All executives love to hear their employees say their company is a great place to work. Employees who live within an organization on the road to greatness do say that…and more. When speaking with clients and their employees, it is common for me to hear these professionals voluntarily share, without prompting or coercion, such things as, “They really take good care of me here,” “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to work here,” and “I can’t imagine ever leaving.”
Building and sustaining a great culture is not about creating some esoteric, touchy-feely, pampering environment. Rather, it’s about creating and reinforcing the right kind of environment to reach your purpose. There are five essential elements of the human environment that together create the foundation for inspiring employee excellence and achieving great results. Here is how to build a world-class human environment.
1. Capture Their Hearts
The driving force behind all great organizational achievements is the heart power of the employees, their engaged passion for excellence.
Companies that capture the heart of employees seldom need to worry about motivation. Engaged hearts motivate themselves. There are three primary indicators of an environment that captures the heart.
First, they have a compelling purpose supported with a powerful mission, vision and values.
Second, they integrate creative ways to balance work and family life, ensuring employees that the company recognizes the importance of their life outside of work.
Work-life balance has become one of the top reasons good people choose to join or stay with a company.
Third, excellent companies have fun and celebrate their successes as well as their failures. Corporate excellence mandates that the culture allows and encourages celebrations and a positive spirit.
2. Open Communication
Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was well known for saying: “99% the best ideas we ever had came from our people.” Here are some key indicators of an open communication environment.
First, internal listening is a priority. Great companies give more than token consideration to listening to all employees. They understand that internal listening builds powerful connections between the frontline and the company. When all employees understand that their opinions matter, commitment rises.
Second, multiple channels of communication are actively employed. To connect to today’s diverse employees, leaders must intelligently employ many effective communication techniques available—be they digital, face-to-face, paper-based, or group-based. The key is to integrate more than just one way to communicate and connect, and to keep the message short and simple.
Third, two-way interaction is encouraged. Real connection to the company occurs only in an environment where all employees are encouraged to interact with each other. Today’s best run companies embrace a face-to-face, get out of the office, talk directly to others approach rather than leaning so heavily upon email.
Fourth, feedback is given in real time. Real-time feedback implies that good performance is rewarded just as quickly as bad performance is reprimanded. If an employee makes a mistake, most managers quickly respond, usually immediately. So why shouldn’t we do the same with positive feedback?
3. Create Partnerships
Define the word “employee” and “partner” in the spaces below.
Employee = _____________________
Partner = _______________________
Partners are actively engaged in the business and know they have a direct stake in its success. Employees merely show up for work to get paid. Employers of choice understand that top managers must establish a culture that treats all employees as business partners—not just hired hands. There are five key indicators of a partnership environment.
First, squash status barriers. From reserved parking spaces to executive-only bonus plans, from forcing employees to refer to bosses as “Mr./Mrs./Ms. to time clocks only for the few, status barriers eat at the heart of building corporate excellence.
Second, open the company books. How can an employee help your company earn a profit if they don’t know what profit is, how their job impacts it, and how all they do drive the numbers? Think of it this way, if a frontline employee can raise a family of four on $500 a week, they can certainly understand the P&L statement.
Third, pay for performance, not longevity or titles. Progressive companies look for creative ways to move beyond outdated pay systems into such areas a pay for knowledge, gain sharing, lump sum payments, team incentives, and employee stock option plans.
Fourth, share the bad times as well as the good times. No news is not good news in business. Partners have the right and the need to know both the good and the bad news. The No. 1 reason you hire people is to solve problems, and often they need to know what is going wrong.
Fifth, serve the frontline partner first. Excellent cultures are those that invert the traditional business pyramid placing the frontline employees on top. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you.
4. Drive Learning
Excellent companies give more than mere lip service to learning. They know that the long-term competitive advantage for any organization is the collective brainpower of its people.and realize that organizational improvement is impossible with unimproved people. There are three key indicators of a learning environment.
First, guarantee employability, not employment. No organization can ever totally guarantee any individual employee they will have a lifetime job. Rather, excellent companies promise to provide employees with every possible learning opportunity, so if their jobs are ever eliminated, they will be employable that they can easily fine work in another department or even another company.
Second, individualize the learning. Each of us learns in different ways. Excellent companies take great care to individualize the learning to the preferred style of the employee, thereby better guaranteeing real, lasting learning.
Third, encourage lifelong learning from your employees. Imagine you just learned that neither your dentist nor physician had read or learned anything new about their professions since they graduated from college in 1990. Ridiculous! Executives in excellent organizations ensure that all employees are offered lifelong learning opportunities with continuous, purposeful skill and knowledge upgrades.
5. Emancipate Action
Emancipation is simply giving people the protection they need to excel, the power to control their own destinies, and then getting out of the way! As management guru Peter Drucker reminds us, “Management’s job is to find out what it’s doing that keeps people from doing a good job, and stop doing it.”
There are three key indicators of an environment of emancipation.
First, they allow people the freedom to succeed and try again. When employees are given opportunities to experiment, to try new things, commitment soars.
Second, create freedom from bureaucracy. The key question becomes not how much control do we need over our people, but how little. Great cultures allow their people the opportunity to use their common sense, to assess a situation, and then to act on the company’s best interests.
Third, encourage challenges of the status quo. General George S. Patton, Jr., the most revered and feared US Army general during World War II, was well known for saying, “If two or more people are thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”
Patrick B. Ropella
Chairman & CEO, Ropella
Tel: (850) 983-4777
Patrick Ropella is Chairman & CEO of the Ropella Group an international Executive Search, Leadership Transformation, and Corporate Consulting firm. He authored the book and web-based training program, The Right Hire – Mastering the Art of SMART Talent Management, and has seen his content featured in many trade magazines, business publications, and industry journals. Patrick regularly speaks at webinars, career fairs, and conferences.