Sunday, August 25, 2013
What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-5
Item 7: "At work, my opinions seem to count."
All employees want to feel that they are making significant contributions in their workplaces. The ways organisations hear and process employees' ideas will shape, to a large degree, whether or not they feel valued for their contributions.
The need for employees to feel valued--to know that they really make a difference in their companies and organisations is critical. This is often referred to as employees' "internal stock price." It measures the sense of value that employees feel in their work and toward their organisation. The degree to which a company's employees feel their opinions count is readily apparent to its customers. We have all encountered an employee who felt detached or insignificant, and we know the impact that employee's attitude had on us as customers.
If the ideas, instincts and intelligence of a company's employees are its sustained competitive advantage, then employees' responses to Item 7 are of great importance. Nothing is more demoralising to employees than being excluded from significant decisions--decisions that affect their jobs. Great manager’s consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions. This does not mean that employees have the final say on decisions that affect their jobs. It does mean that when employee’s desires and managers' decisions differ, the best managers explain the rationale behind their decisions. These managers use the decision-making process to help employees both to see the full scope of a decision, and to understand why the decision was made the way it was. A straightforward explanation can be a real credibility and communications builder.
Great managers never ask employees for their opinions, and then decide to do the opposite, without clearly explaining why. Great ideas are the building blocks for increased efficiency and new product development. Great places to work, in which employees' opinions count, encourage ideas to flow, and to be heard, processed, and refined. Not all ideas will be successfully implemented, but the process of refining ideas is still wonderfully productive: It builds employees' confidence in the company and reinforces to employees that their efforts can make the company better.
Item 8: "The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."
Excellence happens only when people have a deeply felt sense of purpose in their lives. Human beings want to belong to something that has significance and meaning. They want to know they are making a difference, and are contributing to an important endeavour. The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.
Having a clear understanding of how an employee's particular role or job contributes to the company's "reason for being" can be an incredible form of emotional compensation. Employees at every level or function like to feel that they belong. Individual achievement is important, of course, but when employees of an organisation feel they are an integral part of a larger whole, they are more likely to stay committed to that organisation. All of us like to feel as though our companies stand for us, represent us, share our values, and have the same kinds of goals. It is more exciting to "share a mission" than simply to "complete a task."
Every individual has a different and unique sense of purpose, and individuals find different meanings in similar situations. Thus, designing the proverbial "mission statement" is not necessarily the solution to helping employees find a sense of purpose in their work. There is nothing wrong with mission statements, but they are often too vague and too broad to allow each employee to connect with them. Think about it. All employees, either consciously or unconsciously, ask themselves, "What is this company's purpose? Does this company look at the world in the same way I do?" Employees all want to know whether their purpose meshes with the company's, and since each one of them looks at the world in a slightly different way, each comes up with a different answer.
Great managers continually strive to help employees understand how the company's purpose/ mission relates directly to the work that employees do. This, in turn, enables employees to find a connection between the company's values and their own. Every employee has different values. Some value competition, others value service, others value technical competence. Great managers translate the company's purpose into language that each employee can understand.
Outstanding workplaces never confuse "strategy" with "purpose." Purpose is constant. It is the heartbeat of the company, and provides the company with power and guidance. It never changes. Strategy provides the answers to the question, "How will we get to where we are going?" Strategies do change. In fact, companies devise new strategies all the time as they try to find the most efficient path toward their business goals. If your company changes strategies regularly, this does not necessarily mean that it lacks a clear purpose. Great organisations emphasise how new strategies support the broader organisational purpose. Great managers always help to keep the distinction clear in each employee's mind.