The Top 10 Ways to Create a Better Workplace
‘The forest shapes the tree..’
- Old French Proverb
Having spent the past 20 years consulting with over 300 organisations ranging from Telstra to ANZ to TAFE to Mobitel Sri Lanka to Cash Converters to BankWest, Customs Department, Australian Defense Industries, several Local Governments and even a couple of wineries and Law Firms; I have come to the conclusion that if they all had implemented these 10 Ideas, we would have saved ourselves thousands of person hours and a lot of stress.
This e-book captures the essence of those 20 years of consulting, and it’s yours for FREE.
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The Top 10 Ways to Create a Better Workplace
There is an old French proverb that says ‘the forest shapes the tree..’
The forest shapes the tree. The environment shapes the person. The family shapes the child. The workplace shapes the performance.
The founder of the Total Quality Management movement, Edwards Deming tried to get this message through his whole life. ‘Drive Out Fear’ was one of his key Quality Management Principles.
Creating a culture that fosters innovation, quality, teamwork, continuous improvement is the key to the success of any of the Fortune Most Admired Companies or the Fastest Growing or the 100 Best Companies to Work For and you will find that the environment they create for their employees is the single most important factor in determining their success.
From its database of case studies, The Empower Group of London estimates that when 30% of employees become more satisfied with their jobs, about 25% of customers become more satisfied become more satisfied with the services offered. Empowers research also suggests that when 30% of employees become more satisfied with their jobs, profit rises by up to 15%; and when 30% of sales people feel less stressed at work, revenue increases by up to 20%.
Will a 100% return interest you??
In taking a sample from the 100 Best Companies to work for, look at what Ann Harrington of Fortune magazine writes and see for yourself where the keys lie..
“Edward Jones of St. Louis is No. 1 for the second straight year (2002 and 2003, 4th in 2004). This stockbroker spends 3.8% of its payroll on training, with an average of 146 hours for every employee. New brokers at the 7,781 branches get more than four times that much. Why does Jones invest so much in its people? "In order to grow, you have to be trained," says managing partner John Bachmann, "or you get trapped in the present." While Wall Street firms are contracting, this Main Street firm is still hiring. The company is owned by employees (25% of them have partnership stakes), and perhaps that's why they care enough to have serious profit sharing and no layoffs. Says one administrative assistant: "I have never experienced working for a company that has so many satisfied employees."
Or, for another insight, take a look at the code of conduct of the 2004 Best Company to work for, J.M. Smucker & Co. of Orrville Ohio, “Listen with your full attention, look for the good in others, have a sense of humor, and say thank you for a job well done.”
Oh and by the way the company's stock has had a total return of 100% over the past five years.
That’s anther thing, great places to work for also perform way better than those that aren’t that interested in the work environment.
Take a look at the table below – the results of the Hewitt Best Employers Survey in Australia.
As you can see, Revenue Growth is pretty much double that of the others and profit growth is triple.
Hewitt’s global research found Five Characteristics of Best Employers:
1. Inspired Leadership
2. Unique Company Culture
3. Focus on Growing Talent
4. Strong Sense of Accountability
5. Aligned HR Practices and Excellent Execution
In a series of research projects conducted by the Best Place to Work Institute in the USA concluded ‘Money invested in the Fortune magazine “100 Best Places to Work List” portfolio would have outperformed the S&P 500 by a ratio of almost five-to-one.
Studies in Britain and Brazil have shown similar results.
If you needed any other reasons to convince yourself as to why put energy into managing and shaping your workplace environment please go see your doctor now… (only joking… read the rest of this report first… then if you still need reasons… go see your doctor..)
1. ‘It’s the Environment that Shapes Performance’
Whether you are talking Southwest Airlines, Virgin Blue airlines, Cisco Systems, Starbucks or Flight Centers in Australia, the ‘feeling’, the spirit, the esprit de corp, the culture is the key.
As Herb Kelleher, founder and Chairman of Southwest Airlines (the only airline to be profitable in the US every year for the past 30 years) says:
‘What keeps me awake at night are the intangibles. You can get airplanes, you can get ticket counter space, you can get tugs, you can get baggage conveyors. But the spirit of Southwest is the most difficult thing to emulate. So my biggest concern is that somehow, through inattention, through misunderstanding, we lose the esprit de corps, the culture, the spirit. if we ever lose that, we will have lost our most valuable competitive asset.’
