How To Improve Work Culture (And Avoid Staff Burnouts)

A company work culture is defined by its employees. Their values, their motivation, and their personal goals are essential to creating a positive and successful working environment.

Happy employees bring many benefits to businesses, including a 31% increase in productivity and a 37% increase in sales. However, 68% of employees feel their company isn’t doing enough to create a work culture in which employees have a sense of purpose and a meaningful impact. Are you one of those companies?

You don’t need to be a creative genius to improve work culture and end staff burnouts forever, but you do need to care about your company and your workforce. Here are four simple ways to do it.

Have a Vision

What does your company want to achieve? Have dreams, have aspirations, have a vision. Without an ultimate goal, no one will know what they are working toward and this will cause motivation levels to dwindle. Communicate your company vision to your employees and get them as enthusiastic about achieving it as you are. Having a vision doesn’t mean just telling staff to make something happen, it’s about putting their work into a broader perspective. Explain your strategy, create short-term targets for each worker, and work together to achieve long-term goals.

How do you make that vision come alive? Don’t forget about it, and don’t let your employees forget about it either. Coca-Cola commissioned a 6.5-meter-high art installation for its new London HQ celebrating the values and culture of its brand. The display is there to inspire employees and create a sense of pride in Coca-Cola’s 128-year heritage. But you don’t need to a multi-billion-dollar company to achieve this; SMEs can do it too. Exposure Ninja, a web design and marketing company, simply painted a client testimonial on the wall of its office to motivate employees and boost camaraderie at work.

Transparent Communication

When it comes to communication, have an open-door policy. Management who make decisions behind closed doors alienate the rest of their workforce and create a breeding ground for rumor and gossip. Be clear and open about the state of the company and decisions that are in the pipeline, and always be the first to tell your staff about changes.

Worried about lost memos? Use a company intranet to send email and text notifications of important bulletins to each employee. How about inefficient meetings? Make meetings  more specific and stick to a printed agenda. Delegate key speakers to inform the team about what progress has been made since the previous meeting and invite others to contribute their ideas afterward. Most importantly, don’t let anyone walk away from the meeting room without an assigned task that they need to achieve in time for the next meeting.

Invest in Training and Development

Ask your employees where see themselves in five years. Write down each employee’s answer and help him or her achieve it. If your sales assistant wants to be heading up the sales department, offer him/her training to enhance his/her product knowledge and to develop managerial skills. If one of your secretarial staff wants to make the move into web design, let him/her shadow a designer for half a day each week.

Take advantage of apps like IdeaScale and Kindling so that employees can offer feedback on the company work culture and their own ideas. Providing staff with training, learning opportunities and a chance to offer feedback is a vital way to avoid staff feeling as though they are stuck in a “dead-end job.” When you support their career development, your staff will be re-energized and ready to face new challenges. Remember, if they are performing at the top of their games, your organization will be too.

Reward Employees for Their Efforts

Naturally, employees want to be recognized for their hard work and commitment. Reward everyone who performs at or above the level expected of them, no matter what position they hold in your team. If your cleaners always have the office spotless, praise them for it. If your sales team punch above their targets, praise them too. Let all of your employees know that they are a valuable asset in your team.

You don’t need to shed out $1,000 bonuses and 10% raises for every employee like Google to reward your employees. Simple rewards like verbal praise and buying employees a coffee can work well too. The aim is to encourage positive practices. Treating your employees equally and responding to behavior in the correct way will improve workplace culture and encourage employees to work at their best.

Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He is currently running the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical.

photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc

Three Steps To Better Staff Development

Staff development is vital to a healthy business. Yet the way we approach it is still rooted in the models of fifty years ago. Despite a world of rapid change we expect objectives to be relevant for a year, when many will be out of date within months. Millenials used to swift, relevant feedback from a communications-obsessed world instead find appraisals occasional and slow. Few organizations take account of the growing number of emergent cross-department teams.

While every modern organization has a performance management system to support staff development, only 14% are happy with those systems.

How can we do better?

Focus on relationships

The old world was built on hierarchies. The new one, filled with social media, contingent workers and flattened organizational structures, is built on relationships. Building good relationships, and encouraging staff to do so, is therefore a vital part of development.

Managers should work on knowing and understanding those working for them, not just their peers. Get out into the workplace. Listen to the concerns of the people you manage. Spread your values and aims directly through these conversations – in the era of Twitter, when even the most famous are a key tap away, people expect this informal communication, and will take more away from it.

Work together with employees on challenges to show how they can tackle them, and to show that you understand their work. Take the opportunity to provide instant feedback.

But make sure that these exercises aren’t about showing yourself off. Humility inspires loyalty and improves teamwork, so apply it yourself in conversations and make sure that it appears in your leadership training program – it will lead to better relationships all around.

Keep things simple

The world is increasingly complex and we are overwhelmed with choices. This applies in work as well as beyond it. Which task to tackle first? Which email to answer next? What questions to raise in the short time available for a meeting?

You can make things simpler. Have a clear set of values that are simple and enduring, timeless goals that will remain relevant in a changing market. Build development plans around them, and remind staff that, when in doubt, they can always turn back to those values. Rather than cluttering everyone’s thinking with a dozen different directives, give everyone a direction and trust them to steer the right path in their own work.

Performance manage your performance management

With your values and purpose firmly in place, evaluate your performance management system to see how well it achieves those goals. Too many companies keep using the same old approach they always have, just adding another objective here and there, tweaking rather than fixing, adding to the complexity you’re now trying to avoid.

Compare every part of the performance management system with the values you are building staff development around. Does each part support those goals? Do any contradict them?

Don’t just trust to instincts – that’s how these systems got to be such a mess. Get feedback from staff on how they use the system and what difference it makes for them. Collect data on actual behavior. Has customer feedback improved since you added those objectives about better telephone manners, or has it just become another box to tick?

A good system is about more than just looking at individuals; it should help you to identify patterns. Is unnoticed and unintentional gender bias holding your female employees back? Are you failing to develop middle managers for promotion? Turn your performance management system into a way to develop your organization.

Staff development has fallen behind the times, tinkered with rather than fully reformed. Take the bull by the horns and see your organization improve.

photo credit: kevinspencer via photopin cc