If an opinion poll were to be held tomorrow about your company, are you confident it would come out tops as a good employer? Here is a crucial question to ask yourself regularly: if I were looking for a job, would I be attracted to this company?
It should be obvious to management that there is a definite connection between your services and/or products and your employees’ work satisfaction. Improving your standing as a good employer means that you save money in the long run by preventing employee resignation, decreasing days of sick leave, even cutting down the need for recruitment adverts; and eventually reduce employee turnover.
Recruit, reward, retain
The first thing that will suffer if you don’t have a status as an above-average company to work for, you are probably losing out on the best recruits. You are missing out on employees who are particular about their environment and conditions. Aren’t they exactly the kind of people who could take your company to bigger and better things? European graduates polled on their expectations of the workplace of the future by Generation Europe and the FutureWork Forum rated ‘achieving a good life/work balance’ and a ‘need to work for an organisation with a good reputation’ as more important than ‘an expectation of achieving power and influence’, ‘to work for a multinational business’ and ‘making money to be self-sufficient’.
The skin and bones
No longer is it enough to pay a decent wage, but you have to offer more in order to ensure your staff’s happiness and loyalty. They are starting to look carefully at the quality of the work environment. The minimum requirements are cleanliness, general safety, adequate heating/cooling, fresh air, safe noise levels and sufficient space to work in. However, there are still office environments stuck in the ’70s, with aluminium cubicles, no windows, and plastic moulded chairs more reminiscent of prison cells than environments that should increase efficiency and creativity. This description almost sounds like a joke, but it is a sad reality for too many local firms.
Standing out from the crowd, one well-established company has recently opened very attractive offices. Beautiful design and colour, privacy, plants, coffee machines and water dispensers abound at every corner. One of the employees remarked: “The boss gives a lot, but he asks a lot too.” But which private company today, doesn’t? Ask your staff whether their environment has a positive or negative affect on them and you might be surprised by their answers.
The hunt is on
Competition doesn’t only exist for your products and services. There is always someone keeping an eye on your people, offering a way to better things. So don’t make the mistake of only offering salary increases when someone threatens to leave. The extra money that ensues will not have the same motivating effect as an increase offered prior to negotiation.
When employees are deciding how to tackle a problem, how much effort to put in, how much creativity to use; so on and so forth; the pay packet is not normally at the forefront of their minds. It is only when employees feel emotionally identified with the organisation’s values and goals that the outcome is good performance, punctuality, harmonious relationships and fewer absences.
All in the family
What, then, are the key factors that determine whether employees will feel emotionally attached to your company in ways that call forth their best efforts and their loyalty?
Giving flexibility that respects the commitment of your people to their loved ones can create powerful loyalty to your organisation. Men and women alike appreciate the opportunity to be a part of an organisation that respects their desire for work-life balance.
In response to this, many companies are building flexibility into work options, with flexitime, telecommuting, part-time work schedules and job sharing. Interim Management is also becoming increasingly popular. UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland Retail Banking offers flexible working hours, a final salary pension, share options and profit-related pay. No wonder that RBS records the highest positive score for ‘happiness with work/life balance’ and ‘job security’ on The Sunday Times list of “The Best Big Companies To Work For.”
Not only is childcare a growing concern today, but with an ageing population, so is care for elderly family members. Many companies in the US are either providing ‘elder day care’ or are helping employees connect with other community elder care resources. The more innovative and caring organisations actually house on-site services such as exercise facilities, beauty and medical treatments and even dry-cleaning collection services. This has a positive impact on family relationships by freeing up the time that employees would spend running around to perform these activities.
Fun is not forbidden
Having fun in the workplace is good business. Laughter and fun in the workplace (including planned outside social activities and team-building exercises) enhance creativity, increase productivity, build teamwork, make employees mentally and physically healthier, and relieve on-the-job and off-the-job stress. When employees are happy, they tend to go out of their way to make others happy. Leaders model and encourage this kind of camaraderie. Customers profit from the organisation’s high morale, and they respond by continuing to do business with the company and telling their friends about it.
With sincere thanks
No matter how personally confident or secure your staff are, they need to know that they are appreciated on a regular basis. The Genghis Khan mode of leadership – treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen – is outdated, short-sighted and inhumane.
Some managers say: “Why should I have to go around patting people on the back? They’re just doing their jobs, what they’re paid to do.” On the other hand, employees will reason things out differently; “We need to know that the hard work is noticed and that we are cared about.” Behaviours that get noticed and reinforced tend to be repeated, so that over time, the feeling that the company appreciates employees’ efforts result in both best efforts and loyalty.
Greater employee involvement
When employees feel that they’ve had an input into decisions and that their ideas have been respected and included in the plans, they are much more likely to work hard to see that the process succeeds.
How can you create greater employee involvement in your company? One way is by keeping employees informed. Do this through multiple means: communication meetings, newsletters, company intranets, email communications, business reports, and one-on-one discussions.
On a regular basis, ask employees for their ideas for improvement. The people doing the work are often in the best position to see what can be done to improve quality and service. Then let them see that many of these ideas are implemented. Learning to work in productive teams is one of the best ways to increase involvement. Team building helps to create the positive connections that enable the necessary free flow of communication. Training in team problem-solving methods provides the necessary structure for productive discussion. Staff at Cadbury Schweppes working in teams, help maintain a sense of family and ensuring that individuals have a voice. Employees there feel their contributions truly make a difference.
Top employees today want to be trained so that they stay on the cutting edge. They want to feel that they are going somewhere. Learning new things enhances productivity, both preparing and energising team members to meet your company’s competitive challenges. The opportunity for continuous learning is consistently on the top of the minds of motivated workers, especially younger ones.
Fortune magazine’s 100 Greatest Places to Work was topped by The Container Store two years in a row. Their secret is a training programme that provides 235 hours of training for its first-year, full-time employees. Compared to the national average for others in the retail industry: 7 hours of training for similar employees. The Container Store’s employee turnover rate stands at 15-25 percent, compared to more than 100 percent industry-wide.
No more Monday blues?
Remember that your company’s reputation is one of your most precious marketing tools. To bring out the best in your team members, expect the best, look for the best, give your best and celebrate the best. When your employees get home tomorrow evening, will they greet their family with a litany of complaints about their day at work? Make a commitment today to ensure that that doesn’t happen. Malta may not yet have an annual Best Companies To Work For list, but word-of-mouth still speaks volumes.
(Information on the top companies to work for was obtained from: The Sunday Times (UK) ‘The Best Big Companies To Work For’ list and Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’.)
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