Taking another note from Smuckers
“Plant supervisors have been known to serve celebratory barbecues after hitting new records; managers routinely thank teams with lunches and gift certificates. There's also the annual commemorative Christmas plate, holiday turkeys, screenings of films in which Smucker's has a tie-in, like The Cat in the Hat.... Tonie Williams, director of marketing for peanut butter, says she's been thanked more in her two years at Smucker than she was in her nine years at Nestlé, Kraft, and P&G combined.”
For this reason, it is critical to be perception mapping the Culture, the Engagement, the esprit de corps and the environmental factors that will shape your performance.
If it keeps the CEO of the worlds most successful airline awake at night, its probably something you and your CEO should be aware of as well.
2. Have Clear Goals That Inspire
What you are aiming for in the great workplace is Synchronised Energy – the term coined by the great Buckminster Fuller – Syn-ergy.
Synergy says the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – unpredictable by the sum of its parts. You want to discover just how great the sum of the parts can be.
Energy will only be synergised if it working in unison towards a common focus, a common goal, a common purpose.
Whether your common goal is to ‘win the premiership’ ‘have fun together’ ‘hit $10 million in sales’ ‘sell another $500 this hour in our surf shop’ ‘have a great holiday together’, ‘get married next April’ or ‘build the best company in the manufacturing industry ever..’, the common goal that inspires is the first step to a successful company.
Regularly checking just how much alignment, synergy and harmony you have in your organisation is critical.
Don’t just rely on coffee machine or bar talk to gather your intelligence. Take a scientific approach and measure the ‘energy alignment’ on a regular basis – at least once every six months.
3. Share all information
“If you keep them in the dark and feed them on BS.. you can only expect the thinking of mushrooms..”
If I want my children to understand money, I need to let them earn pocket money and teach them about money.
If I want my children to understand food, I need to give them the information so they can think for themselves instead of being led by the ads for junk food on the TV.
As the great Sam Walton, founder of Wal-mart, once said:
‘Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.’
Wal-Mart recently topped the worlds Fortune 500 companies with revenues of $263 Billion and profits of $9 billion. Wal-Mart have over 1.5 million employees yet rate in the Top 5 most desired places to work in America.
Sam’s philosophy of sharing as much information as possible has certainly been a key plank in their philosophical platform for success.
Jan Carlzon, the architect and leader of the famous Scandinavian Airlines turnaround wrote in his famous book, Moments of Truth,
‘‘An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.’
The Super Seven Messages to Communicate
We recommend the minimums you communicate regularly are these Seven Super Messages:
1. Our business model – how we make money
2. Our strategy – where we are now and where we want to go and how we plan on getting there
3. Our Top 4 goals for the next 6 to 12 months
4. Our results over the past 6 and 12 months
5. Our competitions results over the next 6 to 12 months
6. Our Key Performance Indicator results
7. Celebrations of our success
If these 7 Super Messages don’t excite your staff and management, you have a problem.
Smart management teams regularly map to see just how interested, engaged, literate and committed people are to these 7 areas.
Smart management makes sure their staff is also smart about the business.
4. Make Everyone Business Literate
Business Literacy means two things:
1. Understanding the language of business – cash flow, gross profit, net profit, return on assets, return on equity and other key performance indicators that the market are interested in.
2. Understanding THIS business/your Business – how to navigate your way around this business to get things done – know the ‘who’s who’, the key processes, how to innovate, how to get support for new ideas, how to get recognition and support for your team mates and colleagues.
If you can’t read a book you’re at a disadvantage in the everyday world.
If you can’t read a financial report you’re at a disadvantage in the business world.
If the only people in your organisation who can read a financial report are your Board members, you’ve got a problem.
If your cleaner, secretary, front line supervisor and everyone else can read a financial report, now you’ve got everyone’s brain focused on making and saving money, not just your board members.
What’s the Cost of Your Seat?
At Flight Centres, the business literacy culture has been developed to one of many entrepreneurs who ‘own’ their seats, and share in the profit of that seat with the company.
The Cost of Seat is an actual calculation of how much it costs to have a staff member working in a particular shop, including rent, salary, support costs and marketing. Each team member knows their cost of seat, and can do their part in reducing these costs.
