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10 Ways to Make Your Small Business the Best Place to Work

In partnership with Women in Steel Toes.

Think about a time when you left a job. You quit. Washed your hands of that place, and walked away.

I’ll be totally honest with you, we’re probably thinking similar things.

In my career, I have had 2 jobs where I quit. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the work. It wasn’t even because I was in the wrong industry.

In both instances, I walked away because I struggled with management and/or the work environment management had created.

You too?

But now, the wheels have turned. You have an opportunity to create a place where people want to come to work.

No pressure, right?!


When it comes to hiring and retaining staff, there are 10 things you don’t want to overlook when creating the best place to work.

1. Share the vision for the business and path to growth

Where is the business headed and how can your employees help you get there?

There’s an excellent chance your employees will want to know how they can help achieve the business goals and understand how their contributions are helping propel the company forward.

The old adage "together everyone achieves more" still holds value in 2020.

The more your employees consider themselves "teammates" the more likely they are to take on ownership of their role within the business.

2. Celebrate the tiny wins

If you’re waiting for a major milestone to start celebrating, you may be waiting … … … … … …  a while. (Just helping you get used to it!)

And besides, even small victories are victories and you can celebrate accordingly.

Celebrating small wins will help your employees feel appreciated, stay focused on the major goals and organically keep morale high.

At NiceJob for instance, every time we receive a review that gives one of our team members a shout out, we post it to our workplace chat.
The whole office can see it and be reminded that our hard work is paying off.

Here's an example:

Customer review hared to NiceJob workplace chat

3. Seek diversity in your workforce

When you’re hiring new employees be aware of your natural, internal biases to hire people exactly like you.

Instead, seek a diverse workforce. With diversification comes strength.

Open your business up to new ideas, new skill sets and perspectives and watch the growth unfold.

“When you look at people you’re hiring you tend to hire based on qualities you like about yourself.
But, if you see a personal insecurity reflected in the candidate, you may turn that down based on your own internal narrative. It’s interesting how adding diverse strengths and backgrounds can influence your workplace.”
~Laura Hutt, Women in Steel Toes

4. Being vulnerable will transform the way you lead

You may be absolutely put off by this idea - and that’s likely because in North America we’re taught to associate vulnerability with weakness.

Believe it or not, it’s the opposite. You must have courage to be vulnerable.

It takes guts to open up. And if it didn’t, everyone would be open and honest all the time, which they’re not.

Being vulnerable, you will create a shared culture of risk taking and open communication among your employees. People won’t be afraid to try new things, share ideas or give feedback.

To dive into this topic, I suggest you pick up this read: Dare to Lead. In addition, The Culture Code is also a an excellent look into this topic.

5. To create the best place to work you need to communicate openly.

Fostering open communication takes action and conscious effort on your part.

Don’t bother saying “I have an open door policy” or “we value open communication”, if there's no follow through.  

You need to approach staff and talk with them, don’t wait for your employees to come to you.

6. Cue into the language you use to create an inclusive work space

Evaluate the language you use to see if there’s an opportunity to create a more inclusive place to work.

For example, everyday words and common phrases like “hey guys” or “manpower” lend themselves to one gender and exclude other people.

Unless you’ve created an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up, it may or may not be mentioned by those feeling excluded or marginalized.

Being aware and mindful of the language you use can create an inclusive workplace, and also ensure no one is walking on eggshells.

“It must be hard for someone who is used to talking a certain way on a job site to have to change.
But, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be vocal about where to draw the line.
If you don’t want to hear something you have to let that person know. Or, say you’re totally ok with swearing on the job, then crack a joke and make it known.
Just know when to tell people to draw the line.” ~Laura Hutt, Women in Steel Toes

7. Offer team building activities that are fun and include everyone

This is an easy but often overlooked strategy -  have some fun!

Offering team building activities doesn't have to impact workflow or feel like “forced family fun”. In fact, incorporating fun into your business plan will help your ROI without sacrificing efficiency.

Morning icebreakers, trivia contests, made up holidays, creating dream boards, organizing a ping pong tournament -- all of these activities can be fun and inclusive for every one of your employees.

Keep in mind, these team building activities should never be mandatory and where possible, give your team the opportunity to pick the activity.

Short, brief, inclusive fun breaks make the workday much more enjoyable and will energize your team.

8. Give positive feedback eagerly and immediately

It’s too easy to get into the habit of providing feedback of a critical or negative nature, which can really wear people down. This is especially true if positive feedback almost never happens.

Everyone enjoys a little recognition, and it can go a really long way.

Start by recognizing people privately (not everyone enjoys being the center of attention). A note or verbal appreciation may be just the motivation needed.

Public shoutouts are also great! Mention it in your group chat, on social media or maybe start an employee recognition program.

9. Nurture and educate your employees

The best companies nurture and educate their employees to become their best selves.

Most people want to be able to build on their skill set and knowledge base, especially if this presents an opportunity for career growth.

As a small business owner, it’s important to provide these opportunities even if it means risking an employee leaving once they’ve outgrown your business.

Ultimately, building a work environment that nurtures and educates employees will help retain staff, as well as attract a caliber of employee that wants to succeed.

10. Find time to become a student yourself

When was the last time you took a course or attended a workshop? Or, when was the last time an employee taught you something?

Part of fostering an environment of learning and growth is leading by example and putting yourself in the student mindset.

This will not only inspire your team to do the same, but also personally benefit your growth as a leader and small business owner.

Schedule some time for your own learning.


We hope you take on the challenge of creating a business where people want to come to work.
Add any 1 of these 10 strategies into the recipe and you will be well on your way to creating the  best place to work.

*Full transparency: this blog was written with input from Laura Hutt, Creator of Women in Steel Toes and Shawn Hill, Community Marketing Manager at NiceJob.

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