12 Signs You Have a Healthy Company Culture

 

July 18 , 2019 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”

-Ken Robinson

There is a lot of talk these days about employee wellness. Rightly so. But what about the health of your company culture?

It seems like it’s stating the obvious that a positive work culture means greater productivity while a negative work culture can be counterproductive and even toxic.

A large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.

A 2012 workplace culture study conducted by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

Moreover, 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.

What does a healthy culture look like?

Work culture is a combination of employee values, attitudes, expectations, and beliefs blended with the principles of the organization.  To a large extent, the culture shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the organization or team.

Below are 12 key indicators of a healthy work culture:

  1. Respect.  Employees are respected for ‘who’ they are; not just ‘what’ they know and they respect their fellow workers and work meaningfully to avoid personality conflicts, gossip, and backbiting.
  2. Creativity.  Employees feel that their work exercises their creativity and imagination. They don’t feel stagnated and feel that the company values innovation and innovative thinking. They are encouraged to ‘think out of the box.’
  3. Strength Based. Employees believe that their personal strengths are utilized, nurtured, and supported. The organization takes the view that building upon employee strengths is the way to optimize performance.
  4. Open Communication.  Employees feel they have the freedom to contribute ideas and alternate views without fear of reprimand. They can weigh in knowing that all their ideas may not be implemented but they are welcomed.
  5. Knowledge Access.  Employees feel empowered if they have access to data and information which flows easily up, down and across the organization.
  6. Encouragement.  Employees feel that they are recognized and encouraged to perform their best. The company puts their money where their mouth is and supports employees to do their best with resources and incentives.
  7. Clarity.  Employees understand the direction their team and organization is headed. The mission, goals, and strategies are clearly articulated and inculcated.
  8. Emphasis on Learning. Employees should feel that they are learning and developing.  They should have access to new training, workshops, mentoring, coaching, and presentations.
  9. Positive Relationships. Employees work better when they feel they have quality, supportive, and energizing relationships with fellow workers. Employees feel that a positive work environment is important and prioritized for the company.
  10. Fairness. Employees feel that their work performance is assessed fairly following a set of standards that are evenly applied. Employees also feel that work promotions and assignments are based on a system of meritocracy vs. a system of favoritism.
  11. Contribution.  Employees must feel that they are making a contribution to the team and that they are justly recognized for their contributions. When contribution is not encouraged or recognized employee engagement suffers.
  12. Engagement. As a cultural norm, the company places emphasis on employee engagement but employees also accept their own responsibility to be engaged and to encourage others to stay engaged.

A Final Word

A healthy workplace environment is good for your company. Period. Company culture is important to the success of the employees because they are more likely to be productive when they enjoy their workplace. The costs of a poor company culture can result in low employee engagement, higher employee turnover, diminished customer service, and a host of other negative impacts on the bottom line. Too many managers micromanage their employees, lack transparency and open communication and don’t emphasize collaboration and team work. They lack direction and clear values.

As more younger generations enter the workplace, the same old management styles may not be as effective as they were in past decades. A positive company culture is a right, not a privilege. In the worst case scenario, toxic environments are toxic to your health. Employees will care for the company they are working for if they know that they are being looked after. Employees are the best asset of every organization, and putting effort into culture wellness can encourage better teamwork, increased productivity and reduce sick leave.

Good luck.

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It)

December 5, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” ~ Ernesto Che Guevara

Workplace culture has a voracious appetite for command and control structures – an insipid left-over of the industrial revolution and Taylorized bureaucratic systems. In collusion, our K–12 system still adheres to this century-old, industrial-age mindset designed to help people survive a day at the factory not cope with the fast-paced mode of the modern day workplace or the even faster speed of living.

The modern day workplace is broken and we need radical change to fix it.

Stress at work…

For U.S. workers, the 40-hour, five-day work week became the standard in 1938. A recent Pew survey found that 35 percent of adults say the Internet, email and mobile phones have increased their hours worked. For office workers, the number rises to 47 percent. Consequently, nearly half of workers today say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week. As a result, job stress is far and away the major source of stress-related illness for American adults.

More work does not lead to more productivity…

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

We are not engaged and we are not happy at work…

According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. workers who are engaged at work is a low 33% (29% if you are a Millennial) and worldwide that number is an even more paltry 15%. That means the majority of the workforce (more than 70%) is checked out!

Moreover, only 21% of workers feel they are managed in a motivating way and only half know what’s expected of them on a daily basis. Nearly three-fourths of American workers are actively hunting for a new job, and the vast majority don’t feel like they get enough recognition from their company. Skyrocketing stress, a lack of recognition, promotion opportunities, and collegial support were cited as some of the reasons.

The myth of work-life balance…

The concept of a work-leisure dichotomy first surfaced in the mid-1800s while the more modern expression ‘work–life balance,’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and in the United States in the mid 1980s. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress.