You might want to map just how literate your organisation is. Don’t assume they have the literacy you think they have.
5. Map Perceptions Regularly
Boy, do Morgan Stanley and Boeing wish they had have followed this advice.
Both companies have paid out over $70 million in compensation and legal costs due to employees feeling bullied, intimidated, unfairly passed over for promotion, sexually harassed and more.
How could the situation escalate to such a situation where it ends up in court, on world television and media?
They obviously didn’t know just how serious or upset people were in their organisations.
As part of the Morgan Stanley judgment, they now are legally obliged to regularly have their staff perceptions measured by an external organisation.
If risk management is part of your corporate philosophy, you might want to take an ounce of prevention rather than wait for a pound of cure.
Mapping for perceptions on the following issues will not only prevent legal problems, it will uncover key opportunities and ideas for business improvement and improvements in staff and customer satisfaction.
A low cost, rapid turnaround system to map issues such as :
• Performance Management
• Business literacy
• Customer service
• Work environment
• Health and safety
Will literally save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and uncover ideas to generate the same again in productivity and performance improvements.
The Empower Group of London’s research has shown Staff morale is linked to five key issues:
• Quality of leadership
• The degree to which people are involved in decisions that affects them
• Fairness and equity in the workplace
• The opportunities available for learning
• The extent to which peoples work gives them a sense of accomplishment
It become clear that regularly mapping for these issues alone in the culture will provide great insights into where your opportunities lie for business performance improvement.
6. Get Rid Of Status Symbols
A Managing Director of a company we know was only too happy to get up in front of the annual company conference and talk about the importance of teamwork and sharing and openness to his staff, it was truly inspirational.
The only problem was two days later when we were walking from the company car park to the front door and walked past 2-parked BMW’s right at the front door.
Who was parking their cars within a matter of meters from the door while the rest of the organisation walked the hundred meters from the car park?
The MD and his right hand man, the Chief Financial Officer, that’s who..
The words of the MD’s speech rang in my ears as I walked past his shiny new car; how hollow his words, how hollow his intentions.
It seemed I was the only one that was inspired by his speech two days before.
The rest of the staff already knew that he was full of BS..
If you’re serious about teamwork, you will get rid of status symbols that say ‘I’m more important than you’ ‘I have more power than you’ ‘do as I say but not as I do’.
Save your perks for your personal life but not your work life.
Keep your ego in check by regularly, systematically and objectively checking with your staff.
As Mel Brooks says in ‘Robin Hood, Men in Tights’
“It’s good to be King…”
Sure, that may be true, but the moment you start to live out the life of the King, the moment you lose real teamwork and synergy in your organisation.
One of the keys to Australia’s Flight Centre business is the core value of “egalitarianism”.
As Darryl Blake writes in Skroo the Rules, ‘in our company there are no privileges unless everyone has them (for example, everyone pays personally for upgrades from economy. Senior people travel in the same class as their people if traveling in a group. Everyone pays for their own work car park..)’
Egalitarianism is a key to removing the divisive wedge between the ‘them and us’ syndrome that often plagues organisations of all sizes.
Unhealthy egos are the toxins of any good team, in sport or business.
Keep yourself in check. Check to make sure equality is a living value in your organisation.
7. Foster Innovation
Innovation is not just coming up with the idea; innovation is putting the idea into action.
Whether you’re talking the innovation of new products, new services, new strategy, new opportunity or the re-design of old processes, systems and structures; innovation is the key to moving forward.
As management guru Peter Drucker said ‘business has only two functions; marketing and innovation.’
Your goal is to not only find out what your customer wants, then give it to them at a better price or value than the competition, but to ensure you keep innovating that product or service to make sure your competition don’t get the jump on you.
As Bill Gates of Microsoft said, ‘in 18 months time (or even less) I know our products will be obsolete. I would rather we make our products obsolete than the competition make our products obsolete’.
You need a system to foster ideas, capture them and harness them into money making or money saving initiatives.
3M have been masters at developing an Innovation System. Their results speak for themselves.
‘3M generates more than 33% of its sales revenue from products that did not exist four years ago – a ratio it has sustained for almost 50 years.’
You cannot sustain that level of innovation without a system, structure and culture incredibly dedicated and focused on Innovation.
3M are constantly diagnosing, mapping, measuring, training, rewarding and nurturing the flow of innovation at every level of their organisation. You can too.
