Making Your Workplace Great(er)

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers – Stephen Covey

In Reader’ Digest a story is told of a factory worker who refused to sign up for group insurance. The problem was no policy could be issued until all employees signed up. Yet he held out stubbornly. The foreman begged him to sign; the shop foreman pleaded with him; the plant superintendent and general manager begged him to sign. Still he said no.

Finally, the owner of the factory took him aside and said, “Listen, if you don’t sign up, I’ll fire you.” The worker grabbed the paper and signed immediately. “Now,” asked the owner, “why didn’t you sign this thing before?” The man replied, “Because no one explained it as clearly as you did.”

That humorous story reminds us not only of the importance of good communication, but of the importance of a positive workplace environment. Recently in Washington, D.C., the 2012 Gallup Great Workplace Awards were presented. The annual awards recognize the top distinguished organizations based on the most rigorous workplace research ever conducted.

The award honors organizations whose employee engagements demonstrate they have the most productive and engaged workforces in the world. According to the story, the Gallup Great Workplace Winners span the globe and represent all facets of business from healthcare to hospitality, retail and manufacturing, banks and insurance.

From the list of the top 27 companies, here is the Top 10: ABC Supply Co., Inc., Adventist Health System, Alegent Health, Atlanta Hotels International, Bon Secours Health System, Central Retails Corporation ltd., Charles Schwab, Compassion International, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, and Hawaii Pacific Health. It’s quite an impressive list.

Gallup’s Chief Scientist of workplace management and wellbeing James K. Harter said, “Worldwide, there are more than two actively disengaged employees for every engaged employee. The organizations we are honoring are ones that have worked hard to shatter and reverse what is typical and they average nine engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee.” What an eye-opening fact to be sure.

A Mercer survey last year of 30,000 workers worldwide found that between 28% and 56% of employees worldwide wanted to leave their jobs. In the U.S., 32% said they wanted to find new work. Conventional wisdom might suggest that given global economic concerns most employees would rather stick it out with a job rather than do without one. So how can employers bridge the gap between apparent or perceived dissatisfaction and foster a climate that makes their workplace a great place to succeed? Here are three ideas.

Engagement on all levels. As the Gallup awards indicated, the great workplaces are predominately filled with engaged employees. But what does that engagement look like? I believe it is characterized by strong morale, a collaborative work atmosphere, stellar communication, and respect for each individual’s talents and gifts.

Harter further noted, “Engaged employees are more productive, safer, more customer-centric, and more profitable. They are also 3-5 times more likely to be thriving in their overall lives, experience better days, and have fewer unhealthy days. In short, these winners are improving lives as they improve the overall performance of their companies.” That’s terrific.

Commitment to success. Organizations that thrive in today’s marketplace are characterized by those who have made it their mission to succeed. This takes shape when each individual in the organizational structure makes it their goal to deliver the highest quality possible. When this commitment is made on all levels then the sense of purpose and teamwork takes on a greater meaning.

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz said, “Once you learn how to work with people, you can accomplish anything. To do this, you must subvert your ego in the service of a higher cause. You must never forget that there is no “I” in the word team.” He’s right. Successful organizations are the product of success-minded people. Do you have the commitment of everyone on your team?

The extra -mile mentality. Engagement on all levels and a commitment to success are excellent starting places. But if there is not an “extra-mile” work ethic that captures the imagination of your team then you will be denied “great workplace” status. Going the extra mile may sound like a cliché but being average is not that appealing either.

What if everyone in your organization adapted an “extra-mile” philosophy? How would it change the culture and the success of your business? Wouldn’t you like to find out? As you embrace this mentality you position yourself for greatness.

Workplace greatness begins with you. Are you game?


© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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