Are you providing a work environment and leadership that fosters engagement and retention?
As a leader in an organization or business owner, you play a key role in creating a positive work environment. You not only set the tone for the organization through your behaviour and actions, but are also responsible for ensuring that organizational practices promote a healthy work environment.
Work environment and strong, positive leadership will help you retain employees. We have already discussed the high costs of employee turnover. A positive work environment can also help you to attract and retain employees who may be tempted by higher salaries at one of your competitors. It is not all about the money – although salaries should be competitive, a strong employer brand can go a long way to helping you keep the best. The younger generation is also attracted to the job and the environment more than the salary. A recent US study of 14 – 18 year-olds, 78% said money “was less important to them than personal fulfillment”.
Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people. Corporate culture can be described as the behaviour that results when a group arrives at a set of – generally unspoken and unwritten – rules for working together. It grows out of the values, beliefs and attitudes that are shared by the people in the workplace. Your organization will be successful as a result of, not only what the company does, its strategy, but also how it does it, its culture.
A culture will naturally evolve whether or not the business owner or leader consciously focuses on it. However, to ensure you create the desired culture, leaders will need to take the time to understand the current culture in the organization and take steps to change it where needed to attract and retain the right people. If you are creating a new organization, you should be determining in advance the vision and values of your company, and establishing policies and procedures to encourage the appropriate behaviours to “live” them.
Your organizational culture is crucial to attracting and keeping employees. Many organizations also include questions around cultural fit in their interviews. Employees will be most motivated and satisfied when they feel that the organization is a good fit for them in terms of their values and needs.
Your company’s reputation and “word of mouth” is often based on what kind of culture you have built. Your corporate culture is what makes you an “employer of choice.” Culture is essentially what is behind people saying, “Company X is a great place to work.” It can also be a differentiator in attracting employees when you may not be able to match the pay and benefits of bigger or more-established organizations.
Many business leaders feel that organizations need to embrace a culture of learning to be able to adapt and evolve at the pace required in the 21st century business environment. Below we highlight essential ingredients of a culture that can embrace the continuous change. Based on your particular business focus, you can emphasize different components.
In Organizational Behavior- Managing People and Organizations, Gregory Moorhead outlines five key steps to creating your desired culture. Organizations will be at different stages and will focus more or less on the specific components. You will need to fill the gaps that exist in your particular case, or build from the ground up in the case of a new enterprise. Moorhead’s steps are paraphrased below:
Step #1: Establish Strategic Values – Through an environmental scan and strategic analysis, you can determine the strategic values of the organization; these strategic values are essentially the basic beliefs about your environment that shape your business strategy and goals.
Step #2: Develop Cultural Values – Cultural values are the values upon which employees need to act for the organization to carry out its strategic values (and successfully achieve its business goals). Employees need to value work behaviours that are consistent with and support the organization’s strategic values.
Step 3: Create Vision – After identifying the strategic and cultural values of any organization, the organization must establish a vision that can become a “call to action” for employees to move toward a common future. This vision will portray what the organization will be like currently and what it will be like at some point in the future.
Step 4: Initiate Implementation Strategies – After identifying the strategic and cultural values, as well as the vision, the next step is to take actions to build on the values and help you to accomplish the vision. These strategies can range from developing the organizational design to recruiting and training employees who share the values and will carry them out. At this point, you are essentially ensuring that the organization structure, practices and policies will encourage the desired behaviours.
Step 5: Reinforce Desired Behaviours – Finally, you will need to put measures in place to reinforce the desired behaviours. The formal reward system can be used to reward desired behaviours in a way that employees value. Stories should be shared about employees who engaged in behaviours that exemplify the cultural values and the organization should engage in ceremonies and rituals that emphasize employees doing the “right” things in the “right” way.
What if you look at your organization and don’t like what you are seeing in terms of culture? HR expert Susan M. Heathfield cites key steps to take to transform your culture. She highlights the two most important elements as executive support and training, as well as listing additional ways to change organizational culture:
Managers, by their example, play a large role in creating the workplace culture. If all managers show respect for all employees and show that they do not tolerate harassing behaviour, harassment will be much less likely to take place. Managers must also ensure that every employee is responsible for treating everyone with respect.
The more knowledgeable managers are about how to identify harassment and how to handle it, the more easily problems will be resolved, and the smoother the workplace will function.
As a Manager, you must take action when you become aware of harassment (even without a complaint necessarily being lodged). Failure to stop perceived harassment, investigate complaints or to take prompt and effective remedial action to deal with such complaints may be perceived to be condoning or tolerating such behaviour.
Ensure that employees know that they can raise concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal.