Meanwhile, workplace policies are taking a schizophrenic turn. When in 2013 Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took away employees’ work from home option, most saw the decision as regressive. After all, not far from the Yahoo campus, a Stanford study had reported that work from home policies boost worker productivity by as much as 13 percent. According to Gallup, 43 percent of U.S. employees work remotely all or some of the time. But Mayer was focused on another batch of studies that showed the opposite and was facing a sinking corporate ship.

If we were to listen to Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest business tycoons, we would shift to a three-day work week, put in 11-hour work days and retire at 75. But ironically, a 2008 survey of workers by the Families and Work Institute found that 46% of those offered the option of a compressed week declined it most of the time.

The bottom line is that for the knowledge economy and jobs that mainly require interactions with clients (consultant, sales etc.) or don’t require much interaction at all (columnist), the office has little to offer besides interruption.

We need radical humanization of the workplace…

So what’s the solution to all this malaise?

1.      Radical Leadership: change starts at the top. We need ‘change leadership’ and if your specific workplace is broken because of poor management practices, you may need a change in leadership. People, after all, don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors.  Some of us work for micromanagers. Some of us work for toxic bosses. Some of us work in chaos.  The deleterious costs of dysfunctional workplaces and dysfunctional management are high. They include low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity. Many managers are promoted into their roles without the requisite training needed to be able to coach and develop their employees into success. It’s time to significantly raise the bar on leadership requirements. If you are satisfied with mediocre performance and having 70% of your people checked out, then don’t invest in your leaders and once in a while remind yourself of the classic definition of crazy.

2.      Radical Culture: for the most part, organizational culture is set at the top.  It is the culture that shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the company. Generally speaking, a positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture is counterproductive or even toxic. People are values driven. Values are directly related to success and failure and directly related to culture. Values are in the DNA of your workplace culture. People are attracted to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. They gravitate towards others who share their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time. That’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. So when a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Instead of describing your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social behaviors creating an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allowing positive feelings to emerge in turn.

3.      Radical Autonomy: Study after study has shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature simply have higher levels of productivity, creativity, engagement and overall job satisfaction. This desire and drive towards autonomy and independence is innate in us as humans. Restrictions on our autonomy lie at the heart of a great deal of our unhappiness. That’s why prison, the ultimate punishment in our society, is an extreme form of restricting our freedom. Studies with physicians have shown that sources of dissatisfaction for that profession do not stem from having to deal with insurance companies or paperwork but rather from lack of control over their daily schedules. I would argue that the same is true for all workers. This explains the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished. Guess what? Employees in these workplaces are more engaged and more productive.

One Final Word…

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy and engaged at work. Workers are the greatest asset any organization has. And while competitive pay and benefits are important, how we treat employees and how we manage work getting done are far more important factors that contribute to productivity. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture and trust their employees to do and be their best. The best places are those in which people can flourish by flexing their creative muscles and believing they have the freedom and independence to be their best selves. This is how you develop the power of synergy, empathy and good will. And these synergies generated on a daily basis are unstoppable.

Now, is that a radical idea?

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

3 Practical Ways to Unleash the Power of Collaboration

November 17, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ African Proverb

There is no way around it. The future of work is collaborative. And, yes, there is a way to work collaboratively, co-creatively and constructively with others. Even with people who have vastly different approaches and preferences than you. But first we must recognize that true collaboration is more than team members working on a project together. Much more. Collaboration is not just a matter of getting rid of cubicles and doors. The social, informational and spatial trends that are converging in the new age of technological innovation are demanding higher levels of sophistication and new patterns of collaboration that go beyond these simplistic fixes. They are demanding change at our roots. Let me explain.

Stuck in the old…

At the corporate level, our traditional systems still lack the nimbleness, structures, and culture needed for people to collaborate effectively.

To unleash innovation, companies must change the corporate culture to one of collaboration and trust; and implement tools to harness collective knowledge, experience and communities.

At a minimum, they must share knowledge across the organization by making data and information available to more people in the organization and empower them to act on that data. The current corporate culture in which we operate, still lacks the needed transparency to really foster true collaboration.

At the team level, collaboration is often confused with teamwork. In teams, employees with different knowledge, skills, and abilities may work side by side on common goals at the direction of a team leader and be individually accountable to that leader. Collaboration, however, involves interaction, debate, and working together towards a common goal. Collaboration demands mutual accountability.

At the individual level, it must be acknowledged that collaboration does not come naturally to most employees. For those born before the Millennials, competition was the expected mode of operation. The mindset shift needed for these workers, who have been conditioned into the thinking that individual effort will be rewarded with steady career progression, may be significant.

