The Importance of a Positive Workplace
Since 2007 the Los Angeles Business Journal, in conjunction with the Best Companies Group, has been publishing an annual report on the ‘Best Places to Work in Los Angeles.’ This report, the result of researching and surveying businesses – including the employees – all across the county, is a shout out to those area companies that have shown great success in both business and employee satisfaction.
“Each company (on the list) has its own special methods of elevating morale and team spirit to new heights,” reads this review of this year’s winners. “But one thing that is common among all of them is a commitment to the concept that employees’ well-being directly impacts a company’s well-being.”
Elevating morale and team spirit to new heights. A commitment to employees’ well-being.
Sounds like the sort of billion-dollar rah-rah stuff that comes out of the country club office complexes of Google and Facebook and Apple.
But look at the list of winners. Alongside a smattering of tech companies you’ll find accounting agencies and consulting services; manufacturing and construction firms; telecommunications, advertising and environmental services. You’ll even find a moving company.
NorthStar Moving ranked this year as the 24th Best Place To Work among mid-size Los Angeles companies. How? As explained in the winners’ review, “NorthStar has regular company parties, birthday celebrations, potlucks and other events with family and friends included. Also…management positions are almost always made up of employees that have been promoted from within the organization.”
“Our goal is to create a place where people love to come to work every day,” says NorthStar Moving Co-Founder and CEO Abraham ‘Ram’ Katalan. “It’s just simple: happy team members mean we can provide stellar service and the end result is happy clients.”
Happy clients. Of course. Isn’t that what we are all shooting for? But how do we get there? By having parties and promoting from within? There has to be more to it!
There is. To find out, let’s head across the Atlantic Ocean.
British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has built his Virgin brand into a global force on the idea of customer service. But Branson admits that he does not put his customers first. Instead, he tells Inc. magazine, that “Virgin employees are the company’s top priority.”
“If the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy,” Branson explains, adding that by not treating employees well, companies risk losing customers over bad service. To this end, he has made sure that Virgin puts employees first – and customers second.
Treated well. Proud of the brand. The tools to do a good job.
In other words – be nice to your crew, give them some training and a few nice t-shirts?
Well, yes and no. These are all important (yes, even the t-shirts) but they are just by-products of the work environment each of us creates – an environment we’ll call…
The Workplace Culture
Western Australia’s Department of Training and Workforce Development (yes we are going global here!) explains the idea of workplace culture as
“the assumptions shared by the workforce about what behaviors can be ‘expected’ in the workplace and ‘accepted’ by the rest of the team – by both management and co-workers.”
In other words, some organizations are run loosely while others are managed with an iron fist.
The DTWD goes on to say that “beliefs about expected and accepted behaviors will be reinforced by
- what other people tell them has happened previously (the stories);
- the way people communicate with each other, both verbally and non-verbally (the languages); and
- what they see about ‘how it’s done around here’ (the symbols and rituals).
So while putting posters of cool pictures with inspirational quotes on the office walls may look good, the way employees act – based on how management acts – is the real determining factor in the creation of a positive – or negative – workplace culture.
Creating a Positive Workplace Culture
You learn a lot about yourself when you are put in a management position. You realize your strengths. You discover your weaknesses. You find out what works and what doesn’t. The process can be slow and painful. Everyone in management goes through it. Fortunately there are those who are willing to share what they’ve learned with the rest of us.
The same main tenets of creating workplace positivity rise up time and again. The five strategies outlined in this Houston Chronicle Small Business article ‘How to Create a Positive Workplace Culture’ are among them.
#1 Create a clear vision statement for your company.
This is not just a sentence explaining what you do, but why you do it. It tells the world how your company fits into the betterment of society. ‘We move people’ is not a vision statement. ‘We help bring people to a better place’ gives the community an idea of who you are – and in turn gives your employees a sense that their work matters.
#2 Look for positive attitudes while hiring.
You can teach someone how to move a piano. It’s much harder to teach someone how to have a good attitude. Richard Moross, founder of the small but extremely successful printing company Moo, explains hiring attitude before skills in plain terms: “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an a**hole in your team.”
#3 Make an open-door policy.
Allow employees to approach you with their comments and concerns. After all, they are the ones out on the job every day. Listen, ask questions and respond positively – even if you disagree. Hongkiat goes further in stating that “a transparent and open form of communication addresses the employee’s need to feel that what they have to say has value. It is what makes employees feel that they belong in the organization. Work then becomes meaningful because the employees know that what they contribute affects the organization that they are affiliated with.”
