Secrets to Creating an Ideal Work Environment

By John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door

When building a company, one of the first challenges entrepreneurs face is hiring the right people. The next challenge, of course, is how to keep the people that you’ve hired. When we set out to build Nurse Next Door into a North American-wide homecare franchise system, we knew that hiring, and more importantly keeping, the right people was critical to our success.

Becoming a great employer didn’t happen overnight for us. We made the mistake, as most companies do, of failing to define and focus on our culture. It turns out that understanding your organization’s culture is critical to coming up with the right recruitment and retention strategies to ensure your business has future success and your staff is excited to come to work every morning.

When we undertook the seemingly daunting task of positioning ourselves as a top 10 employer in our region, we surveyed the staff to find out what we were doing well and what we needed to improve. We carefully reviewed our survey results. We realized that what our employees valued most was not compensation, but having a fun, unique and exciting work environment— a place that took their individual needs into consideration. We learned we needed to focus on things like flexibility, work-life balance and rewards and recognition. These were things that were important to our staff.

For a single mom working for us, it was important to be able to bring her young son in when childcare fell through. Employees living far from the office, valued being able to telecommute whenever possible. For those with families, the chance to get away more often on a family vacation was key. These are just a few examples of the types of things we learned were important to our employees.

With this in mind, we started developing innovative new strategies to make our company a great place to work; a place where people would tell their friends how great it was, start Facebook groups, refer contacts and really just be our promoters in the community.

So what did we put in place? Five weeks vacation, flexible work hours, telecommuting, the ability to bring kids to work, employee stock options and profit share, just to name a few. And where did all of this get us? Well, it significantly reduced our recruitment and turnover issues. It made us the sixth best employer in British Columbia. But most of all, it made our office a fun place to be— a place where you can tell just from the energy in the air that people wanted to be here.

From a strategic standpoint, building an ideal work environment has given us an enormous competitive advantage over our competition. What’s more, we’ve been able to share our strategies with our franchise partners and help ensure they have a happy and engaged staff, as well.

For us, the secret to having an enthusiastic team that enjoys coming to work every day was listening to what it is the staff wants and focusing our strategies to meet their needs so everyone wins. And as we move forward, and our competition catches on, we’ll keep pushing forward with new innovative strategies.

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