Aug 01, 2018 | 5
Minute Read

5 Keys to Creating the Ideal Work Environment


One of my favorite interview questions to ask candidates is “what’s your ideal environment?” If the environment is not right, skills, values and other intangibles may not matter.  Different individuals thrive in different environments. The key to craft an ideal environment is to understand a person’s drivers and primary behavioral style.

In "What's the Color of your Parachute," author Richard Nelson Bolles explains there are several variables leading whether a person will be happy with his or her job.

To name just a few, one has to have strong interest in the field or job function. They need to be able to use skills they possess and enjoy using those skills when doing the job. Finally, they need to be happy with the people around them.

Most of us have common core values and we seek these values in any environment. Here are some ideas leaders can take to foster a nurturing approach and create an ideal environment for employees.

  1. Stimulate wisdom by developing a mentorship culture

    It’s not uncommon that we hear stories like this. Someone gets a job and they like what they do, but what truly makes them stay is the people around them. Happy employees are often surrounded by peers or a boss with whom they enjoy working.

    Besides the fact that working with people we like makes our job easier, it also fulfills one of our fundamental needs when it comes to relationships: seeking wisdom. When you look at who we choose to be our friends, partners and teammates, you may find a common theme. We often choose the ones who are smarter than us.

    For employees who seek wisdom, creating a mentorship culture is important. Mentorship can happen between a leader and his or her direct reports, among peers and even outside the company. Mentorship can be either formal or informal.

  2. Advocate collaboration through building a sense of community

    This situation probably sounds familiar. After getting to know someone at work on a personal level, we become aware they have many of the same pains and joys in life as we do. Once we start to appreciate people more as individuals, collaboration becomes much easier. According to a recent study conducted by entitled “The State of Employee Teams in 2018," high performing teams tend to be more collaborative.

    Creating a sense of community is a good start to nurture a collaborative culture because it helps people to connect with one another. It also helps reinforce the shared organizational core values. Like a lot of other corporations, the company I work for hosts holiday parties and employee appreciation events to foster a sense of community.

    Once the sense of community becomes so strong that is rooted in a corporate culture, self-initiated employee outings will emerge in addition to official corporate-sponsored events. A few weeks ago, a group of us went together to support a co-worker who was performing as a musician at a local establishment.

  3. Offer people freedom to manage their own schedule 

    It’s unfair to separate work and life into two segments and ask people to choose one over another. The real challenge for an employer or leader is to enable your people to keep a balance between their work and personal lives.

    In the past decade, having a flexible work schedule and opportunities to work from home have become very attractive options, especially to Millennials and members of Generation Z. Besides who we are at work and the function we serve for the business, we all have a lot going on in our lives. Since we are all fighting different battles in life in our fast-paced society, it takes a lot of energy just to maintain a regular life.

    Therefore, having the capacity to replenish our energy and use it efficiently is critical. People replenish energy in different ways. Regardless if it's getting a proper night's sleep, exercising regularly or relaxing with a good book, all things that help us regain our energy take time.

    The company I work for allows us to have monthly half days and quarterly full days off in order to take care of personal issues. We also have some employees that work remotely. The philosophy behind this approach is that family comes first and if we don’t take care of other things in life, it will hurt productivity at work. I have personally taken advantage of this people-centric mentality and worked remotely in China in each of the last few summers.

  4. Help people develop their skill sets

    The talent management space has begun shifting rapidly in the last few years. Knowing the median tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 (10.1 years) was more than three times that of workers aged 25 to 34 years (2.8 years), we can conclude that younger workers tend to job hop a lot often than those more established in the workforce. Therefore, the concept of employee retention starts to become outdated. Successful businesses must find new ways to keep workers engaged and productive.  

    Similar to the relationship between a parent and a child, paving a way that is pre-determined for an employee is not necessary the best approach. A successful leader empowers people to grow, rather than keeping them stagnant over a long period of time.

    Planning a customized career path, having professional development programs and creating a personal training budget are all great practices to develop people. In doing so, an organization is likely to help people grow above and beyond their current skill sets.

    While you certainly run the risk that your rock star employee might want to transfer to a different role or even different team, what happens if the person stays? You want to give them every opportunity and every possible resource to help them grow and excel.

  5. Create space for employees to achieve personal goals

    According to a recent study, having a sense of purpose is rated as the number one trait that differentiates high performing teams and low performing teams. Although, it’s not always easy to have one’s personal calling perfectly align with our daily work expectations, a worker needs to remain engaged in what they are doing if they expect to have long-term success. Today we see a rising trend of side hustling among the new workforce. In fact, 1 in 3 US office workers are moonlighting. They do this not only for additional income, but in many cases, it’s done to satisfy their life’s true calling.

    Our day-to-day job and side jobs can be like a main course and side dishes. Sometimes we simply enjoy the cheese curds more than the pulled pork. For those whose day jobs are not satisfying the soul, taking on a part-time job in their field of interest helps them satisfy their passions. Whether employers like it or not, sometimes those side jobs are more related to one's personal goals, interests or values. To help employees identify their purpose, a great leader often creates space for people to achieve personal goals.

    There are many creative ways to do so without interfering with the current employment relationship. Take myself as an example. One of my life purposes I identified is to empower people and influence others to live their lives to the fullest. To help me achieve this goal, my boss lets me lead the group with thought provoking questions in the beginning of our meetings. I even have opportunities to facilitate workshops outside the business. Another coworker who works in the creative department has a side business in videography helping him achieve what means most to him.


According to the CEO of Link Humans, the cost of a bad hire can sometimes cost a company as much as five times a person’s annual salary. Making the right hiring decision requires ensuring a candidate not only has compatible job skills, but also behaviors and motivators that fit with the job. The other half of the equation is whether or not the individual can blend in with the company culture and what employers can do to ensure that happens.

Having an ideal environment does not mean letting people relax and slack off. It’s nurturing one to go above and beyond as an individual. At the end of the day, it comes down to these two questions: where is this candidate going, and what opportunity can we create in this business to help him or her achieve that goal? Without answering these important questions, it may be difficult to keep happy employees that stay around long-term.


Picture credit: unsplash via @ronaldcuyan

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Kefei Wang

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