If you were given a blank canvas and you could design the best possible company to work for, where would you start?
Well, we imagine it would be a company where individual differences are nurtured, information flows smoothly, the company takes great care in making each of its employees a valuable asset, and the organization stands for something meaningful. Did you know that employees who feel welcome to express their authentic selves at work exhibit higher levels of organizational commitment?
How far are most companies from this dream-like horizon? And how can our own organizations reach this goal?
If you’re a leader, this list can help you create the most productive working environment possible; if you’re an employee, you can share some of these ideas with your management!
Enable People’s Strength to Rise
The ideal company helps its employees to be the best version of themselves, fostering their strengths and unique opinions in the workplace! Harnessing the skills of people who are already working for your company helps avoid high turnover rates and saves on recruitment costs. Google and Apple are brilliant examples of this mantra, and they do this in a very human way: by providing extensive training, by encouraging the creation of networks and by being flexible with working hours and assignments.
The employee-employer relationship is shifting in many industries from how much value can be extracted from workers to how much can be instilled in them. At heart, that’s what productivity improvement really means!
Show How the Daily Work Makes Sense
Employees are happier when they can derive meaning from their daily work activities. So how does a company make a job more meaningful? This aspiration requires nothing less than a reconsideration (and perhaps full overhaul) of the tasks each person is performing and how they are performing them. Do those duties make sense? Are they as engaging as they could be? This exercise can be a complex undertaking, so let’s use a practical example to get started:
In 2012 John Lewis completed a review of its more than 2,200 jobs, dividing them in groups of 10 different levels, to make it easier for employees to take advantage of opportunities across the organisation. This was a deliberate effort to match its people with the work they want to do, giving the employees the best possible ecosystem to work within! This helped John Lewis grow of 2.8% over the last year.
Creating a sense of shared meaning is about more than fulfilling your mission statement! It’s about forging powerful connections between personal and organizational values, and creating a system that enables each employee to be super-productive.
Let People Be Themselves
When companies try to accommodate differences, they too often confine themselves to traditional diversity categories, such as gender, race, age, ethnicity, and so on. But a forward-thinking executive should be after something more specific – differences in perspectives or habits of mind.
The ideal organization is aware of dominant currents in its culture, work habits, dress code, traditions, and governing assumptions BUT also makes an explicit efforts to transcend them! We’re not just talking about the suit up financial services company that embraces the IT guys in shorts and sandals, but also the hipster startup that isn’t bothered if someone wears a tie or not.
The benefits of tapping the full range of people’s knowledge and talents may be obvious, yet it’s not entirely surprising that so few companies do it. And you know why? Because uncovering biases isn’t easy! What we need is a little extra-effort to nurture our employee’s individuality, and make the most of their unique talents.
Enable an efficient communication flow
The organization of your dreams does not distort information: in the age of Facebook, WikiLeaks, and Twitter, you’re better off telling people the truth before someone else does. Companies need to respect their employees’ urge to know what’s really going on so that they can do their jobs effectively – this is particularly relevant in volatile environments where it’s already difficult to keep everyone aligned and where workers at all levels are being asked to think more strategically.
At the end of the day, what many strive for is the implementation of “radical honesty”: a clear and timely line of communication between each entity of the company that helps everyone be aligned with the companies’ values and projects. Today, when trust levels between employees and customers are so low, organizations must work very hard to communicate what’s going on if they want to be heard and believed.
Work can be liberating, or it can be alienating! Despite the changes that new technologies and new generations bring, a strong company culture is vital for every business. As we work to fully realize human potential at work, let’s do not underestimate the potential of creating a brilliant workplace!
Is your workplace really brilliant? Let us know what makes it so in the comments. If not, what’s missing?