The thing that motivates us to work the hardest is being under-appreciated.

Said no one ever.

It goes without saying that everyone would prefer to work for a company that appreciates them and their efforts, but – because many people need jobs – we don’t always get to be overly picky.

When you are the one running the business, it isn’t just about having employees. Your business will be more productive, more profitable, and more conducive to low turnover-high loyalty when your employees are there because they want to be – not just because they need to be.

The bottom line is that workplace culture counts. Here are 13 ways to make a motivating, positive, productive workplace happen.

1. Care About Them

This may sound like an easy one, but for an employer the ability to look at your employees as more than just your “minions” is very important.

2. Be a Little Personal

If you know your employee has a family, then ask about them in a polite and considerate way. Making basic conversation with your employees is a sign that you know they have a life outside of work.

3. Motivation Is Important

Being able to manage your team with positive reinforcements is going to help your business in the long run. Productivity will shoot through the roof with the right motivation. If your staff has goals it doesn’t hurt to run a contest or two with prizes as motivation. It doesn’t even have to be something extravagant. Even a $10 Starbucks giftcard is appreciated.

4. Create Diversity

A diverse workplace is not only the way to support the community, but you’ll find that when people come from different backgrounds they can bring all kind of new ideas for a more interesting and productive workplace.

5. Encourage Creative Freedom

Being able to allow your team to put forth their creative ideas can make them feel valued, and appreciated. Encouraging the right creative freedom, depending on your business, can allow you to see ideas that you might not have thought of in the first place. Plus, there is an immense self-pride for the employee in themselves and the company when they see their ideas come to life.

6. Care Some More

If your employee is going through a rough patch such as the death of a parent or difficulties with an illness, it’s just the right thing to do to care about their situation. If your employee doesn’t have to worry about their job in a time of need, it makes the recovery time easier and shorter.

7. Give Raises On Time

This one doesn’t even need an explanation. Give raises on time, and be fair about it. Do more than just a “cost of living” adjustment if your business can handle it.

8. Bonuses and Incentive Programs

Performance based bonuses will encourage people to work harder. Adequate vacation, downtime, and personal days makes an employee not resentful of their employer. Incentive programs put the power in the employee’s court so they can do all they can to improve their salary situation.

9. Have Brainstorming Sessions That Are Fun

If you have the room, and can put in some fun break type activities to get your employees out of their cubicles it’s a good idea. Being open in a creative area, such as around a ping pong table or mini basketball hoop, is good fun for everyone

10. Provide Health Benefits That Are Affordable

Everyone deserves to have a good health plan that isn’t too expensive. If yours is too high or you hear a lot of complaints, look into finding a better one.

11. Be Polite

Say “hello” daily to all your employees, because they show up everyday for you to work hard. Acknowledge their presence so they know you value their efforts even in just showing up on time for work everyday.

12. Make Sure Work Is Fairly Balanced

Making sure that the work is fairly balanced between employees is fair and just. Burn out is a very real problem so try to make sure you are aware of larger work loads always getting done by the same employees. Spread it around between everyone if you notice someone is overworked.

13. Promote From Within

This is very motivating for your employees because it shows that your company is a growth operation with the potential to move up. It gives them a future to look forward to and a ladder to climb with your small business operation.

Above all else, remember this: When it comes to culture, it really is the thought that counts. If you are making an effort to make your employees happy, they will sense it – and they will try to make you happy in return.