“Talented people are attracted to those who care about them.” – Adam M. Grant
In the last decade, companies have woken up to the significance of their ratings as places to work at.
Such ratings are a result of good workplace culture that attracts bright talent, the search for which has turned into a sort of arms race.
Many companies install foosball tables and set up recreation rooms and swanky cafeterias in hopes of getting better ratings. But Instagrammable workplaces and perks can only do so much for a good workplace culture. After one point, employees start seeing these “benefits” as superficial.
A highly rated workplace does more. It provides its people with an opportunity to do good work.
What Does “Good Work” Mean?
Work forms an integral part of our lives (and identities) today. This is why people value good work more than external benefits.
People want to do work that feels intrinsically rewarding. They value fair pay, a tolerable level of change, autonomy and control over their roles, and a chance for fulfillment. (To the extent that they’re ready to sacrifice income for greater control and more meaning.)
Workplaces that deliver a “good work” experience inspire people to give customers their best, to innovate, and to take initiatives that help companies increase business and stay competitive.
Investing in people is not just the “right thing to do.” This social impact also has a means to tangible ends. Howard Schultz proposed health benefits and equity for Starbucks’ first 100 employees to his investors because it would “lower attrition, raise performance, but most importantly create the kind of company in which people feel part of something larger.”
Other companies like Toyota, Southwest Airlines, and Big Basket also come to mind. Rather than seeing technology and processes as ends in themselves, these companies leverage them to empower their people to function as “intrapreneurs.” The result? Each company has turned into a trendsetter in its respective segment.
So how can you create a good workplace culture where people can do good work and show up wanting to be their best selves every day?
How Good Leaders Improve the Nature of Work
A PwC survey of more than 1200 business and HR leaders in 10 industries across 79 countries identified 45 organizational capabilities – the ability and capacity to perform specific tasks that benefit an organization – as important in today’s workplaces.
Out of those 45, the five most vital capabilities were all related to improving the nature of work. They are:
1. Building Trust
Businesses move at the speed of trust. This trust is not just between customers and companies, but also between among employees within a company.
Get to know your people and let them know you at a personal level. Be transparent about the company’s current health and future goals. Communicate the reasons for tough decisions.
In the short term, this appears counterproductive. You might feel like you’re slowing down because people have more access to you, and that you’re making your position vulnerable. But in the long-term, this trust will pay rich dividends through improved communication, teamwork and performance.
2. Valuing Human Skills
People are a mixed bag of emotions. They crave feeling valued and appreciated for their skills and achievements. Their expectations are no different at the workplace.
Encourage people closest to situations to take decisions and learn from their experiences. Invest credit in people and appreciate their contributions towards outcomes (successful and failed alike).
When people don’t feel like mere cogs in a machine, they invest their effort in your company’s success. This improves retention (especially of bright talent) and creates a meaningful culture at the workplace.
3. Supporting Mental and Physical Well-Being
Surveys highlight that nearly half the employees in India suffer from some kind of stress, and the proportion of workers at high risk of suicide due to unmanaged stress increased to 8% in 2018 from 2-4% in 2016.
It’s important to create systems to encourage people to improve their physical health (gamifying it is an example). Be open to talk to your people about issues like anxiety and depression. Help them identify reasons and red flags for the same in their lives. Dedicated mental health initiatives like workshops, trainings, and formal policies are also potent ways to show that you walk the talk.
Caring for your people’s well-being is not socialism, but a means to impact your business tangibly through reduced absenteeism, improved turnover, and increased productivity.
4. Managing Workloads
Overload of work is a major cause of stress in people. When people struggle to handle their workload, they become vulnerable to depression and anxiety. According to the WHO, this costs the global economy up to US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Help your people manage their workload. Encourage recovery time to boost vitality. This can be in form of proper staffing schedules, allowing short breaks and engaging in learning and development initiatives. Flexibility at the workplace also lets people enjoy a healthy work-life balance.
Long working hours are no longer are proxies for organizational success. Rather than letting people fall into the activity trap, enable them to engage with their work in sustainable manners.
5. Having Workspaces That Encourage Collaboration and Creativity
Intrapreurship – letting employee be entrepreneurial within a company – is a trait all competitive companies possess.
Encourage people to develop commercially viable ideas for your company. Encourage people across departments to work in agile ways to achieve S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Post-It Notes, Google Adsense, camouflaged solar panels, are all results of intraprenuership. Companies that don’t encourage intrapreurship lose their employees’ innovative ideas either to competition or to startups.
Your company’s culture is not what you write about. It’s what your people do every day and the stories they tell others about you.
Everyone wants to succeed at work. They simply need the tools to do so. Providing them with such tools is one of your most critical jobs as a leader.
Good work is not just about building rockets or making a dent in the universe. It’s about engaging people and harnessing their potential to do things that make them improve and impact your company in the process.
Companies that succeed at can scale their impact and business. Those that fail lose their most valuable asset – their people.