Problem behaviour has an impact on the morale of your whole organization and can lead to formal complaints. As a manager or employer you need to both model appropriate behaviour and effectively deal with issues that arise. Having clearly outlined standards of conduct is a good first step. Once employees know what is expected, it is easier to take corrective action.
As a manager, you can deal most effectively with problem behaviour by focusing on the following:
Preventive action is action taken to encourage employees to follow standards and rules. The basic objective is to encourage self-discipline among employees; they maintain their own discipline, rather than having management impose it. (For example, managers may encourage their employees to always advise their supervisor, when possible, if they are going to be late; this may prevent managers from having to take corrective disciplinary action.)
Employers and managers should strive to build a climate of preventive discipline.
When employees ignore, refuse or are unable to respond positively to preventive discipline, managers should consider moving on to corrective disciplinary action.
The objectives of corrective disciplinary action are positive:
You may want to consider a policy of progressive discipline – when corrective disciplinary actions are required, there are stronger penalties for repeated offenses. The purpose of progressive discipline is to give an employee an opportunity to take corrective action before more serious disciplinary actions are applied.
Should disciplinary action be required, these are the consecutive steps that are normally followed:
For more serious offenses, one or more of the steps may be omitted. Extreme cases may lead to immediate dismissal.
Managing rewards covers both the strategy and the practice of pay systems. The reward or compensation employees receive for their contribution to a company includes monetary and non-monetary values.
A total rewards system is one in which employees are compensated with both monetary and non-monetary means. It is intended to attract top talent, as well as provide incentive to keep the current talent.
Your total rewards system can consist of the following components:
Implementing a total rewards program will not only help you attract top talent, it will also help you motivate and engage your current workforce.
Recognizing a job well done by an employee or group of employees provides a strong incentive for continued excellence in performance. Employees who feel appreciated and valued will be more motivated, more dedicated and more likely to stay with your organization.
It is critical to recognize the types of skills and abilities that matter most to your organization. In order to satisfy and retain employees who demonstrate desired qualities, you must let people know that they are highly valued and serving as role models for others in the company. As a leader, you should look for examples of these types of skills and behaviours, and to recognize them openly, frequently, and in ways that appeal most to the individuals on your team.
Recognition takes many forms and the only way to accurately determine how your employees want to be recognized is to ask them, to then listen carefully to what they have to say, and to respond in a way that demonstrates you have heard them loud and clear. Ascertain, by asking questions, what motivates them to come to work each day, and what they feel is working and what is not working well for them – their responses will provide insight into the rewards and recognition they value most.
You will likely find that while money is important, other factors such as the following are just as critical to many, if not all, employees.
You should ensure that you recognize employee effort by offering praise and gratitude for a job well done on an ongoing basis. In fact, often just affirming to people that work is hard and their efforts are genuinely appreciated and valuable to the bottom line is enough to help people get through a tough time in a positive manner.
You can adopt an informal approach to rewards and recognition by focusing on the following suggestions. Consider which of these would work well in your workplace.
Building the right culture goes a long way toward recognizing and rewarding employees. If you strive to exhibit the following behaviours, your team will likely feel that their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated:
The Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (see link below) provides a list of informal recognition ideas, including:
It is important that managers and leaders show their teams that they represent them effectively to others, both within and outside their organization, as well as providing an environment that will motivate and engage them. Your staff will be more engaged and effective if they feel that you “have their back” and act in a way that creates a high performance environment.
Part of your role as a manager or business owner is to represent your team when working with peers, your own manager, and your customers. Managers act as the conduit between their teams and other parts of the organization, and should ensure that they facilitate both sides of these relationships.
Your ability to work well with others will impact your team – how they are viewed and how effectively you can “fight” for them. In exploring the guidelines below, focus on the ones that apply to your particular situation. Some of you are in roles where you are representing your team in a bigger organization and others may be business owners leading a team that is more outside customer-focused.
Managers should strive to:
Many of the tips and techniques provided under KEEP PEOPLE to create a positive work environment in your business area will also enhance your relationships across larger organizations and with customers.
As a manager or business owner, one way or the other, you are going to affect your employees’ motivation to perform. You should ensure that you act in ways that positively affect their motivation to perform at higher levels and work more effectively as a team.
It is important to note that you do not motivate people, you influence what they are motivated to do. The Three C’s of Intrinsic Motivation, developed by Alfie Kohn, provide a good basis for motivating your team:
It is important to remember that providing opportunities for personal growth is one of the keys to keeping your employees motivated. You should offer your employees both formal training and on-the-job opportunities when possible.
You cannot give your employees motivation, but you can give them the responsibility for achieving something and the authority to do it their own way.