We recommend you use The Flow of Innovation Model to map and diagnose just how well your Innovation environment, systems and structures and ongoing benchmarking and sharing of best practice system is operating.
Do an Innovation Map to find out just how supportive your team leaders, supervisors and senior managers are of ideas that come from the front line.
Map your recruiting, training, management, sales, marketing, financial management, product development, client management and innovation Best Practices (just to name a few) so they can be shared throughout the organisation.
Map how much information is shared between departments, regions, territories and countries.
Sharing of Best Practices added $200 million to Xerox’s bottom line in Europe and $1.2 Billion in benefits to Ford.
It certainly is worth mapping to find out where the ideas lay and how they can be harnessed in your company.
8. Have Fun – Often
If you are a stodgy, hierarchical, steeped in tradition type organisation, the word ‘fun’ may not be used too often to describe your workplace.
If you are a younger, more innovative, creative company, ‘fun’ may well be part of the language.
As crazy as this sounds, the first stage to fun at work is to make it OK to talk about fun at work.
Is fun part of the language?
If its not part of the language it certainly wont be part of the culture.
The ‘Fun at work’ mindset is critical to creating a fun at work culture.
Build fun into things like:
• Product launches
• Achieving target celebrations
• Daily meetings and briefing sessions
• Morning teas
• Training sessions
• Recognition and reward events
The fun factor should not just be driven by management, it should come from the employees and the teams themselves.
There are some useful guidelines on what makes healthy fun versus not so healthy fun (see http://www.employer-employee.com/april2002tips.html)
Richard Branson in a recent Fortune magazine article gave a real insight into his fun at work mindset (as he sat on his Necker Island in the Bahamas surrounded by a pile of faxes and in his swimming trunks after a few sets of tennis) when he said to Betsy Morris the journalist 'I don't think of work as work and play as play. It's all living.'
This is a fantastic insight into Branson’s attitude towards play, fun and work. It’s an attitude he has nurtured, reinforced and maintained across all 224 Virgin Group companies.
The more you allow humour and fun to be part of the culture, the more you open up communications and honesty.
As Jack Welch (former head of GE and awarded Fortune Magazine Manager of the Century ahead of Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and hundreds of others) ‘Informality gives you speed. It takes the crap out of the business equation, the pontificating..Today we’re having open dialogue with self confident people, real exchanges with real people..’
Herb Kelleher has ensured humour is part of every process at Southwest Airlines.
‘We will say to someone, tell us how humour helped you get around one of the more difficult situations in your life…
We don’t interview you in suits; put on some Southwest Airlines shorts.’
Regularly checking just how stuffy, formal or ‘emotionally constipated’ your organisation is becoming with a Perception Map is a useful, low cost strategy to ensure the doors of communication, idea generation and innovation are wide open and well lubricated.
9. Share the Rewards
‘ I get a sheet every week of stock optionees who've cashed options. This year we will see $1.6 billion in employee gains in stock options; $1.2 billion of that will be below any senior-management level. Some 40% of our optionees make $70,000 or less.’
If they got a thousand shares each of the past five years, they would today have a gain of $800,000. In five years they've gotten about 12 times their annual salary. That’s a kick.’
Jack Welch – GE
Old Chinese Proverb: ‘Do not forget to give the wing to the person who gave you the whole chicken.’
This is a topic that has been well researched in the literature, suffice is it to say that if people have a share in what they produce, they will be more committed to producing it better, faster, cheaper than the competition.
In Government organisations this is in most cases impossible but in private organisations the main barrier to sharing profits and/or equity are the paradigms of the owners.
A great system at Southwest Airlines is that profit share bonuses are converted into shares that can only be exercised upon retirement from the company.
In this way, as the stock goes up and share splits etc occur, the wealth of the employee also increases.
At Flight Centres people can buy into the store they work in as well as buy shares in the company based on their profit share performance. Ten percent of profit from each store is shared to team leaders as well as option plans, partial ‘shop ownership’ schemes and encouraging share ownership are just some of the ways Flight Centre encourages everyone to have a tangible stake in the business.
