Healthy workplace cultures and happy employees are the heart of every successful organisation
Working is a necessity for nearly every human being. We all need a way to pay the bills, feel rewarded and make the most of our time. For many employees, turning up to work is not always the greatest part of their day. While they may be extremely skilled people, capable of achieving amazing results for your organisation, without a healthy workplace culture you may find it hard to keep them around.
How can your organisation be the place everyone wants to work at?
How can you create an environment that breeds success and outshines your competitors?
You need to start with workplace culture.
What is workplace culture?
We can think of workplace culture as a cruise ship, a massive party boat sailing the sea of success, and like a large boat only the top portion of the boat is visible while the part that drives the boat is submerged beneath the ocean.
The observable level, the top decks of our party boat, sits the office layout, the way the people behave, dress and talk. These aspects are dictated by the lower, submerged engine decks i.e. the business rules, policies and code-of-conduct guidelines, and this is what influences and drives the more visible aspects of workplace culture. With the right business values along with people who enact these values workplace culture will inevitably lead your organisation to success.
Angie’s “open-door” workplace.
Angie works in a large finance firm. Her boss, Janet, always talks about the companies ‘open door policy’ where people are encouraged to address their concerns with her in confidence. The problem is that Janet is never in the office, and when she is she’s constantly on the phone to clients and board members. While Janet may be aware of, and talk about, the businesses policies her behaviours don’t always encourage the practice of those policies. Without aligned behaviour, policies can fall short.
Our cruise ship may have a running engine, but it’s going nowhere if the crew aren’t willing to work with the ship’s mechanics to sail it to the holiday destination. Just like our cruise ship, a healthy workplace culture is one where the people behave in such a way that encourages discussion about individual values, beliefs and assumptions and enables people to better understand individual behaviours. This provides a foundation which encourages people to adjust their approach to benefit the workplace in general.
Employees are people too
You might have noticed when you turn up to work, especially if you work in a corporate office, it is largely made up of people. People of different genders, backgrounds and religions all combined into one workspace. Each person is an individual and every individual will have their own individual needs at work.
People are complex. Different people will have different driving forces. Some will strive in a highly competitive environment, while some will find they’re more comfortable working in close groups. One thing is certain, utilising a person’s natural preference rather than forcing them out of their comfort zones will ensure their continued productivity at work. Finding ways to include all personality types in such a way as to utilise those individual strengths will create a stronger and more powerful group.
Dinesh vs Samaria
Dinesh is a quiet, reserved guy who works as a product developer for a global company. Samaria is a business analyst with outstanding organisational skills and a highly extraverted personality. They’ve both been assigned to work on the same project. While they may have different personality types, what they bring to the table is a necessity in almost all businesses: different perspectives. Diversity of personalities and perspectives creates dialogue and challenges the norm. A larger picture and a better way to do things is often found in a team that is quite diverse. The key is to have a workplace culture that encourages everyone to share their perspective and to utilise individual strengths.
Creating an inclusive culture where people are allowed to be themselves encourages collaboration, and through collaboration we find stronger, more productive and highly successful teams. Acknowledging diversity continues the behaviour of inclusivity, and facilitating collaboration by structuring your teams so that there is a diverse range of personalities will give your teams the opportunity to create something truly outstanding.
Organisations perform better with happy employees
Organisations are not entities in and of themselves. When we hear statements like “The organisation is changing direction” or “This organisation is failing” what we’re actually being told is that individuals within an organisation are attributing to these things. The “organisation” is actually the sum of all the employees. So, it stands to reason that if the employees are happy the “organisation” will reflect this in its success.
Wellbeing in the workplace is integral to employee happiness, and more organisations are beginning to recognise the value in understanding how to increase the wellbeing of people at work. We find that by focussing on employee wellbeing we will see an increase in productivity as well as the quality of work being completed. Morale goes up while attrition rates go down and you’ll also be gaining the interest of quality candidates and new recruits.
When HR becomes a positive in the workplace
As an employee, having to go see HR has typically been a negative experience. Not anymore! Implementing employee wellbeing into your HR strategy is a great way to reduce absenteeism and the overall stress your employees experience.
Adopt programs such as:
– Employee Assistance Program
– Flexible Working arrangements
– Healthy lifestyles at work i.e. free fruit, yoga/meditation classes
– Social functions
Knowing how your employees are feeling is part and parcel of ensuring their workplace wellbeing, one effective way to do this is by conducting employee surveys. Surveying your employees not only gives you an overview of how happy they are it also gives them an opportunity to tell you how to make them happy. You’ll find your employees are more engaged and enjoying work when they feel included in your companies strategies. Plus they’re a fantastic measure as to how your business is travelling. Remember, happy employee – happy organisation.
