With national unemployment at a 17-year low, businesses are working overtime to recruit, engage, and retain talent. We have all seen articles that provide tips, tricks, or “hacks,” that could make your workplace a “Best Place to Work,” but what really makes a company deserve these honors?
Think for a moment about what would make you feel most excited to get to work in the morning. We recently had the opportunity to sponsor the annual Memphis Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” event, and found that past nominees and winners all have three common focuses that make their companies truly “Best Places to Work.” The intense focus on and intentional development of their culture, personalized employee recognition, and quality of the physical workspace create the pillars of attracting talent, engaging employees, and maximizing workplace efficiency.
Dynamic Company Culture
To build a dynamic company culture, employers must first understand what their culture is by answering the following questions:
• Why does our company do what it does (i.e. Mission Statement, History)?
• What do we believe (i.e. Values)?
• Where do we want to go with the company (i.e. Vision)?
These three questions are what will mold your company’s culture moving forward. Aside from the numerous benefits options and perks you can implement for employees and prospects to be attracted to your organization, our research on the “Best Places to Work” recipients saw these trends in their culture alignment:
Enhanced Employee Training
Competitive companies use training for both succession planning and employee retention. Almost 90 percent of Millennials say professional development and career growth is important to them.
If an employee sees that their company is not investing in them through training and education, then they’re going to leave for a company that will. Training proves to employees that they are valued and shows them that management supports their future advancement. In addition, if you don’t invest in employee training, any internal promotions to management will be grossly unprepared.
Additionally, employers noted the desire for cross-training opportunities and the option to develop into roles that are not necessary currently in existence. By customizing training that enhances the unique skill sets of individual employees, employers have been able to improve retention rates and spend less on hiring over time.
Focus on the Employee Experience
More companies than ever are taking an “Employee First,” approach and shifting from the “Customer First,” mentality of yore. If employees are unhappy or under stimulated, then they are going to do the bare minimum in their jobs. However, when employees feel respected and cared for in a healthy work environment, they want to go above and beyond to create a positive customer experience.
Focusing on the employee experience will also help with retention, leadership training, and recruitment. If your employees aren’t appreciated or treated well, they won’t hesitate to walk out the door — and tell all of their friends that your company should be avoided.
At times, you may feel the need to shower your rockstar team with unique staff appreciation perks — free food, beautiful office space, company trips, gym memberships, competitive bonus plans, and more. But, the evidence shows that effective team communication – not pricey perks – is the best way to keep your top employees engaged. Keeping employees looped into both long-term “bigger picture,” goals of the company, as well as short-term plans and goals are easy way to keep everyone on the same page.
Collecting regular employee feedback goes a long way towards strengthening your company culture. And conducting surveys regularly is win-win: you’re both empowering employees to make their voices heard and informing your plan of action for aligning your culture with your business goals.
Pulse surveys allow employers to uncover trends in employee morale, get feedback on a new initiative, follow up on a survey with action delivered variables, check in on the progress of company-wide initiatives, and ask targeted questions. That being said, once you’ve asked, you must also close the feedback loop by letting employees know what the results of the survey were. If employees are constantly being asked for input, but then never informed on what their opinion helped to influence or change, it can actually be counter-productive and even damaging to culture and morale.
Physical Workspace Design
Employees who enjoy and like the environments they are a part of will be more engaged, productive, happy, and healthy. There are numerous reports and studies such as Gensler's Workplace Index, The Leesman Index, Steelcase, and others that explore the relationship between the physical space and business performance metrics, productivity, and what employees’ value. So, what should organizations be doing and thinking about?
Conversation Leads to Collaboration Leads to Innovation
One of the most effective ways to get people talking and, eventually, innovating, is to remove the physical barriers that keep them separated. It seems silly to think that members of different departments won’t talk to each just because they can’t see each other, but this is what happens in most traditional workplaces. It leads to “information silos” where, for example, sales and marketing may actually be working close to each other but have no idea what the other is doing.
Once you facilitate communication by updating the work environment, you’ll start to see those teams talking, sharing ideas, and coming up with new, better, more innovative solutions to problems.
Keep Underlying Goals in Mind
If you’re nervous about changing your work environment and culture so radically, talk to each department and find out what their biggest goals and challenges are. Marketing may want to start making better videos for social media campaigns. IT might be tired of keeping track of dozens of different models of computers, laptops and phones because each department uses something different.
What if Marketing had a designated space for recording video—soundproofed, well-lit, with storage for any props or equipment they may use? What if, because everyone had shared workstations instead of assigned offices and cubicles, IT was able to streamline and standardize the equipment issued?
As you make the changes to your work environment, keep these goals in mind and do what’s needed to support each department. This also shows your commitment to supporting your employees and improving their everyday experience at work.