So 2015 is here; new goals are being set, ideas for the year are being communicated and budgets reviewed. The main focus of the leaders in top organisations I’m speaking to this year seems to be about creating great places to work.
Businesses are feeling more confident financially and are moving away from recession-style troubleshooting behaviour typified by efficiency savings to a more employee and people development style focus. More often than not during a recession companies are forced to cut jobs and benefits which affects morale.
It can be an uphill struggle to lift it again. But 2015 looks like a positive year for business growth so it’s time to ensure you hold on to talent and by creating a great place to work, people will want to stay and help your organisation grow and develop. However it’s no easy task and commitment to development, people and culture is vital. People need to feel valued and challenged and trust needs to be at the heart of what you do.
If you want proof that having a great place to work impacts on overall success you just need to look at Boston-based consulting giant Bain & Co, which is one of the world's leading management consulting firms and was voted the best company to work for in 2014. It also has over £2 billion turnover and a set of values based around being a great place to work. It starts with people and ensures everyone lives and breathes the company values. To help you kick start your great place to work 2015 initiative I have put together my top tips on what really makes a great place to work.
So what is a great culture? Is it about the perks; luncheon vouchers, free hot chocolate in the canteen and a ping pong table in the staff room? While all these things are fun and undoubtedly have some impact they are not the core of what makes a great culture.
Employees are really looking for an environment that supports personal development, recognises and rewards excellence, is honest even in challenging times, creates mutual support among colleagues and is fair in its dealings. Great cultures are created and supported from the top down. Values and behaviours filter all the way through the heirachy. That’s when a culture comes alive.
People also want to feel that their strong culture exists outside the walls of the organisation and supports further meaningful work. For example, Twitter, ranked second on Glassdoor’s 2014 best place to work list states on its website: “At Twitter, your work will be immediately felt by many millions of people around the globe.” Now that’s meaningful.
It’s no secret that great companies focus on providing growth opportunities for their employees. Traditionally this has meant ‘career pathing’. However great managers in excellent companies look for ways to match employees’ skills and passions with the organisation’s needs. This is done simply through good old-fashioned relationships, developed through conversation, observation and thought.
A great manager or leader will know what needs to be done in the company that’s not currently being addressed. They have good networks with other managers and leaders and know about new initiatives or projects that might need people. After finding out what the employee is interested in learning or doing, and how he or she would like to see his or her career unfold, they encourage the employee to take on an extra challenge, move laterally across the business, or go for a new role, thereby keeping good talent, creating value in the business and building people.
This starts at the hiring stage. Excellent companies start with the right people; people you like and respect and who want to like and respect others. For instance here at Laughology we need people who are outgoing, creative, fun and of course willing to learn and develop themselves and who want to help others do the same.
Other companies may hire more serious, reserved, quiet people. It’s important to know your own preferences and the culture in the organisation. What does it need to grow? What sort of people resonate with the vision and values? Let’s say, for example, your company needs late-night brainstorming sessions, far-ranging conversations about topics both personal and professional, and people who are willing to change course at a moment’s notice. If you choose people who like to play by the rules, enjoy working together during the day and going home at night, and tend to keep their work and private lives separate your workforce will not necessarily match their requirements no matter what perk you offer.
To perform at our best, we need significant and interesting challenges and we need well-developed skills to give us the confidence to meet those challenges. This moves us to a position where we can experience what is known as "flow" (being totally involved and engaged in the activity). Psychology and management professor Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi wrote about the process of flow in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
When challenge is too much we can become anxious and worried, when it’s too little we become disengaged. Our brains have developed to overcome challenges; it’s a survival mechanism that has allowed us to successfully adapt to new environments again and again. It makes sense that we want this in our jobs.
People generally like to figure things out, to get good at things. Notice how good it feels when you finally crack a new skill. Great companies recognise this attraction to challenging work and use it to their advantage and to motivate and engage their employees. An employee from Bain & Co commented about his work: “There is rarely a boring day, much less a boring project.” Being consistently and fully engaged – that’s what almost all of us want.
So a great company is a place you can do great things while having a great time, with others who want the same. Creating a company like this requires real focus and consistent effort on the part of the company’s leadership. You need to build the structures, processes and systems; hire the right people with the right attitudes and the rights skills; and to inspire and hold people accountable every day to the high standards you set.
Investment in that process pays off tremendously: you end up with a company that attracts the best talent, creates excellent products and services, and figures out how to do it better, faster, and smarter than the rest.
Learn more about how Laughology can help you develop and grown your team and culture