Richard Branson once said: “Good people are crucial to business success. Finding them, managing them, inspiring them and then holding onto them are among the most important challenges a good business leader faces. How you deal with these matters often determines the long- term success and growth of your business.”
Branson’s dictum is a good starting point for any organisation that is embarking on creating a positive, healthy and productive work culture, particularly considering that most organisations today are continuing to re-invent themselves through constant change and transformation. Following years of collaborating with organisations on leadership, transformation and change programs, we’ve become convinced that the success of organisational culture and change is inseparable from the behaviour and role modeling of senior managers.
Creating a positive and happy work culture does not have to be time consuming and expensive. It is about balancing our attention on operations, as well as nurturing our greatest asset – our people.
Seven ways to ensure your best employees won’t leave you for someone else.
1. Self-Understanding and Awareness
“The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” – Gruenter and Whitaker
Many organisations are brilliant at setting their organisational strategies, goals and performance objectives. The focus tends to be on operational improvements, reviewing structures, systems and processes. Although a review of the operating environment is necessary, it is seldom sufficient on its own. Recent Mckinsey research affirms that half of all efforts to transform organisational performance fail because senior managers don’t role-model leadership styles in line with company values.
During a period of oganisational change, it’s critical that “senior executives collectively adopt the lookout role for the organisation as a whole. Yet they often can’t because they’re wearing rose-tinted glasses that blur the limitations of their leadership style, mask destructive mind-sets and generally distort what’s going on outside the executive suite” according to a recent Mckinsey study.
Outstanding leaders are those who have a heightened self-understanding of their habits, thoughts, emotional triggers and behaviours and the impact they have on others and the workplace culture.
Leaders must look inwards into their internal tendencies such as needs, beliefs, values, fears and defenses that drive their behaviour across the organisation. Well-designed leadership development programs, profiling tools and coaching can greatly assist in this area.
2. People Matter
People are a key asset of any organisation. A true sense of pride in the business makes all the difference. Getting the right people is essential to a positive workplace culture. That’s why successful companies spend time and resources investing on hiring, on-boarding and retaining talented employees.
Organisations that focus on people create positive workplace cultures effortlessly. Think about your company’s employee wellness program. Companies such as Google and Johnson & Johnson have invested in wellness programs because they know that employees who feel their best also put their best foot forward at work. They provide employees with free food, health and dental, on-site gyms, swimming pools and gaming areas.
People with aligned values and behaviours create a positive workplace culture.
3. Your Relationship with Your Boss
Decades of studies and research into high performance and motivation can be boiled down to one conclusion: Successful companies are those that create a work culture where people feel terrific about themselves. They are learning, growing and contributing.
‘Many leaders don’t realise that the environment in which you work – the office, the work unit, the people and culture of the team, the incentives and the attitude of the boss – all of these things directly impact employee performance” according to Jerry Porras at Stanford University. Great managers develop the ability to bring out the very best in people by learning and understanding what makes them tick, and giving them power to feel as though they are working as advocates on behalf of customers, employees and shareholders according to Steve Miles of Heidrick and Struggles.
Gallup research has also found that perhaps the most profound issue driving employee engagement is their relationship with their boss. According to Brian Tracy, people are influenced by the way others treat them, especially their bosses. A look, a glance, a comment, a compliment can cause a person to perform at higher levels all-day and even longer. The quality of the relationship between the boss and the employee can be measured by how free the employee feels to express his/her thoughts, feelings, concerns and even voice disagreements without fear of criticism and reprisal
The quality of the interaction between the employer and employee is the key determinant of motivation and performance. Treat your staff like partners, clients, essential part of the organisation, because they are.
Setting direction, thinking strategically and communicating – you may think that this all sounds like management 101. And you’re right. The most basic elements of leadership are what trip up leaders; because they are the basics, they are often taken for granted.
A culture in which people openly contribute their ideas and thoughts does not happen automatically. Leaders need to take deliberate steps to create an environment where communication is expected, supported, clear, candid and relevant. This needs to be both top-down and bottom-up, where there is a clear path for sharing of information, feedback and perspectives. Otherwise organisations can become sluggish and dysfunctional.
Communication is a dialogue: I try and understand your needs, you try and understand mine. This means talking and listening. It should also take many different forms, public forums such as companywide events, team meetings, site visits, and brown bag lunches; One-on-one dialogues, including meaningful conversations between manager and direct reports to build trust and productivity; Electronic media, emails and web casts to reach a wide audience and reinforce important information and messages.
Communication is a critical human need. When it is part of an organisation’s culture it builds a shared understanding of the business and strong employee camaraderie, creating a positive work culture.
5. Providing Feedback
In a recent survey by Fierce, Inc., less than one third of employees said their company would be willing to change practices based on employee feedback. When employees don’t feel heard, they don’t feel respected or happy in the workplace.
Employee feedback programs can be very effective in organisations that actually listen to the ideas of their best people. Organising a quarterly or monthly meeting where the whole team can be encouraged to discuss smart ideas and solutions for improving business performance and outcomes. It is also equally important to recognise and thank employees when the organisation has implementedthose suggestions.
A recent Mckinsy study on leadership found that four kind of behaviours account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness. One of these behaviours is “Seeking Different Perspectives. “ They found that this trait is conspicuous in managers who grasp changes in the environment, and encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance. Leaders who do well in this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.
Adopting these simple feedback strategies is a sure way for creating a positive culture where employees feel that their contribution and feedback does really matter.
6. Supporting Others
According to 90 per cent of employees, the most valued attributes in workplace relationships are: honesty, trust and fairness.
By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organisational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.
7. Providing a Sense of Purpose
The need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.
Employees who are able to find meaning and purpose within their roles are generally healthier, happier and more productive.
For an employee to feel that they have a sense of purpose and to feel that what they do is meaningful, they must have a sense that they can contribute to the organisations’ direction and outcomes.
Employees want to know where the business is going and what they need to focus on in order to help drive the business. As organisational changes occur, it is important for leaders to communicate how the vision, purpose and priorities might change. To explain to employees where their roles fit into the change and how they can contribute to the success of the organisation.
Offering employees generous salaries and flexible policies may make you a popular boss for a short period of time, research and experience shows that what employees really value extends beyond monetary rewards.
Creating a positive and happy work culture requires people to be led well by the organisation.