Whether you are heading a large or small organization, culture is an important key to your success. When a good culture drives your employee, you see more productivity, better customer service and less turnover.

But how do you build that? Do you need a big budget, fancy perks or a lot of creativity?

It turns out, a bit of everything. But you can make it work for you.

I recently participated in a discussion on the American Express Open Forum where this exact topic was debated. And I wanted to share with you some of the successful initiatives that companies have implemented. And as a result, they created a work environment where employees feel unique and productive.

Idea #1: Coach

A principal from the Toronto, Canada area suggested investing in professional development coaching. Her experience taught her that GenYs often look somewhere else if they do not feel they are growing in their skills holistically, not just technically. A great idea to keep in mind as the workforce environment is changing, and we are seeing lots more determined Millennials entering the job market.

Idea #2: Celebrate

A Louisiana based, web design consultant, said she enjoyed the company mandated casual and lunch times. She said that her small company makes it a point to make the workplace a very fun, comfortable and rewarding place. Her company also makes sure they celebrate holidays, birthdays and accomplishments. It’s what gives her small company keep a competitive edge to attract and keep great talent.

Idea #3: Be flexible

The founder and CEO of a visual effects company in Los Angeles, USA made it a point to understand his employees’ biggest need: flexibility. After understanding that his employees wanted to be able to work from home, he tested out a Tuesday and Thursday schedule and he says that after a month, the results were amazing. Productivity had increased vastly. Therefore they kept the system, and his development team works from home every Tuesdays and Thursdays now. And for the rest of the days? He keeps the company kitchen full of snacks (both healthy and unhealthy) and makes sure the high-end coffee machine is always working.


Idea #4: Move out

A bit bolder idea would be to completely redesign your company’s workspace. An employee based out of Michigan, USA talked about how his company completely annihilated the cubical.  His company empowered employees to work from wherever they needed to, in order to get the job done. Although he admits to being resistant at first, he says he would never go back to the “cube” again.  Can you imagine the impact this has on turnover?

He also admitted that the modern design of the office building and the new “Work Café” that the company built was another great perk. The café, in particular, has allowed employees to have a great place to eat, meet, socialize, read, work or just have a great change of scenery.

Idea #5: Add a little Zen

A smaller team allows for a personal touch. The founder and CEO based out of Chicago, Illinois takes his company mission to a whole new level. Before each meeting, he guides employees through a brief meditation, to remind his staff of the company’s mission to improve the living conditions of humanity. He also personally congratulates everyone on their birthdays and thanks them for their work personally, not just during review times.

Idea #6: Invest in health

A small investment goes a long way. Even if you have a small budget, you can still drive a healthy challenge. For instance, an Ohio employer paid $10 for every pound lost between July and December (just in time for the holiday foodfest). According to the Open Forum participant, this campaign has been the best motivator to date. He even noted that for some employees, the challenge was truly life-changing. As for the employer, the challenge cost less than $500/per month.

Idea #7: Make it easy

The most helpful idea (based on participants’ votes) came from the owner of a company from Houston, Texas. She keeps her employees happy by making lunch easy: she provides it to them. She also keeps the work environment less hierarchical and helps out with “smaller” tasks whenever she is needed. This helps her staff understand that their company culture fosters team work. And, she occasionally sits down with her employees to find out how do they feel about their jobs and what projects would they like to be part of.


Whether you have a big or small budget makes less of a difference. What makes a big difference is making an impact and keeping things personal.

By reading through all these fantastic success stories, the underlying factor that stands out, is understanding the need of your employees. Once you understand what is relevant to your staff then you can truly build a program that is efficient and sustainable.

The second takeaway is to have a flexible approach and test out theories. Don’t just blindly follow industry best practices. Understand what is the optimum balance (the way the Los Angeles CEO discovered that Tuesday and Thursday work-from-home was a winning strategy).

What are your success stories? I’d love to read what actions have lead to a more productive and healthier workplace in your company.