Studies from Gallup and a plethora more have, by now, established from various perspectives that creating a great place to work has significant tangible and intangible returns including enhancing employee productivity and loyalty in the process increasing customer satisfaction resulting in outstanding company performance to the investors.
Studies on great places to work
There are a number of such studies which focus significantly on compensation and benefits as a key element to being a great place to work. One such study published in HBR sometime back, talks about a great employer being able to take care of an employee’s well-being from four different angles: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wherein ingredients to a great workplace include factors like a well-equipped gymnasium etc. As a senior HR leader, I have got the opportunity to work with multiple leaders across a number of organizations and I have witnessed managers struggle with the question of how they can contribute and help the situation. They are not, of course, expected to sponsor the gymnasium or Starbucks coffee costs and yet, has to remain accountable to the quote that “People do not leave organizations, they leave their bosses”. So, in this discussion, we are going to focus on steps HR managers can take, in order to help their organization be a great place to work.
A few years back, Sirota Consulting, in collaboration with Wharton, conducted a survey of about a million people from different companies. The study found that there are three basic things people want at work: a) Fairness or Equity, b) Sense of achievement from their work and c) Camaraderie & Sense of Belongingness.
From another similar study, it was found that the top five factors to boost employee’s enthusiasm were: a) Creation of Self-Managed Teams, b) Reward, c) Performance driven Profit-Sharing Pay Framework, d) Recognition and e) Job Admiration & Security
And then there is the famous study by Dan Pink which explains in very lucid terms, how Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are the key elements of what motivate people to perform and contribute
From all these studies, it may be observed that there are a multitude of steps that can be taken to help create a great place to work which may be more behavioral practice driven and may need relatively much lesser dollars than what would see-saw the budget.
From another angle, a review of what really makes an organization a great place to work will reveal that it is mostly the innovative ways of making things work or the best practices that strike employees as outstanding and makes the workplace a delightful and desirable place to be, be it in the form of facilitating a leave exchange program or an initiative to a delightful candidate experience by optimizing candidate waiting time between interviews or any other such ideas.
Ensuring Fairness or Equity
One of the foremost expectations of an employee from an organization (mostly his/her manager) is to act in a fair and just manner. Any kind of favoritism or perceived bias can impact the perception of a great workplace pretty adversely. Within this category are also included a lot of issues which, on the surface, seem like compensation related issues but are at the core, concerns arising from a real or perceived lack of equality.
In addition to the additional benefits and innovative practices, a large chunk of people (more so, millennials) rate the existence of career progression paths and internal opportunities as a vital ingredient for an organization to be seen as a great place to work. HR managers can play an active role here by investing time in coaching the employee on his skills and strengths and guide him towards the right career opportunities – even such discussions are valued by the employees and managers also get to be more holistic mentors and well-wishers and not only as administrative managers. Even with behavioral practices and implementing innovative ideas, they are much more controllable factors unlike introducing an organization wide benefit which may be an uncontrollable factor for that people manager or leader.
Igniting Passion& Job Admiration
Another key area in which people managers can play a vital role is to be able to ignite, arguably, the single most important factor which defines the level of contribution from a person – passion. Unfortunately, that’s something which does not happen very often – sometimes, due to immediate work pressures while sometimes, due to a lack of awareness in the manager and yet sometimes, maybe due to a general lack of interest or ignorance. Interestingly, this is a phenomenon we do not hear about, in varied areas like defense forces or sports teams or music bands and so on – the reason being that the people joining those teams are cognizant about their passion and do not require someone to generate it anew, which is mostly untrue in the corporate world. There are many instances when productivity has been witnessed to go up significantly by teams once they have been made aware, responsible and proud of the purpose that they are trying to achieve together. If organizations can ensure this one aspect about identifying and tapping into an individual’s passion or dream and help the individual realize that dream or progress towards it, it would have moved a giant leap closer to becoming a great place to work.
Sense of Achievement or Purpose
In the words of noted author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, “Because a true sense of purpose is deeply emotional, it serves as a compass to guide us to act in a way completely consistent with our values and beliefs… Purpose is human, not economic”. Many times, its said that the only or primary difference between successful and unsuccessful people is the formers’ extraordinary sense of purpose. An organization, with the help of its good leaders can enable people to see and focus on that purpose – giving their jobs or tasks a new meaning.
Respect and Recognition
Every individual loves being praised for his capabilities or achievements. Recognition, even in its simplest but most genuine forms, goes a long way in creating an impression of an organization being a great place to work. And it does not necessarily have to be accompanied with huge budgets. Conversely, every individual despises lack of respect and any organization striving to be a great workplace must ensure respect for the individual at the workplace.
Sense of Belonging
There are multiple drivers that can be leveraged to make an organization a great place to work – both tangible and intangible. Like in the case of Purpose, this is human. But as human beings, we tend to have stronger bonds created by the relationships we build and the associated intangibles, and organizations can create great workplaces by creating and leveraging such bonds and relationships – of course, once the material fundamentals are ensured.