9 tips for building an exceptional workplace

2 min read ·


Ask yourself these questions to identify the gears that drive your company culture, and what you can do to make it exceptional.

All workplaces are different, but in exceptional ones, all staffers work together and leadership is in-sync with employees. The culture breeds this. To elaborate, consider two exceptional workplace scenarios:

Imagine a day with 120-degree heat. The sun is blazing, it's humid, the stench is overpowering, and you are elbow deep in assisting with an offshore oil cleanup. Surprisingly, you couldn't be happier. Your boss is right there next to you, working just as hard as you.

Or, it's a bright sunny summer day and you're at the beach with your three children. Although your vice president responsibilities are very demanding, no amount of pay could take you away from this moment. You are relaxed, feeling balanced, and enjoying your family with the support of your boss who "has you covered."

These two companies have something in common. The leaders of both figured out what works culturally for the businesses, and employees and management walk in-step to make that culture a reality. Like all exceptional workplaces, they also share three interlocking components, or what I call the "gears" that help define a company's exceptional culture: to build, retain, and develop employees.

While a company may function and can even be profitable without proper attention to how it builds, retains, and develops employees, the company cannot achieve greatness without those characteristics. These gears must work together in harmony, in a never-ending cycle to build upon what is special within your organization. The hard part is determining what is special to your organization; there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Exceptional workplaces come in all different shapes, sizes, and forms. Some people may thrive working at a "cutthroat" type of workplace. If so, knowing that and surrounding yourself with other cutthroats will make it a great place to work for everyone involved. On the other hand, and more commonly, employees thrive better and like to work in a balanced work environment. The point is that you must understand the organization, what makes it tick, and build upon what is special for your company.

The three gears guide employees throughout the entire employee lifecycle. In an organization where attention is paid at each gear, all employees are valued for what is special to them and will help make the organization stronger.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you determine the culture of your company and how the gears will work within your organization:


As you hire and grow your team, what must you do to comply with federal and state employment laws? What policies and procedures will define your culture?

When you select managers and staffers, what skills, behaviors, and knowledge do you need to achieve your vision? How do you identify, assess, and hire the best talent?


In order to engage your employees, how do you most effectively integrate new talent for success in your culture? What competitive tools can you use to reward and motivate employees?


What key drivers measure your success as a company? How do you set goals, manage, and measure performance? How do you effectively and legally transition for the next stage of your organization's development?

Answering these questions will begin to identify the characteristics of your culture, what makes it special, and what you can enhance to make your workplace exceptional.

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