Owning Your Seat
As Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, Founder and CEO of Flight Centres says: ‘nothing could be more powerful than an organisation – whether it be of a thousand or 20,000 – where each one of those 20,000 genuinely believed they owned the seat they were sitting at.’ He adds: ‘Or, with a business made up of a thousand teams of small businesses – like say a shop team – if the leader of that team felt genuine ownership of that business, imagine what a competitor would have to do to knock you off. They would have to be awfully good to attack 20,000 people who vehemently believed that they had ownership in the business.’
There are many models to base your reward-sharing program on; the key is to make it based on total team performance not just individual performance.
You want to reward team success, not just individual success.
Regular mapping to see if staff are happy with the existing reward and recognition system is a vital clue to building a best workplace.
10. Everyone a Leader
‘The speed of the group is determined by the speed of the leader’ is one management maxim.
Another (that sits on the desk of Ted Turner of CNN and TBN and many other leaders) is ‘Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.’
Your goal is to encourage everyone in the organisation to lead in such a way as to empower and liberate, not control and suffocate.
As Daniel Goleman writes in Emotional Intelligence: ‘Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.’
Goleman goes on to talk of understanding your own and others deep emotional needs for feeling appreciated, rewarded, acknowledged for what we do. He talks of ‘Managing with Heart’ an idea already well established at places like Flight Centres, Body Shop or Virgin Blue.
As Brett Godfrey, CEO of Virgin Blue writes in Voyeur
‘The key to our success has always been twofold – the strength and commitment of our wonderful staff and the response to our quality low-fare airline from enthusiastic Guests.’
Which only goes to show that you can model other great leaders and do very well in business when you look at what Herb Kelleher wrote in the gift copy every employee at Southwest received on the 25th Anniversary of Southwest’s founding:
‘Do spirit, energy, willingness, good humour, caring, and an unbounded desire to serve others make a difference? Indeed, these intangible qualities, plus low operating costs per seat mile, make the only difference worth making. Combined with the magical elixir of our People, these qualities have engendered one of the worlds foremost airlines and one of the worlds most humane and joyous business organisations.’
Your goal is to develop Inspirational, Innovative, Business Literate Leadership at every level of the organisation to optimize the potential of your business model.
A great business model without enthused, inspired staff is a Ferrari without the engine.
The degree to which you can recruit, induct, train, manage and motivate leadership at every level will determine your financial performance and success.
Leaders of Best Workplaces focus on the ‘whole’ person. They want to make work an emotional, inspirational place, not just a place to collect a pay cheque.
Regular scanning for staff perceptions of leadership at every level and in every function of the organisation is critical to ensuring to keep moving forward.
Flight Centre leadership ‘aims for an atmosphere of family/team support where people can safely grow into their jobs and at the same time grow their self worth. Their vision of themselves and what they are capable of continues to expand, and they become ever more confident, successful and productive.’
What better goal can you have for your leadership team?
So there you have it..
So there you have it, 10 Ways to Create a Better Workplace.
No matter whether you look at the Fastest Growing Companies in Australia or the USA, the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, the BOSS Best Employers list or some other research data, the message is always the same – focus on developing better workplaces and people will work better in them. When you build better workplaces, you get superior business results and you get superior business returns.
Building better workplaces pays off big time – by a factor of around 3 to 1 – i.e.: better workplaces outperform ‘also rans’ by around 300%.
How much clearer can it be?
Your first step is right here..
Your first step to building a better workplace is to scan for where your workplace is at right now.
Wouldn’t it be worth outlaying as little as $2500 to accurately scan what you can do to get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ – to get maximum leverage and impact – to improve the quality of the workplace and in turn productivity and performance?
Our experience at Perception mapping shows time and again, when you engage staff in a Perception Mapping exercise, you don’t just get incredibly valuable intelligence and data back, you immediately engage the hearts and minds of the employees to innovate and move the company forward.
Perception Maps will give you accurate, timely, powerful insights into your business that you would have only guessed about before.
Perception Maps are done in half the time at half the cost of previous ‘staff surveying’ methodologies.
Contact us now for a no obligation free meeting to discuss how for very minimal outlay, you can get massive tangible and intangible rewards.
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Fortune – employers to work for
BOSS – Best employers in Australia
Fun at Work
Rules for Fun at Work
Blake, Daryl: Skroo the Rules: What The Worlds Most Productive Workplace Does Differently. Information Australia. 2001.
Frieberg, Kevin and Jackie: Nuts! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. Bard Press. Austin. Texas