Our nation’s economy is thriving and unemployment rates are at some of the lowest since 1969. For employers, this creates a challenge in finding and keeping workers. Creating a great workplace culture that will attract talent, make them want to stay and keep them engaged is an important strategy in meeting this challenge.
To do this effectively, you must recognize your employees have choices, just as your customers do. Yes, you pay them to do a job, but you need to approach it understanding there is a war for talent going on. The key is in creating an exceptional experience for your employees that will attract and retain them to YOUR organization as their employer of choice. They in turn will create an exceptional experience for your customers. Your outcome will be an engaged workforce and better business results.
According to the Gallup Organization, the differences between engaged and actively disengaged businesses/work units is significant in the following way:
And according to a recent SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) article titled, The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How Culture Impacts the Workforce – And the Bottom Line, “Great workplace cultures are associated with low employee turnover and high engagement, making these organizations more innovative, productive, and profitable. Bad cultures, on the other hand, leave employees dissatisfied and unproductive – and eager to move on. In fact, the high employee turnover (and low engagement) that stems from a bad workplace culture costs U.S. employers billions of dollars a year.”
Your efforts to create an exceptional experience for your employees will pay off in business results that directly impact your organization’s bottom line. It’s best to take a business approach to this work by creating a formal People Strategy. Formalize your strategy with specific goals and tactics that are refreshed annually.
When employees are hired, what they are sold in the interview process must be what they experience upon arrival and on a day to day basis in the organization. Congruency and consistency are critical and a systematic and holistic approach is needed. Your company values should be reflected throughout your human resource systems.
Outlined below are Ten Keys to Creating a Great Workplace. There is so much to say about each one of these items so I’m only going to touch on each one briefly. Just know that each of these could be an article on their own and perhaps they will be in the future. This list also assumes that your organization offers a competitive wage and benefits package to its employees.
Often times your health plan carrier can be a good resource for things like health coaching, nutrition information and even cooking classes for your workforce so look to see who you can partner with for additional resources to make your workplace great and help your employees maximize their well-being on and off the job. Making healthy eating easy and affordable is another important item to focus on, but remember to also address work hours and workload, financial wellness as well as important issues such as child care and elder care.
A Best Practice for Transparency
While creating an exceptional experience for employees does take an investment, best practices don’t have to cost a lot of money. Some companies like Google and Zappos can afford sizeable investments and choose to enhance their employee experience with such perks as providing free snacks and meals, regular entertainment options or free massages for employees.
Other companies, especially non-profits, don’t have that luxury. I’ve spent most of my career working in the nonprofit sector and haven’t had the luxury of a lot of money to invest in perks for employees. Yet I’ve had the privilege of seeing some pretty great workplaces.
What I’ve found is most meaningful to employees comes down to the quality of the relationship between the employees and their leadership and the trust that employees have in the leadership of the organization. One best practice that worked well at one of my prior employers was a monthly birthday event.
Each month, those employees (including leaders) whose birthday was that month was invited to attend either a breakfast or a lunch (this accommodated night and day shift employees) with the executive team. Employees RSVP’d to the event so we could account for the group size. At the event, each participant went through the buffet line, sat at a table, socialized with their peers over a meal. The executives spread out and ate with the employees, engaging in casual conversation. On the tables for each employee was a small token birthday gift such as a water bottle, mug or gym bag.
Toward the end of the meal, the CEO (or another executive in his/her absence) would welcome the attendees, introduce the executives and have each attendee introduce themselves and usually answer one fun icebreaker question. Then it was open forum time. Employees could ask the executives any question they wanted. They always got transparent answers. Whichever executive was most knowledgeable would help answer the questions and, on the occasion that nobody had the answer, a commitment was made to get the answer and report back. Occasionally one of the other employees in attendance had the answer to the question. Most months it truly became a group dialogue.
Notes were taken and the Q&A was published on the company intranet for all employees to see. This helped with transparency of information and consistency of messaging. These forums were often an opportunity to squelch rumors and were sometimes also helpful for executives to learn of an issue of concern that we weren’t previously aware of. When there wasn’t a lot going on there were always questions about facilities updates and parking, but when something big was happening, such as a potential affiliation with another organization, the focus shifted there and any rumors were able to be quickly confirmed or corrected.
These forums were very important to the employees in keeping a direct line of communication open with the executive team. Doing this on a monthly basis really established trust and relationships which was particularly important during challenging times. I’ve seen similar forums at other organizations occur on an as needed basis, but the quality of the dialogue wasn’t the same because the trust was not there. They were met with more skepticism and suspicion of the people “in suits” when they happened only periodically.
When these occur with regularity, barriers are broken down and trust is built, conversation gets more candid over time and two-way communication flows. When combined with a birthday invitation and small token gift it weaves in the recognition component as well. This kind of regular forum is a best practice idea that can be relatively low cost and extremely effective in moving closer to a great workplace and creating that exceptional experience for employees.
What are some best practices in creating a great workplace that you’ve seen?
Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.