#4 Engage your employees in daily operations of the company.
Tell them about changes that are happening – especially the good stuff that is going on. This helps them feel more connected to what’s going on beyond the box truck. Eremedia says that “many organizations put tons of effort into promoting the good news about their company to the outside world…but they neglect their internal customers — their workers.”
** Remember to include your employees in celebrating the good stuff. They helped make it happen.
#5 Let your employees know they are appreciated.
Your people can go get a paycheck anywhere. It can be harder to get a feeling of being important, valued and wanted. Giving them this goes a long way in creating positive, happy and loyal employees. Note that this isn’t just a feel-good moment you toss someone now and then. Recognizing someone for their good work is a form of positive reinforcement, widely used in organizational management strategy, to promote similar behavior in the future. Check out #4 in ‘5 Characteristics of a Positive Work Environment’:
When hard work is appropriately rewarded and duly recognized by the management, employees will naturally feel valued by the organization for what they put in. Such mentality is healthy for the organization because employees will be willing to go the extra mile without worrying about not getting anything in return.
More Good Stuff
Inc. tells us in ‘6 Ways to Develop a More Positive Work Culture in 2015’. This means a whole lot more than believing the guys won’t take the truck on a joyride. “When it comes to establishing positive relationships with your coworkers, the most important thing is to get to know them first as individuals,” we are told. “No one likes to be treated ‘instrumentally’–as someone whose only value is in what they can do for you. Instead, ask and learn about their hobbies, families, and backgrounds.”
Give employees a chance to contribute outside of the everyday grind.
“Every charity drive, company picnic, sports team and holiday party is a chance to step up and demonstrate leadership in a way that benefits the whole company,” Friedman LLP managing partner Bruce Madnick says. “We often find leaders through internal events and charity drives. Often, these are great people who just haven’t yet had the opportunity to lead client engagement, and we learn a lot about them by what they contribute.”
Enter your workplace through the back door,
says talent and workforce management researcher Eric Chester. “Take steps to remove the drab and dreary signs, colors, and broken items that have a way of infesting back areas of workplaces. Managers often allow this to happen because employees are the only ones exposed to it.” Go a step further and compare the employee restroom with the one you offer your customers. See a difference? Your employees do.
The steps we take in creating the sort of positive workplace we want, then, has nothing to do with a paycheck and a pep talk. “(Employees) don’t need Zippo the Clown to give them a quick attitude fix,” Chester says. “They need a leader who is determined to pull them up into the Valued Quadrant and do whatever it takes to keep them there.”
The Valued Quadrant.
We like that.
We live it too. Here at HireAHelper we make it a point to keep the positive vibe flowing while we work to make sure you guys have all the support you need to keep moving. This includes what we like to call ‘Anything Can Happen Thursday’ (yes we were inspired by Big Bang Theory). Once a week the entire office goes out to lunch, and everyone jokes around together about life, work and family regardless of position or department. You’ll find one of our co-founders hanging out with a couple of customer service reps. The marketing director trading stories with the guys from accounting. For everyone, this is more than just lunch. It’s an ongoing exercise in building strength in our team. Because everyone matters. No position or department is better or more important than any other. Every person at HAH is just that – a person. We know that, and we want to make sure everyone else knows it too.
We think they do, because HireAHelper was recently ranked 19th on San Diego Business Journal’s 2015 Best Places To Work – based on feedback from our very own Valued Quadrant.
We really like that!
Some Final Thoughts
Establishing that positive workplace culture is not so much what you want your people to do as it is what you want your organization to be. So when you sit down to figure out your company’s vision, suggests Roberta Matuson, “decide what kind of organization you want to have. Think about what you want people (including your employees!) to say about your company when they leave and then work backwards.”
When you are looking for ways to improve how you do business, take this bit of advice from the folks over at Hongkiat: “Don’t ask yourself ‘Will this make us more money?’ Try transforming it to ‘Will this make people happy?’”
For a whole e-book’s worth of ideas on creating a more positive workplace culture, check out this free offering by Baudville.com. While you’re at it, peruse Baudville’s website for a whole slew of workplace culture gold.
And for those days when nothing else is working, bribe your employees.
We know that our movers are top-notch. We see it in all those 5-Star reviews that keep coming in. So tell us, ladies and gents – what have you done that has helped raise your own workplace positivity? We’d all love to know!