I was recently asked to speak about any topic of my choosing at a luncheon. In the spirit of Employee Appreciation Day happening that week, I chose to focus on company culture.
To prepare for the presentation, I decided to quiz my team with the following question: “What is the best thing about working here?” Here’s a sampling of their answers:
• “The best part of working here is the emphasis on work-life balance. Life is hectic! The company recognizes that and allows its employees to flex their hours so that they can fit everything in.”
• “The best part is the flexibility, both in the work-life balance, as well as the flexibility within my job.”
• “Having managers who trust you to be personally responsible for your work.”
Not only did their answers make me feel proud to work here, but they also underlined key values employees share about what makes a place a good place to work. Below, I’ll share how I’ve created the type of environment employees want to work in — and how you can, too.
Frank And Frequent Feedback
Waiting until the dreaded annual performance review to provide feedback to employees is an ineffective way to motivate behavior change for your employees. Instead, adopt a frank and frequent feedback approach.
In other words, if you see something (good, bad or otherwise), say something. If this isn’t your current mode of operating, you might find frank and frequent feedback a bit disarming. However, this is the best way to connect with employees, set expectations and see real change. It’s also the best way to express appreciation for a job well done. Employees shouldn’t have to wonder where they stand or how they’re performing. Frequent feedback ensures everyone is on the same page and course correction can be swifter if needed.
Fellowship And Fun
Many people might say having fun at work isn’t important because it’s work. Many articles have even argued that pingpong tables or happy hours are not the secret sauce to an engaged workforce. I agree with them. What I mean by “fellowship and fun” at work is finding creative ways to connect with team members during the workday. It can feel like we spend more time with co-workers than we do our families, so it’s important that we have a positive experience with teammates.
At my company, we have infused fellowship and fun into our team meetings and off-site activities with a “question of the day.” For example, one week, the question was, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Everyone answered the question over lunch, and we all learned that our billing specialist would buy a school bus, sell her house and travel to every state in the country as a nomad. Our accounts payable specialist would start a nonprofit to help women in poverty. The discussions that stem from the question of the day always teach me something about my team — no pingpong table required.
Freedom And Flexibility
Finally, and most importantly, value flexibility and freedom. You’ll see in one of the responses I shared above that employees feeling flexibility within their jobs is important, too. It’s our job as leaders to help paint the goal and how it relates to the overall goals of the organization. How the work gets done isn’t entirely up to us. While we certainly have standard ways that work should be completed — and some industries are more regulated than others — allowing employees to dictate pieces of the “how” is critical to showing employees you trust them.
Trust also extends to allowing employees the time they need when life happens. As a mom to two busy little boys, I can’t imagine not having the flexibility to take them to appointments, stay home with them when they’re sick or simply spend time with them when their daycare is on break. If I didn’t have this type of flexibility, it’s unlikely I would stay working here. If you want to win the talent war, you should care about flexibility. In a survey by Sage People, 81% of the 3,500 employees polled cited flexibility and remote working as very important to them.
If you’re worried about productivity plummeting when you let go of the reins, worry not. Flexible work can lead to happier, more productive employees due to reduced stress and greater autonomy.
Of course, culture isn’t one person’s job, and reading this article won’t make your organization an instant culture success. Culture is “how we do things around here,” and that “we” includes every one of your employees. Ask your team the question I posed to my employees — What is the best thing about working here? — and then explore your current culture and what changes you might make together to create a place where everyone wants to work.