Imagine being jazzed about your career. I mean, really jazzed. Not quite jazz-hands-level jazzed, but jazzed where you’re excited to go to work every day, hang out with some of the best people you know and do a job you’re downright crazy about.

Yes, it’s possible. No, it doesn’t happen nearly enough. So what is the magical ingredient most employers are missing that cultivates an environment where their employees are excited to work and want to wake up each morning ready to start the day (coffee in hand, of course)?


If you guessed unicorns and puppies, you’re half right. Read on to find out what the missing ingredient is to your company’s culture.

Build Team Chemistry

In order to create the rootinest, tootinest workplace this side (or the other) of the Mississippi, you need to have a few key things to make it work. One of the most important is team chemistry. Haphazardly hiring for the sake of filling desks rather than taking the time to thoughtfully craft a group akin to The A-Team will only create headaches in the future. So take time to find your Mr. T, rather than forcing a Ninja Turtle to be a cultural fit in your A-Team. The results will pay dividends.

Joanne McKiernan, Stratus’ Human Resources Manager and Chief Thinker, feels that it’s more about the person as a whole.

“It’s a group feeling. We have more than one person meet the interviewee and give feedback on the overall package—both their professional experience and how their personality comes across in the interview.”

“We have a trendy, cool environment here, but that doesn’t mean we limit ourselves to people who fit that exactly. If everyone in the interview feels good about them, we go for it.”

Consulting trusted peers on a new hire not only builds a relationship founded on trust, but also gives you a broader scope of opinions regarding the interviewee. And, as always this doesn’t happen overnight.

“We are learning from experiences we had and mistakes we’ve made in the past. It’s not a perfect process,” continues Joanne. “But we’re getting better at matching the right people to our culture with every interview.”

Take your time interviewing and ask the right mix of both personal and experience-related questions. The more you build your team, the easier it will be to rely on them to help you make judgement calls and have a solid chemistry.

Show Employee Appreciation

We don’t mean a lame Christmas gift or an expensive banquet complete with trophies that will collect dust on their shelves. We mean appreciation. In fact, showing your employees you appreciate them has very little to do with spending money or showering them with lavish gifts.

Now, appreciation is a lot different than recognition. Recognition is announcing at your weekly production meeting that someone did something pretty swell. It puts a lot of focus on verbal affirmations and cheesy, tangible gifts.

Appreciation, on the other hand, focuses on the person rather than the performance. It’s expressing interest in someone as a human being. It’s the difference between treating your employees like mini factories that churn out work day in, day out and treating them as people who have actual feelings. The more your employees feel appreciated, the more they want to be a part of your awesome team.

So how do you show your employees that you know and understand what they’re going through? Hint: it doesn’t involve “Casual Fridays.”

Spend time with your employees. Get to know what kind of person they are. Have lunch together, grab a coffee and discuss projects, concerns and, most importantly, their feelings. A simple check-in to make sure they’re hanging in there or don’t need anything can work wonders.

Listen to their opinions, encourage feedback and input. Give all of your employees a chance to grow and stretch themselves, which shows that you believe in them and trust them—two very important elements to any relationship. If you’re giving praise, be specific. Instead of a, “Great job!” try, “I really like how you meet all of your deadlines—you’re a hard worker!” Providing specificities adds value and meaning to praise.

And while no employee would scoff at a few additional days off or a small gesture to show you care (lunch for the office?), monetary-related appreciation isn’t necessary to convey the feeling of appreciation.

Have a Little Fun

You know the saying, “Do what you love, love what you do”? If you spend the right amount of time on building a fantastic company culture, your team can actually have fun at work. And when you do what you love and have a great time doing it, it no longer seems like work. People become insanely passionate about your company and want to do their absolute best day in, day out. And, according to a study by economists at the University of Warwick, happy employees are 12% more productive.

Start by changing the scenery of your everyday meetings. Instead of a conference room or lounge, try a park or outdoor space (if weather permits). Take walking meetings with your team or lunch together outdoors.

Pay attention to your office environment. Are you all in cubes with little to no interaction? Try an open floor plan where collaboration is welcome. Is your office space all one shade of grey? Add pops of bright colors to inspire and elicit a smile from employees. Quirky art and decor can also bring out employees’ creative sides.

Do volunteer work together and give back to the local community. Try group dinners that focus the conversations on personal, rather than work experiences. Have a get-together each week to celebrate your accomplishments (like Beer Friday!).

Google has done an outstanding job crafting a culture that promotes both hard work and play. With slides, billiards, a pet friendly office (yay puppies!) and nap pods, Google understands that making time to have fun and play, even as adults, is helpful in stimulating creativity.

The Bottom Line?

Building a culture takes a great deal of time and effort. “We have to be careful and cautious along the way,” says Joanne McKiernan. “As we grow and take on new personalities, it becomes both easier and more difficult.”

It’s not always a perfect process. You’ll fall down and skin your knee a bit and might get your feelings hurt here and there. But crafting a culture that speaks to your brand and retains the amazing employees you’ve recruited is worth it.

Learn how to develop a strong company culture that wins new, better business