The concept of a workplace has changed for many companies lately, moving toward a more casual and flexible experience. One word that may be a bit odd to see thrown around, though, is “fun,” but as it turns out, making your store more fun may be exactly what you need to appeal to the latest crop of employees entering the workforce. According to a recent report from Accenture, 60% of graduates from the class of 2015, along with 69% of the 2013 and 2014 classes, would be willing to work for lower pay in exchange for a “positive social atmosphere” (1).

Michael Houlihan, coauthor along with Bonnie Harvey of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People, says that since these Millennials are currently the largest share of the U.S. workforce, acknowledging their expectations can be important—and helpful, for your business. Here are some ideas they have on how to make your workplace more positive.

Keep things enjoyable. Allowing your employees to work in teams can foster a healthy atmosphere, and you can even add a little friendly competition to the mix. Houlihan says his business used design choices like colorful graphics along with events like celebrating employee birthdays to add some levity—making sure all the necessary work gets done, of course. When that work gets done, a little celebration following the completion of many goals can mean a lot.

Respect and appreciate employees. Be they a Millennial new hire or long-time veteran, it can be difficult for an employee to enjoy their work if they don’t feel like an important asset to your business and treat them with respect. Set out clear goals and share information. Harvey recommends that businesses should “create a know-the-need culture instead of sticking to a need-to-know policy. Practice transparency. Share company challenges and ask the entire staff for solutions.” Motivated employees will want to do their part to contribute to the company’s success, and the passion and ideas they can bring to the table may surprise you.

Give back. Houlihan and Harvey both believe that your company should “stand for more than ‘just’ the mercantile value of its goods and services.” By embracing philanthropy and volunteer opportunities, employees can see that your business takes interest in something beyond the products you sell. It can be at a community level or something bigger—no matter what size your business is, finding some way to give back. Houlihan explains that making product donations and encouraging volunteer work even when cash was tight “gave our employees a higher sense of purpose and increased their engagement, morale, and loyalty.”

While it may be a bit of a disservice to put all these efforts into the umbrella of “fun,” it may be worth it to treat a positive work environment as something more than a luxury. An employee that feels valued by a company is more likely to reciprocate it, which can be reflected in both the quality of their work and the type of attitude they project to your customers.


1., accessed 5/27/2015.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2015 (online 6/11/2015)