Embracing the new…

To maximize potential, companies must capitalize on the way many workers, in particular Millennials, already connect. Consider, for example, the widespread use and global connectivity made possible by social media. Such widespread use has bred familiarity and comfort with the now all too familiar platforms that we all use for both personal and professional gain.

Social networking has expanded rapidly worldwide. Its growth alongside the evolution of other Web 2.0 conferencing and collaboration technologies are clear indicators not only of the need but also of the changing nature of people’s willingness and desire to collaborate.

To be sure, there are disadvantages to the explosion of content that Internet communications brings. The recent epidemic of fake news and manipulation of U.S. democratic systems being the best example that comes to mind. But my thesis is that in the long run, the advantages will far outweigh the downsides of the virtual inevitability of these new ways of sharing.

What many of us fail to grasp is that the Internet is evolving – from publishing to commerce to user engagement – and we must evolve with it.

The Call to Action…

Let’s not mince words. Collaboration is hard work. It takes effective communication and coordination. It takes social and emotional intelligence. It takes teams that have been nurtured and taught to collaborate. Collaboration often fails because it is often just a simple mandate. Leaders who believe it’s a good thing simply lay it out as an expectation to follow without providing the requisite mechanisms or fostering the needed mindset shift to collaborate effectively.

When viewed as an activity and unsupported, the behaviors necessary for organization-wide collaboration fail to occur. Moreover, the current “do not criticize” climate of work may stymie healthy debate that actually stimulates creativity and innovation. Employees must learn together, be comfortable with each other, understand peer motivations and intentions and be able to speak the same collaborative language. That takes way more work on the part of leaders than just saying to employees that we expect collaboration. The same principles, by the way, apply to partnerships and coalitions. It is quite amazing how many times we convene people in a room with the expectation that by the sheer virtue of the convening, they will be able to collaborate. This forms the basis for the Collective Impact framework.

Collaboration takes time, effort, energy, resources and commitment. In the meantime, here are three practical things you can do right now to unleash the true power of collaboration:

1.      Leaders First: This means lead by example. Leaders should themselves role model effective collaboration and have the requisite communication and collaboration skills to do so. They should also understand their role in facilitating collaboration and maintaining a collaborative environment. Most importantly, leaders should not micromanage and should give employees the autonomy they need to perform the jobs they were hired to do. The future of work, is after all, autonomous.

2.      Use Collaboration Tools and Software: Web 2.0 technologies are exploding with opportunities and the reality of virtual teams and the global workforce necessitates a migration to these tools. Consider a serious investment that will allow you to harness the power of project management and communication tools that the new technology offers.

3.      Train your Teams: Studies and experience show that teams need to continue to improve communication, leadership, and critical thinking skills. Collaboration is greatly facilitated by training employees to know how to tap into individual and collective talent effectively, to have clarity about roles and responsibilities, and to know how to hold productive meetings.

Beyond these three, it should be noted that trust, open communication, as well as, shared vision and purpose are the foundations of effective collaboration. Indeed, many of the tenets of creating a positive work culture are necessary prerequisites for collaboration to take hold. Remember, that a truly collaborative workplace involves every employee at every level. For collaboration to truly be woven into the fabric of daily operations, the collaborative mindset must be infused in an organization’s culture first.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Build A Positive Work Culture

November 16, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle.

I was having a conversation with my son, who was about 13 at the time, when he said something that floored me. He said: “everything is about atmosphere.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that he thinks family life, office culture, and everything else comes down to the atmosphere that the adults and leaders create. OMG, I thought, this kid is brilliant!

I have used what he said ever since in my talks.

Now let’s break this down…

Google the phrase, “healthy workplace” and you get 20,600,000 results! Clearly it’s a hot topic. And just as clearly, there are thousands of interpretations of what the phrase means.

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy at work. Yes, competitive pay and benefits are important but keeping employees happy at work can come down to subtle changes in the values of an organization and how the organization treats its employees. The best places to work are those in which people can flourish, flex their creative muscles, and generally be their best selves. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is a combination of employee values, attitudes, expectations, and beliefs blended with the principles of the organization.  To a large extent, the culture shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the organization or team.

A workplace culture study conducted by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Moreover, 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.  

These studies show that leaders understand that positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture can be counterproductive or even toxic.

So why then are so many employees unhappy at work?

It’s one thing to know that healthy work cultures lead to productivity. It’s another thing altogether to know how to create such a culture. While leaders know this, all too often they don’t put their money where their mouth is. As a result, a 2017 study of 17,000 U.S. workers in 19 industries found that 71% were either “actively looking for new job opportunities” or were thinking about it. That’s a staggering number of unhappy workers.

 What can you do?

At some level, we all have to take responsibility for our own happiness and engagement. But in an organizational context, maximizing employee happiness and engagement is a key management responsibility because of the direct correlation to productivity.