You can also keep your team motivated by:
Working effectively with your colleagues and your employees requires effective communication. You can never assume people know everything you know or have the same access to information that you have, as a leader or business owner.
In order to build trust and awareness within your team and among your colleagues, it is easier to communicate what you know right away, rather than letting the information vacuum be filled by rumours. Messages should be honest and address, up-front, any resistance that may be anticipated. It’s better to err on the side of over-communicating, than under-communicating.
As a manager, there are certain things you must avoid:
You should plan out your communication before delivering any important message.
It is critical that you not only communicate to your staff, but also listen to what your staff is saying to you. Listening to what your staff is saying is not always easy because often you must read between the lines. Often what people are saying to you verbally, is not what they really mean. This obviously makes your job as a manager more challenging.
Below are some tips designed to help you be an active listener to get to the issues “between the lines”.
Non-verbal cues are an essential part of reading between the lines. Often a person says one thing, but communicates something totally different through vocal intonation and body language. Studies suggest we derive 90% of meaning from non-verbal cues.
Non-verbal communication is made up of:
Non-verbal cues can play five roles:
It is easy to misread these cues, especially when communicating across cultures where gestures and tone can mean something very different. You should use a combination of non-verbal cues and the verbal message both when understanding others and when delivering your own message.
While it is important to focus on providing work-life balance as an employer, you can also help your employees manage stress that may be unavoidable and help them manage their time when workload seems overwhelming. Stress in the workplace will lower both productivity and morale, affecting both performance and retention. Applying some of these tips and techniques personally, will also help you be a more effective leader.
Being a manager, there is little chance that you will avoid dealing with the issue of stress, whether your own stress or that of your employees. As a manager, it is important to be aware of the sources of stress, the signs of stress and how you can alleviate stress in your environment.
Stress can be brought on by:
It is important to understand that some pressure is good both for you and for your staff. Without any pressure to act as a stimulus, people may not be motivated to perform. The caution is to ensure that you control the amount of pressure that develops – too much pressure becomes stress.
As a manager you need to be able to recognize symptoms of stress in yourself and your staff. There are four types of indicators:
Stress can be “contagious” and impact a whole team, so it is important for a manager to recognize and confront the causes of stress as soon as possible. There are several remedies to help minimize the impact of stress:
Make stress reduction part of your infrastructure. Try to find ways to bring humour and fun into your workplace. Ensure you have an open- door policy, so you can identify issues before they become stressful problems.
Of all of the resources available to managers and employees, only one is distributed equally – TIME. Since people cannot buy, borrow or manufacture one single extra second, it becomes what a manager does with his or her allotted time that differentiates one manager from the next.
Below is a list of tips and tools that can make a manager’s time more productive. You can also encourage your employees to use them in managing their own time. Keep in mind that some of these tips and techniques may be more or less acceptable depending on which culture you are working in.
Preparation & Organization:
Dealing with Interruptions
Conflict is one of the most difficult things you have to deal with as a leader. Whether the conflict is between your staff members or yourself and a colleague, it is never easy or pleasant. Not dealing with conflict can lower workplace morale, cause retention issues, and potentially escalate situations into disciplinary or legal problems.
Conflict can be defined as a clash of opposing principles, ideas or issues. They can arise because individuals have divergent goals, personalities, views or ways of doing something.
Some obvious symptoms of conflict include:
There are five conflict resolution styles that you should consider. You may have a style that is most natural to you, but different approaches are appropriate under various situations.
In resolving a conflict there are several logical steps that you can take as a manager. They can be summarized as follows:
In today’s climate of constant innovation, it is important that leaders and business owners are able to assist their employees in embracing change as an opportunity. To do so, you need to be able to understand how change affects people, recognize resistance to it, and deal with this resistance in a positive manner. Not managing effectively can lead to reduced productivity, increased workplace stress and overall retention and morale issues. You may lose valued employees and those who stay may not make the necessary buy-in to the “new way of doing things” that will help to ensure future success.
As a leader, you need to understand how both you and others are affected by change.
Most people equate change with having no control. This feeling of no control manifests itself in fear.
Keep in mind:
Change is a natural part of life, both at home and work. We may not have control over all the job-related changes that come our way, but we can find positive ways to face them. Following are some suggestions to help you and your employees manage change effectively:
As a manager, you need to be able to recognize resistance to change, and deal with this resistance in a positive manner.
Resistance is defined as the energy an individual puts out, consciously or not, to maintain the status quo. It is important to realize that resistance is not necessarily an indication that things are going wrong. It simply means that people see that something big is happening.
Resistance can take many forms:
It can be overt or covert:
When dealing with resistance, a manager can draw on these key skills:
It is important that you are able to deal positively with resistance face-to-face. This can be done by following these steps: