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5 Steps to Creating a Successful Workplace
One of the keys to being an effective manager is to have an approach and philosophy that is consistent and visible to your employees. In fact, every business should take the time to establish a management philosophy for all supervisors and managers to follow that will foster a productive and successful working environment.
A successful workplace will incorporate the following:
- Have goals for management and employees to strive for: Define the desired outcomes for your business/department/workgroup. Ensure the outcomes are measurable and the justification is clear
- Reward results: Try not to focus on the time spent on a project. Instead, reward an employee or team that produces excellent results in a normal workday.
- Encourage balance: Many businesses want to be the number one priority of their employees. However, if an employee gives up family, friends or hobbies just to be at work they will burn out quickly. If you encourage balance during normal workloads, your staff will be more likely to put work first when it is really necessary.
- Hold your teams accountable: It goes without saying, but treat your employees like adults. Excuses and complacency should never be tolerated. By holding workers accountable, most people will do what is expected of them and either meet or exceed outcomes.
- Provide continuous feedback: Many companies function based on annual reviews. However, this is a long period for an employee to go through without knowing how they are doing. Mix positive feedback with areas of improvement all throughout the year. This will give them guidance to continually improve.
Let’s take a look at each of the five elements for a successful workplace to gain further insight.
Setting Business Goals and Objectives
Whether it is training or any kind of initiative that is to be implemented in an organization, setting clear goals and objectives should be top priority. It is the basis under which all actions stem. Objective, actionable plans in business make sure those charged with certain tasks and responsibilities have a course of action to follow and a target to reach.
In business there is a popular acronym that anyone can follow to help form effective goals and objectives – SMART
- Specific – Clearly define what it is your organization, or the people in your organization, are to do. This is no time to be vague or ambiguous. If you used a term like, “Increase sales”, it’s not very clear. Instead, it is better to say, “Increase sales by 20% over last quarter.”
- Measurable – Establish clear procedures to track and monitor progress. Use this process and the information gathered from it to determine if it is necessary to alter your plans or to continue according to plan.
- Attainable – This is being honest with your intentions in creating the goals. If you set out to reach a specific goal, does your organization have the resources or time to make it a reality?
- Relevant – If a group of people are given a goal to achieve, is it meaningful to them? Is it in context to their roles? If not, chances are they will not be motivated to work toward the goal or support it.
- Timely – The proposed goal must have a completion date. When a goal is not time-bound, the sense of urgency is not there and the efforts to support it will likely fall by the wayside.
Forming goals and objectives does not have to be difficult. Using the SMART formula is probably your best tool and one that will help toward producing the results you are looking for to make your workplace successful and competitive in today’s economy.
Once a goal or objective is reached, it’s time to reward the effort.
Rewarding Results for Maximum Performance
Incentives are often used to increase performance and reward results among employees in the workplace. However, it takes more than awarding prizes to the best performer to change certain behaviors or prompt people reach specific goals. Incentive programs have to be carefully thought out and implemented correctly in order for them to work.
It is estimated that incentive programs can boost performance by as much as 44%. That’s an impressive number, but it is only achievable if an organization properly designs their incentive program, implements it and measures its overall return on investment.
Incentive programs to reward results should not be created just for their own sake. There must be justified reasons for creating an incentive program and there are at least five conditions under which they work best:
- Current performance is determined to be inadequate
- The cause to poor performance by employees is related to deficiencies in motivation
- The desired level of performance can be quantified in some fashion (for example, increase production by 50% within one year.)
- The desired level of performance (the goal) is achievable
- The focus on encouraging certain behavior is not in conflict with other performance goals that are expected of the target audience as part of their daily routine
If these conditions are present and can be met, you can get started with designing your incentive program by doing the following:
- Gain the support of upper management. You must have their endorsement and feedback
- Be sure the incentive program aligns with the company’s mission, vision and values. Make sure the program is not counter to any goals or objectives the company is currently concentrating on
- Set a budget for the program and stick to it
- Promote the incentive program to right target audience
No two incentive programs are necessarily alike. So, make sure one person or a small group manages the incentive program and be flexible when running the program. You’ll likely encounter unforeseen issues that need to be resolved and you should be willing to make changes when necessary that are fair and equitable to the employees participating in the incentive program. Keep an open channel of communication and remember you won’t be able to motivate everyone through the program. Stay focused on the positive outcomes and you’ll likely see increases to employee performance.
Creating Work-Life Balance
Many companies, of course, want the work their employees do for them to be top priority when they are on the clock, but the reality of the hectic world we live in is people have conflicting priorities between the work they do to support their livelihood and the personal responsibilities they have outside of the workplace. These conflicting priorities have been known to be the cause stress that leads to poor performance and poor productivity.
Studies have shown that work-life balance programs help attract and retain top talent and is a key factor in overall employee satisfaction. Programs that address the needs of elder care and child care have been showing increasing demand. More than 25% of employees surveyed have indicated that work-life balance is more important to them than wages or job security. As demands increase in these and other work-life balance needs, companies that ignore this trend affect their employees by holding them back from performing effectively.
Work-life balance programs come in different forms:
- Flextime – employees choose the start and end times for the workday.
- Flexible week – often referred to as a compressed work week. Employees choose to work 10-hour days for four days during the work week. This gives them a day off during the work week or extended 3-day weekends.
