For many of us work is a necessity so that we have a (at least one) means of income. It is rarely an enjoyable experience, whether its because it’s not what we want to do with our lives or because of the poor workplace culture.
ERC has a great article about Workplace Culture. defining it as the character and personality of a business which is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes. Having a good workplace culture helps with attracting employees who benefit the organization, it helps with retaining employees and improving their quality of work. When employees are overall satisfied- or even happy- with their jobs, this impacts the performance (and yes the bottom line too) of the business.
This article can be applied to any business or organization with employees/ volunteers. Before we get into it though- what is your workplace culture? If this isn’t defined before hand it can cause unclarity- causing you to hire unfit employees, increasing employee burnout and tolerate behaviours that are counterintuitive to the success of your business.
Here are my 4 tips and tricks.
Create a safe work environment
The worst thing is being afraid to go to work. On average. a person spends at least 8 hours working 5 days a week. If every day they come to work they feel unsafe, the quality of the work is going to be affected, as well as, this may affect retention of staff. Whether it’s because of lack of security, no lights, or people at the work place making others uncomfortable, fixing these issues comes hand in hand with improving workplace culture. Ensure you have policies in place that protect your workers from abuse and harassment and that it is enforced. Take note of possible security or safety faults and fix them. It also decreases the possibility of litigation if something happens to your employee because of the unsafe work conditions.
eg. Where your business/ organisation is located has a passage that is used a lot by staff members to traverse from one area to another but the floor is made of very slippery material which is even worse when wet. Many people have slipped or almost slipped and now have increased anxiety when walking there. One day, a middle aged female worker was walking on that corridor, slipped and broke her hip. She had complained time and time again about the inconvenience and threat of the corridor. She now has to undergo surgery and has had her lawyers inform you that she will be suing the business.
Cut down risk as much as you can, in the above scenario once it was known about the safety hazard of that corridor it should have been addressed immediately.
support your staff
Support comes in many shapes and forms and might look different based on the business you’re in. Support can mean encouraging your employees side hustles or having flexible schedules for part time students. It also means, if your employees have a problem, that you help to solve it. Support means, employees know they can count on the persons in leadership roles to be there or be understanding of them in their times of need.
Eg. You head a team that operates with a hierarchy. The most junior member of that team feels as though they are being asked to do things beyond their scope, and when asking for help isn’t given much guidance or assistance. She comes to you, explaining what she has been experiencing and asks you for help. You, having been in her position, tells her: “I’ve been where you are, and look at me now. You’ll figure it out.” After working out the rest of her contract she declines a renewal, though she has excellent performance, she instead goes to your competitor citing their better workplace policies as reason.
In this scenario, instead of seeing certain ‘challenges’ as a rite of passage, more accountability is needed to avoid abuse of junior staff in the name of “I went through it so you should too”
advocate for your staff
Leadership positions give you a unique opportunity to be a voice for your subordinates. Often times, those who work ‘on the ground’ are more aware of the challenges they face and the solutions they need. What stops them, is that they don’t have the power to make these changes- that’s where you come in. If you want the whole picture, you have to ask for the views of others and to make effective change or put forward real solutions you have to listen to the voices who will be affected most.
Eg. At your workplace orders for supplies are made once a month, but one set of staff always complains that the things they need are short while the persons who do the ordering never has their items in short supply. They suggest that an audit is done over one quarter so an average estimate of what’s needed per month can be ascertained and orders be made automatically instead of the ordering person doing it manually each time and often from memory. You take this suggestion, and do simple checks and balances. Frustration is removed from both the staff that does the ordering and the staff that always had their items short.
Allies, should be amplifying the voices of those affected. You are an ally to your staff.
Check Management/ leadership styles
Remember when I said, before you can have a workplace culture you need to define it first? This ensures that you employ persons who match your business’s values and beliefs. Your leaders must be representative of your business core beliefs. The worst thing is to say you have a workplace culture that supports creativity, innovation and values its workers- then have a manager that does the complete opposite. Bad managers can make you lose good people. So keep a check on your leaders.
Eg. A young university graduate joins your team, your business says it invites innovation, and wants employees who think out of the box and are not afraid to push the envelope. When she starts working she realises that what was on the ‘pamphlet’ doesn’t match the reality. Her manager wants everything done their way and does not listen to suggestions. On top of that, they’re verbally abusive to staff. This manager has been reported multiple times with no intervention and the new employee sees at least one staff member leave per month. After 3 months she finds another job who’s manager has much better reviews, and puts in her 2 weeks notice.
Workplace Culture is affected by many things such as leadership, policies and the people hired. Having a good mix, enables and empowers your employees to be the best versions of themselves. When employees are satisfied in the workplace, the workplace benefits from this.
The investment is worth it.
Share in the comments, how’s your workplace culture?
Samantha C. Johnson