You’ve no doubt seen some of the lists of so-called “great” places to work. But what makes a workplace “great”? The most recent Fortune 100 list even breaks them into various categories. The link is: https://clients.greatplacetowork.com/list-calendar/fortune-100-best-companies-to-work-for
Are there specific traits common to special workplaces that are universally recognized as indisputable signs of a superior operation? Some believe there are, in fact, a number of such characteristics. They include:
* Reasonable, understandable, and uniformly enforced work rules. Great workplaces have rules and policies that are fair and apply to everyone. For instance, if smoking is prohibited in the work environment, NO ONE smokes; not the president, and not the new dishwasher. The rules and policies at great workplaces are not written in language so arcane that no one but a senior tax attorney can understand them. Ideally, they are not written to prevent employees FROM doing something, but rather to set appropriate standards whereby all employees are assured the opportunity to maximize their potential.
** My experiences: I would add that even so-called “unwritten” rules and policies need to be taken into account. I once worked at a daily newspaper in which, as a “non-editor” if you weren’t involved in extensive layout duties, the so-called “unwritten rule” was that you were supposed to turn out a “story a day”. I made the mistake of taking the “rule” too seriously, while other “writers” were lucky if they penned a story a week, let alone nearly each day. When there is no accountability or leadership to enforce work rules, even at least to some extent, bitterness, pettiness, and negativity follow. In other words, “Why am I reporting and writing to beat the band when John Doe sits on his… and earn the same salary?” I know. I’ve been there.
* An appropriate blending of tradition and innovation. While great workplaces are environments where employees devote a significant amount of time to improving current products and services as well as creating new ones, they are also places where tradition and continuity are highly valued. Long-standing products and services are not whimsically eliminated to the detriment of loyal customers; rather, they are improved as circumstances dictate.
** My experiences: No boss will go along with all of the innovative ideas that cross their desks, but the good bosses – and the good workplaces – at least consider them. Who knows better than “those in the trenches” doing the actual work? To me at least, there is no stronger motivation to move on than when your best ideas are not only rarely put into place, they are seldom even considered. Great workplaces have leaders who are more interested in collaborating together on ideas, rather than in mandating what they see fit.
* Open communication among all vested parties. Great workplaces have regular, honest communication. Staff and customers are given adequate opportunity to convey their ideas and suggestions to company leadership. Managers at great workplaces understand the practice of, “management by walking around,” because they know that this time-tested practice promotes open communication and minimizes potential problems.
** My experiences: If the boss’s office is closed most of the time, and if the only people walking in and out are also your superiors, it’s seldom a good thing, and most certainly NOT an example of a good workplace.
* Fiscal responsibility. Last, but certainly not least, great workplaces are fiscally prudent in the manner in which they operate. They have detailed, multi-year business plans that feature (among other areas) realistic cash flow projections. Great businesses rigorously monitor and adjust their financial plans on a regular basis and as circumstances dictate. They understand how much money will be required to provide the products and services their customers want as well as the costs associated with them. The long-term financial well-being of the workplace remains a high priority.
** My experiences: I would largely agree, but only to a certain extent. While it’s true that no one wants to work at a business where finances are tossed around blindly to the wind, I would also maintain that innovative, aggressive firms also aren’t afraid to take some chances now and then to the betterment of the company, its employees, and its long-term outlook. Growth that is far too s-l-l-o-o-w not only means the company probably isn’t keeping up with its competitors, it also feels like taking slow poison, as opposed to just taking one fatal pill and getting it over with! To borrow a baseball analogy, I believe that great workplaces recognize that sometimes it’s necessary to “swing for the fences,” too! In that way, even if the firm fails, at least it did so by trying to make something happen, not sitting around waiting for something to happen.
Does this sound like the work environments of your clients? If not, why not? Great workplaces employ happy, productive, and talented people who perform meaningful work compatible with the mission, values, and financial goals of the company in mind. To be sure it takes continual effort, but the end result is worth it.
Ideas for this post also gleaned from Norm Spitzig, an internationally recognized visionary speaker and industry expert. For more information, visit http://www.masterclubadvisors.com