Every organisation wants a positive, productive workplace where staff are happy in their jobs, but also adaptable and open to new ideas. But what are the tangible steps that can let organisations create this enabling culture?
Dysfunctional workplace cultures are painful for everyone. Given the social and economic pressures on everyone today, employers have a responsibility to support their teams and help ensure that the workplace doesn’t add to employee stress, but rather delivers a positive environment where individuals are able and willing to do their best.
This might all sound fuzzy, but it’s not: organisations who feel their workplace atmosphere needs improvement can take tangible steps to achieve that change. The objective of what I’ll outline below is to create an environment of openness, trust and respect for each other and the company.
1. Encourage communication among employees and management
Do employees feel out of the loop? Is management too divorced from operations to really understand what’s happening on the ground? It’s vital to set up structures – for example updates on company intranets, internal newsletters, feed-back & feed-forward surveys, that encourage individuals and teams to communicate, and keep reviewing these mechanisms to assess whether they’re working.
2. Agree together what the company core vision and values are
If the vision and values are collectively agreed, buy-in from everyone is much more likely than if management dictates these in a top-down manner. The objective must be to develop a vision and values that genuinely resonate with the majority of employees.
3. Does everyone understand the business strategy?
If you want people to walk in the same direction, they need to know the destination and how they’re going to get there. Clearly articulate how senior management plans to lead the company to success. People Management teams should ensure all employees understand the strategy and the valuable role they play — that includes understanding the roles of departments outside the employee’s own area, to help foster mutual respect. Keep linking employee activity back to the company strategy, and let people know how the company is progressing in its strategy.
4. Help employees see the full impact of their roles
Salespeople who achieve targets can often consider this revenue as a net contribution to a company, but may forget to account for their own cost to the business. Once this realisation is communicated and accepted, it is easier for an employee to understand the need to perform not just as expected but beyond expectations, to help the company achieve success. Understanding how individuals impact company financial performance also allows for quicker acceptance of change that employees may face as a result of turbulent external factors.
5. Employees are often the best source of insights for innovation
Companies rely on innovation to leave the ‘me-too’ approach behind and offer something different in the marketplace. Employees dealing with consumers at the coalface are often the best source of information on what’s working, and what’s missing in the market, providing key insights that can drive an innovation strategy. Employees may also have specific ideas for innovation; soliciting and acting on these suggestions can lead not only to real competitive advantage, but also to a virtuous circle where more employees are inspired to make suggestions.
It’s the customer, not the employees, who ultimately determine the success of organisations; but a positive internal culture is where everything starts. Customers are more likely to have a good perception and experience of organisations where the culture is positive and enabling.
And don’t forget, positivity has its own contagious quality. Even in entrenched workplaces where it seems a new atmosphere can’t be cultivated, it is surprising how quickly positivity, openness and respect can catch on, once the enabling infrastructure and genuine commitment to change are in place.
What steps has your organisation taken steps to create an enabling culture?