and are dressing up for spirit week. We truly appreciate all the hard work that our employees have done and are happy to reward that hard work.

More importantly, our employees know what we stand for and the vision that we have at ReEmployAbility. As fun as all these events are, they only enhance the real hard work of building a positive work culture. Fun activities only serve to support company culture when the work has already been done to create a place of safety, support, and encouragement.

The Right Structure

We can do all the fun things because we focus on what works and how to improve it for our employees. All job positions are evaluated based on market compensation and work. We regularly review this to ensure that we stay competitive and aligned with the trends in the market. We also have numerous opportunities throughout the year for employees to participate in personal and professional development at lunch & learn meetings, conferences, or training. For example, one of the initiatives we started this year was making the Stephen Covey online platform available for employees across the company.

We want to prioritize our people and their needs. Our HR director is aligned with me to do our best for each individual and what they are going through. We have the possibility for flexibility with schedules or a hybrid option for those who need it due to personal circumstances. We also offer 3 free therapy sessions for all employees through our health benefits. Between that, we bring in a chiropractor and massage therapists, have fresh fruit available in the café, and do much more. We listen to our employees and do what we can to implement what they want to get out of their workplace.

By allowing employees to take ownership of their workplace through the Ambassador program and our monthly surveys, we give them the voice they need to make it the best it can be. It’s not just a checkbox on the list of organizational goals; it’s the heartbeat that propels a company forward.

When employees feel a sense of belonging and purpose, they are more motivated to go the extra mile, contribute their best work, and achieve organizational goals. This is because they feel valued and appreciated, leading to improved job satisfaction and higher morale. In contrast, a toxic or damaging company culture can lead to disengagement, decreased productivity, and even burnout among employees.

Companies with a shared purpose and strong values are more likely to weather storms and adapt to new challenges effectively. A resilient culture allows employees to embrace change, learn from failures, and bounce back stronger.

As they say, it works best when we all work together.

Balancing Act

Maintaining a positive workplace is a balancing act of doing all you can and mitigating any concerns along the way. Company leaders must always be on the lookout for negativity that can topple an organization. Being aware of any problems or concerns within the organization and taking action to correct them is incredibly important. A company leader who does not know what is going on at all levels of his or her organization is leading blind. To maintain your organization’s health, leaders must support their employees. There is a constant need to reevaluate and stay on top of any issues and deal with them quickly and decisively.

If you take care of your people, they will do their best for their company. This takes an extraordinary amount of humility, knowing that you will need to pivot at any moment to assess the latest trends, new company dynamics, or social pressures. Even in the years since COVID, we have seen how quickly ideas come and go, from fully remote companies to Return-to-Office, “Quiet Quitting,” and more. There is always something new to contend with and these fads need to be reviewed and appropriately responded to as needed to safeguard the health of your organization.

Without prioritizing a vital company workplace built on trust and communication, it is easy to veer off course when the newest trend rears its head.

A strong culture provides a framework for employees to make decisions that align with the organization’s mission and values. This helps create a cohesive workforce where employees are likelier to collaborate, share ideas, and seek solutions that benefit the entire organization. A positive culture fosters an environment of trust, psychological safety, and open communication, enabling employees to feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and challenging the status quo when necessary, which only makes us stronger.

Celebrating a Year of Wins

As proof of our continued improvement, ReEmployAbility has been named one of the Top Workplaces by The Tampa Bay Times two years in a row. Additionally, in 2023 we were recognized as one of the Healthiest Workplaces in Central Florida by Healthiest Employer and A Top Places to Work in Insurance by Business Insurance. Furthermore, ReEmployAbility has been recognized as a top Women-Led business in the Tampa Bay Area by The Tampa Business Journal. All these accolades are nice but only demonstrate that when you take the time to care for your people, everyone reaps the benefits.

We have done difficult, tireless, and introspective work, and it shows.

I am proud to say that we have gotten to where we are today with the dedicated support of ReEmployAbility’s leadership team and every employee who stuck by us even through the most troubling years. Thanks to the collective effort of each employee, ReEmployAbility is a great place to work.

A Call for People-First Leadership

The importance of company culture cannot be overstated. It influences employee engagement, productivity, decision-making, customer satisfaction, innovation, resilience, and branding. A positive and inclusive culture fosters a sense of belonging, encourages collaboration and innovation, and attracts and retains top talent. Building and nurturing a strong company culture should be a priority for all organizations, as it is a key driver of success in today’s competitive business landscape.

It’s so simple: Treat others well.

What practices have you found effective in creating a positive workplace? Share your insights and success in the comments below! What do you do to make sure that your company is a great place to work?