Unconscious bias in the workplace
You’ve probably heard the term “unconscious bias” and are aware that it is perceived to be a negative aspect inherent in old-school business mentality. What it really pertains to is an individual’s response to identity. However, it’s not so clear-cut as to say “Men have an unconscious bias towards women in the workplace” or that “whites have an unconscious bias towards non-whites”.
What studies have found is that your own personal experiences influence your response to the people around you. If you have had a negative experience with men or women, you will unconsciously hold a bias towards them, and this goes for any category of person you can think of. If enough negative experiences have occurred, naturally you will chose to refrain from engaging with people who are similarly categorised with those who a negative experience has been had.
Another type of unconscious bias is a phenomena called “In-group Preference”. It simply means that an individual will choose those like themselves over those who are obviously quite different. We see this most often in relationship pairing and close friend groups. Think about your close friends, are they all similar in at least one respect?
Emily’s work clique experience
Emily’s new team is made up of ten girls and ten guys. While her manager considers the team to be adequately diverse, there are obvious cliques forming within the team and this has been a source of misery for Emily at work and during work socials.
A small group of the girls are very close, they all went to university together and they hang out after work and on the weekends. The guys have their own small clique too, with those really into their sports enjoying conversation that not everyone can get involved in.
While Emily tries to encourage everyone to mix with each other she often gets sneered at by the girls and laughed at by the guys. Team meetings leave her feeling very alone and unnecessarily stressed throughout the day. And she knows she’s not the only one feeling this way.
It’s a normal behaviour for people to form close relationships in the workplace, after-all, we’re with the same people for many hours and for the majority of the week. Having close friends at work is a great incentive to come to work, but when cliques become nasty towards others it can become a very big problem.
Emphasising and reiterating inclusivity policies to your employees is one way to combat nasty cliques, however you need to make sure the behaviours are there as well. Team activities which highlight each individual’s valuable contribution to the team will get the team thinking about how they can benefit from including others into their grouping. Creating opportunities for everyone to have a say will give those who are shyer and more introverted a chance to be heard and allow the greater group to see their individual value.
Diversity has its strengths, but if your teams aren’t openly communicating as a whole the benefits will be lost. Allowing each individual to been seen for their individual contributions will help to break the unconscious bias and natural in-grouping that many people experience. Barriers can be broken down if you provide the right environment and encourage employees with positive reinforcement.
Changing organisations for the better
As societies progress and consumers change, businesses and organisations need to keep up. We no longer live in an era where roles are defined by classic categorisations such as gender and age. As the cost of living has increased people are finding themselves taking jobs that, 50 years ago, may have been taboo.
Classic norms are still present, however. Studies have found that, on average, women are still more inclined to work in industries that involve care-giving such as education, nursing and customer service industries. While men, on average, take up the majority of labouring work and physical trades. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t men in nursing and child-care or women on construction sites. It’s these courageous individuals breaking away from the norm that organisations need to ensure are being treated fairly and inclusively as these employees are more likely to experience bias against them
Dan’s just a big kid
“You’re in child-care?” “Is there something wrong with you?” These questions have plagued Dan for years. He is constantly on the receiving end of dirty looks and crude suggestions when he tells people he’s a child-carer at a Day Care. There’s still a stigma about men wanting to work with small children, but Dan’s always wanted to teach kids and child-care is extremely rewarding for him.
Even the older ladies he works with will prevent him from performing many of his duties or insist that they “watch” him with the kids. When parents come to pick up their children he’s treated with suspicion and their children are asked “how does Dan play with you?” Dan admits he’s thought about finding a different career, but the Principal at the Day Care believes he’s an asset and an inspiration to many of the kids there.
Many factors go into choosing the right job or career – from personal satisfaction to financial reward – and organisations need to understand an employee’s motivation in order to maximise the benefit that employee will have on the organisation. If you want your business to stand the test of time, it needs to grow with the society it exists in and that means ensuring the best person is selected for the role regardless of “what has always been done”.
Encouraging the right applicants, ensuring that employees are supported, increasing wellbeing in the workplace and growing a healthy workplace culture through appropriate policies are all necessary steps in changing your organisation for the better. An organisation that grows with the times is one which will be profitable now and in the future.
If you’re looking to hire and are struggling to attract candidates who are a good culture fit, I can help. Call 0481 291 471 or email me and let’s discuss your recruitment needs.