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By Enid Naranjo, JD
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University
For the past three to four years, the United States has experienced low unemployment rates, making it harder to recruit and retain talent. This has made companies look at their corporate culture under a different lens. As job seekers become more selective about their employment options, it is important to consider the characteristics that will drive a great workplace culture.
But what defines a great workplace culture? Organizations such as the Great Place to Work Institute emphasize the importance of trust in a workplace. However, job seekers are seeking more than that. Employees want to feel valued, supported and motivated.
The following characteristics are all part of developing a great workplace culture. The Great Place to Work Institute offers the following 10 suggestions for organizations to drive employee engagement and create a coveted workplace environment.
1. Basic Employment Offerings
In order to truly engage your employees, you need to meet at least the baseline offerings in the fundamental expectations of a jobseeker. This includes job security, compensation and benefits. While such elements do not necessarily have to be your organization’s top strengths, they should at least meet a certain minimum threshold.
Compensation and benefits have evolved considerably in recent years, in part due to the impact that technology companies have had in disrupting and reinventing the workplace. From flexible time policies and Paid Time Off (PTO) to workplace freebies such as organic meals and wellness programs, there are many options to enhance your benefits in a way that helps you differentiate yourself from other companies and attract the best talent. Many companies have added perks for high-performing, long-term employees, such as company-paid trips and short-term sabbaticals.
Two-way communication is extremely important to help employees feel secure. Employees like to feel that they understand their roles and responsibilities and that they are receiving proper guidance and feedback on their job performance. In addition, they need to feel they have an outlet for sharing their observations and ideas.
Furthermore, employees should feel that someone genuinely cares, and that managers do not simply collect ideas and send them into a black hole. Instead, you must have a process for acknowledging those ideas and closing the feedback loop with staff so they know their ideas were heard.
For communication that comes from the top down, employees want to understand how and why decisions are made from their leaders. This doesn’t mean that employees are always searching for confirmation that leaders chose the “right” answer, but that they have a sense of how decisions are made in order to trust their leadership.
3. Work Reviews and Recognition
Employees have the right to know someone cares about them, both personally and professionally. From the start, expectations should be delivered in the form of a detailed job description with responsibilities, so that individuals understand exactly what they are working toward and what they need to do to get there. Without this description of goals and expectations, employees and managers are prone to miscommunications and misunderstandings that erode their relationship.
There also needs to be meaningful recognition from multiple levels — from the direct manager, the executive team and even peers. Managers should build a workflow for meaningful recognition.
4. Employee Support
Employees and staff members should feel they are given all the necessary tools to do their job well. Specifically, they should feel that:
- Their workload is manageable.
- They have support in dealing with stress.
- The supplies and equipment that are available meet their needs.
- They have enough staff.
When things have to change, rationalize the flow of these changes by limiting organization-wide emails and minimizing change fatigue. In addition, leaders can color-code emails to indicate their priority level and monitor the department events calendar to maximize their awareness of what’s on employees’ plates and lessen any overlap.
5. Less Management, More Coaching
While the organization plays a large role in engaging employees, an individual’s manager also has a significant impact. Coaches and mentors are powerful instruments of change.
Truly great managers encourage and empower their employees to accomplish their goals in the same way a trainer does. These managers see beyond their official job description and take employees under their wing, honing their employees’ skills and performance with patience, education, and information sharing.
This type of investment in people has a higher return than just about any other management skill. As people learn and develop, their performance improves. Employees become more satisfied and engaged, and organizations are more successful as a result.
6. Mission and Values
We are living in an age where individuals are more aware of the mission and values of their employer. When employees understand how their daily work contributes to that mission, they feel a sense of purpose and meaning. It’s important that those employees also see how leadership exemplifies that mission through all their projects.
Employees who love their work experience higher productivity levels, loyalty and engagement. According to business writer William Craig of Forbes, “mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years or more at a company and 30% more likely to grow into high performers, as opposed to employees who arrive at work with their paycheck as their sole motivator.”
7. Professional Growth
In order to stay motivated and inspired in the workplace, employees should feel there are opportunities to continue to grow in their careers, not just from a promotion standpoint, but in terms of professional development. Having the ability to continue their education and to participate in industry events, conferences and world-class experiences go a long way in keeping employees motivated and competitive.
If a lack of budget is an issue, companies can establish partnerships with industry conferences. Managers can encourage their employees to volunteer for events in exchange for conference attendance.
Finally, staff should be able to feel that they work in a workplace culture that supports one another and doesn’t point fingers or place blame. A teamwork environment is one that fosters friendship and loyalty. These close-knit relationships motivate employees and encourage them to work harder, cooperating and supporting one another.
The importance of teamwork is essential in today’s multidisciplinary world. In today’s knowledge economy, most of our jobs involve interacting with others who are not even in the same type of profession. The need for effective teamwork is critical for any business.
With these characteristics in place, companies can create a workplace culture that drives innovation, and cultivate human performance on a variety of levels that impact our communities and our world in positive ways. These are the companies that will have the highest employee retention rates in the future.
About the Author
Enid Naranjo is an adjunct instructor in the School of Business at American Public University. She has been teaching online classes in English and Spanish since 2009.
Enid’s academic credentials include a B.A. in history from the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras Campus and a J.D. in law from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. She is a multi-faceted business executive with over 15 years of experience. Enid has worked for several women-led enterprises, including Hispanic Radio Network and Colon Enterprises, Inc. She is an avid small business enthusiast and enjoys providing legal counsel to budding entrepreneurs.
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