How to create a positive workplace culture

Written by: Gabrielle Smith
Originally published on February 18, 2022. Last updated March 30, 2022.

If you’re starting a new business, chances are you’ve got a small number of employees doing the work of many. If you’re not careful, this can be a slippery slope toward a burnt out workforce, or worse, the foundation for a toxic work environment.

Even if you have a larger team, factors like remote work, constant contact, and the pressure to scale quickly can blur the line between home and work, creating a growing amount of employee exhaustion across the United States. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey reports that 48% of employed Americans feel mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the workday.

So how do you improve your company’s culture when your team is likely to get overloaded?

In this blog, we’ll talk through the following six tips that will help you foster a positive workplace culture and boost the employee experience:

  1. Hire people excited for growth
  2. Set clear goals and expectations
  3. Communicate openly and often
  4. Recognize your employees’ contributions
  5. Offer a quality health benefit
  6. Implement a customized stipend

Looking for tips on employee retention and recruiting? Guide our guide!

1. Hire people excited for growth

The first step toward building a positive work culture is filling your organization with the right kind of people from the beginning.

Believe it or not, LinkedIn’s recent Workplace Learning Report found that employees at companies with that offer internal growth opportunities stay almost two times longer than those who don’t.

When hiring, you should consider whether or not job applicants are motivated by the kind of growth and opportunities you can offer (rather than big salaries and vacation time) and if they’re passionate about the same mission and goals that your organization is all about.

If you hire candidates for their attitude and willingness to learn and grow, you’ll soon find yourself with a workforce that’s grown and evolved with your organization, rather than one that’s unmotivated and unwilling to put in the hours needed to bring your organization’s vision to life.

If you can’t find the right kind of employee for your physical office, don’t forget about remote workers. According to Upwork’s 2021 Future Workforce Report, predications are that 40.7 million Americans will be fully remote in the next five years.

2. Set clear goals and expectations

Second, it’s important to make sure your employees have clear work goals in place that both align with their long-term career aspirations as well as help the organization grow as a whole.

According to a Gallup survey, only 20% of employees are “actively engaged” at their jobs. The remaining 55% describe themselves as “not engaged” and 15% are “actively disengaged.” By setting clear goals with your employees, they’ll have something to reach for, making them feel more personally invested in their work and excited to achieve a new milestone.

When an employee and an organization are working toward a similar goal, the chances of the employee feeling connected to the organization and its mission increase, leading to a happy, productive workforce.

As an employer, it’s your job to make sure to review your employees’ goals with them regularly so they don’t fall by the wayside, as well as actively support them so they can be successful.

3. Communicate openly and often

This next one might sound like a bit of a cliché, but effective communication really is key when it comes to making sure your employees feel safe and cared for at work. Your employees need to know that they can always come to you for anything they need to talk about.

According to the SHRM and Globoforce Employee Recognition Report, 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are essential for successful outcomes at work.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas of questions you can ask your employees:

  • What things are going well within the organization?
  • What are some areas we could improve on for organizational culture?
  • Is your workload too much for you to handle right now?
  • Are there any obstacles in your way that keep you from doing your best work?
  • How can I better support you in your role?

Once you initiate these clear lines of communication to your direct reports, you’ll create a pattern that your leaders can follow to improve employee morale and satisfaction.

Thinking about surveying your employees? Use our template for free sample questions!

4. Recognize your employees’ contributions

Next, if your employees are working hard and doing a great job, tell them! Frequent and genuine employee recognition goes a long way in keeping your workforce upbeat and productive.

In a recent Great Place to Work employee survey, 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. The study also showed that affirmation, feedback, and rewards are the most effective methods for motivating employees to do their best work.

Whether it’s a quick thank-you email, managers bragging about their team, or even an organization-wide employee appreciation lunch, dedicating time to showing your employees that you appreciate them is what will keep them working hard for your organization.

While it’s important to give recognition, it’s even more important to give it in a way the receiver feels recognized best. For example, some employees would prefer a private note thanking them for their hard work over a big public announcement. Managers should learn how their team prefers to be recognized and cater to those preferences.

5. Offer a quality health benefit

While you may not be able to offer your employees a salary bump or extra paid time off for all of their hard work, one of the best things you can do is offer a competitive health benefit to show your employees you care about their health and wellbeing.

A Workhuman Human Workplace Index survey found that 66% of respondents review their company’s benefits offering before making a decision about leaving their job. In fact, 63% of all respondents said they would leave their company if they were offered a job with better benefits, but less or equal pay.

Offering a health benefit that your employees love doesn’t have to be expensive. A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an excellent option for small employers on a budget.

With an HRA, you can give your employees tax-free money for them to purchase individual insurance and qualifying medical expenses on their own that meets their personal needs. You set the allowance amount, and any unused funds at the end of the year goes back to you.

Learn more about HRAs and find your perfect match with our quiz!

6. Implement a customized stipend

If you’re looking for a more flexible benefit option, a taxable stipend is just what you need. A stipend is a fixed sum of money for your employees to use as a fringe benefit.

You can create a stipend for almost anything, such as remote work expenses, education, wellness, professional development, and more.

Stipends are typically added to your employees’ wages as an additional amount of money to create an attractive benefits package. It’s important to note that most stipends do count as taxable income, so employees will need to pay federal taxes at the end of the year just like they would with the rest of their income.

These days, stipends are a thoughtful way to support your employees, and with the rise of remote teams, they're becoming a popular option for companies to offer perks from afar. Not to mention they help reinforce corporate culture and combat the Great Resignation.

If you’re interested in offering employee stipends, PeopleKeep can help! Our WorkPerks benefit administration software helps employers offer customized health, wellness, and remote work stipends to their employees. With WorkPerks, you can offer budget-friendly, compliant fringe benefits without the hassle.

Interested in more information about stipends? Read their pros and cons.


Whether you own a small startup or a large organization, continually putting in the effort to foster a healthy culture is an essential part of both retaining your best employees, attracting new talent, and proving company values. The more time and resources leadership invests in their employees’ engagement, the more energy and enthusiasm they’ll be able to invest in your organization’s mission.

This article was originally published on May 14, 2021. It was last updated February 18, 2022.

Originally published on February 18, 2022. Last updated March 30, 2022.


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