- Work at home (telecommuting) – some or all work can be done offsite.
- Part-time telecommuting – on specified days work can be done offsite.
- Part-time – offering a reduced work schedule.
- Job sharing – roles and tasks for a specific job are divided between two people.
Any one, or a combination of these types of programs, usually find success in the workplace and are viewed favorably by employees if implemented properly.
Review your company’s current policies and programs and how they relate to work-life balance. Survey, poll and interview employees about what they think should be implemented to create an effective work-life balance program – one that will meet the needs of your current roster of employees.
By implementing a work-life program based on current employee needs, managers and executives could expect to see the following:
- Reduced absenteeism – largely attributed to the flexible work schedule.
- Reduced turnover – loyalty to the company is built due to the company taking employee work-life balance issues into account.
- Increased productivity – less stress lends to greater focus on the part of employees.
- Reduced overtime costs – also attributed to the flexible work schedule.
- Client retention – employees provide increased service to clients.
The best work-life balance programs are built on a basis of strong communication between management and the employees. Management needs to let employees know what is available to them and employees need to let management know what works best for them. Everyone is different when it comes to work-life balance needs, so it is important for management to remain flexible and be willing to change the program based on reasonable demands
Accountability is such a “hot topic” in today’s business climate because we see far fewer examples of it on a daily basis. Over the last two years many companies have failed outright due to lack of accountability and some companies, despite being unaccountable for their actions, were bailed out in a controversial fashion by the federal government because they were deemed “too big to fail”. Failure due to lack of accountability, some would argue, is the primary cause of the economic recession we are in.
It’s estimated that failures in accountability at all levels of business costs companies tens of billions of dollars a year in terms of theft, re-work, defects in products, inefficiency in processes and procedures, and workplace conflicts (just to name a few). This leads to poor workplace practices, poor leadership and bad behavior among supervisors that rubs off on employees who become discouraged, disillusioned and cynical. In business, accountability reaches well beyond the walls of corporations. Customers who feel the impact of poor accountability will quickly turn off at the slightest sense trouble in a company they do business with.
When a company takes on a culture of accountability, employees who are self-motivated (empowered) will contribute to the overall success of the organization. Start with the individual to develop a mindset where they become aware of their actions and how they impact others, not only those around them but at all levels of the company and beyond to the customer who they ultimately serve.
To build a culture of accountability in the workplace, attempt the following:
- Define accountability in your organization, not only what it means, but what it looks like to those in charge. Also define what accountability means and looks like to the customer.
- Recognize not only your power (if you are a manager or executive), but also the power your employees have. Identify and recognize what you and they have ownership in and what results are expected on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
- Deal with the present, not the past. What’s done is done and cannot be changed. Only address what can be now and in the future. It’s about taking ownership and being responsible for the results and outcomes, good or bad.
When it comes down to it, accountability begins and ends with the individual charged with certain responsibilities within a company regardless of seniority. It is in the fabric of the company’s culture. Provided employees have a vested interest, are self-motivated and have common goals to reach along with their fellow co-workers, accountability will emerge as a key factor to success in the workplace.
Feedback is the most often overlooked method of communication to create an effective working environment that boosts morale and guides employees toward reaching not only their own goals, but the goals of the organization.
The reason feedback is most often overlooked is due to how it is perceived. In our culture, any criticism of another person’s work or actions can be deemed as an affront toward that person. However, if feedback is handled as constructive criticism and focuses on observed behavior and actions of the person, it cannot be deemed as any kind of attack on them.
Constructive criticism, when used properly, gives employees an opportunity to understand what mistakes they are making and how to correct them in the future. This type of feedback opens the door to opportunities for self-improvement. It’s really no different than a coach or swimming instructor giving their student tips on how to improve their technique. More importantly, this opens up a dialogue between the employee and their supervisor.
How should one go about giving feedback in the workplace? Here are some important steps to follow:
- Stay focused on what you observed; whether that be a particular behavior or action of the person you are giving feedback to.
- In context of the current situation you are basing your feedback on, address the needs that are being met or unmet.
- State the requests you have to improve the behavior, action or situation.
When it comes to providing feedback to an employee, timing is everything. If your feedback is in the form of praise, do it in public among other coworkers and soon after the action or behavior is observed. If feedback is based on criticism of a negative behavior or action, do it one-to-one in privacy away from other coworkers. As a supervisor, it should never be your intention to embarrass or single out an employee. It does more harm to the morale of the entire group than to the individual.
Feedback is what improves and sustains morale in an organization when it is used consistently. Delivered honestly and in a timely manner, feedback will become your most effective communication tool in the workplace.
Creating a successful workplace is a process that takes time and dedication. The foundation of any successful workplace starts with its goals and objectives. While goals and objectives give employees a target to strive for, they must be observable and measureable to the stakeholders for them to determine whether or not efforts being made are impactful and meaningful. To prompt employees toward achieving company goals and objectives, they must have a proper incentive program in place that is well-managed and rewards results based on performance in a timely manner. In addition, a work-life balance must be fostered so as not to burn out the employees who are working hard for you. Finally, make sure everyone who is responsible for reaching company goals and objectives are accountable for their actions. Above all, give feedback when necessary so employees know how well they are doing. By investing time and effort into these elements, you will have a successful workplace.
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