Creating a positive work culture isn’t as difficult as you might think. However, to be successful, leaders must become more strategic on key issues such as recruiting talent, building teams, providing a broader scope for personal and professional development, developing future leaders and influencing company culture.

The first thing you can do is look around. Ask. Do an audit of organizational culture by surveying your employees on their perceptions. In sifting through the research, I have narrowed down ten of the most important indicators of a positive work culture. If any of these indicators are subpar, you need to start building intentional strategy around each one immediately and then ensure that they are working together as a whole to make up an organizational culture of excellence. They are:

1.      Leadership. It all starts here. People don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Positive, accessible and fair leadership is critical to fostering a healthy work environment. When leaders express genuine appreciation – up, down, and across the organizational structure for employees’ contributions and recognize these contributions regularly, employees feel empowered and engaged. Leaders are not micromanagers. They are not rigidly tied to static job descriptions, titles, hierarchies and ranking systems. They are focused on hiring great people, playing to their strengths and putting their skills to the best use. They do not immediately take out the ‘blame thrower’ every time something goes wrong.

2.      Trust and Respect.  Employees respect their fellow workers and work meaningfully to avoid personality conflicts, gossip, and backbiting. They laugh WITH each other not AT each other. When employees face challenges such as accidents, illnesses or personal tragedies, leaders address these challenges with empathy, support and understanding. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. There is a high cost to low trust within organizations. Recognition increases trust between leadership and employees. So does honesty and integrity.

3.      Open Communication.  Employees feel they have the freedom to speak, ideate, and provide alternate views. There are no hidden agendas, no secrets and no rumor mills. Gossip is banished. Furthermore, employees are not surprised with any information and new information is communicated well throughout the company. Employees understand the direction their team and organization is headed in because the mission, goals, and strategies are clearly articulated and inculcated.

4.      Growth and Development. Employees are offered the chance to grow professionally through regular training, career tools, and different assignments and experiences. Employees feel that they are learning and developing.  They are not made to feel bad or guilty about seeking out professional development opportunities. They have regular access to new training, workshops, mentoring, coaching, and presentations to learn, grow and develop. Senior staff mentor junior staff as part of the culture. When employees feel this sense of investment from their employer, they are willing to reciprocate and invest back into the company with their hard work and creativity.

5.      Teamwork and Collaboration. Employees work better when they feel they have quality, supportive, and energizing relationships with fellow workers. Team members help each other with critical tasks – they don’t hear “that’s not my job.” Instead, they hear “we’re all in this together.” Space (both physical and mental) is created so that employees can collaborate when needed, but have time alone for calls, and deep thinking work. Collaboration is built into company goals and values. One study even found that 40% of Millennials (who are soon to comprise the majority of the workforce) are willing to pay out of pocket for social collaboration tools to improve productivity. Transparency and clear communication are the keys to fostering strong teamwork and collaboration.

6.      Mutual Accountability. Closely related to the idea of teamwork and collaboration is mutual accountability. Leaders and employees make and keep their promises and as a result, mutual accountability, trust and respect are fostered across the organization. Peers hold peers accountable for their commitments. They are direct and assertive when promises are missed, and they are quick to thank others for keeping their promises. Accountability to customers is no less important than accountability to one another.

7.      Engagement and Empowerment. Workplace happiness depends on leaders who know how to empower employees. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm for the company and work that is being done. Employees own their work and they encourage others to stay engaged. Employee empowerment means sharing of information, resources and tools that make it easier for employees to carry out their roles and responsibilities. Employees feel engaged because they feel they are part of a bigger picture, a grander vision. But Gallop tells us that employee engagement is stagnant in the US at 32%. Something is wrong.

8.      Contribution and Value.  Employees feel that they are making a contribution to the team and that they are justly recognized for their contributions. They feel challenged to grow and they feel part of the bigger picture. Employees feel that their work exercises their creativity and imagination. Their contributions are recognized, encouraged and valued. Employees believe that their personal strengths are utilized, nurtured, and supported. They are happy to start the day because they know their work and contribution has meaning.

9.      Fairness and Inclusion.  Employees feel empowered because they have access to data and information. They have equal access to leadership and feel that their performance is assessed fairly following a set of standards that are evenly applied. There is equal opportunity for every employee to realize their full potential and a fair chance to move up within the company if they so desire. There is nothing worse than favoritism for diminishing employee morale. Fair treatment is a standard followed by all and every person is recognized as valuable; not just the star performers.

10.  Flexibility and Autonomy. The best workplaces offer people flexibility and autonomy. Flexibility is crucial to employees’ ability to optimally manage their work and their lives. Autonomy is fundamental to human happiness. One study of more than 2,000 people across three continents found that workers were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence.

A healthy workplace environment is not stress free. But a healthy workplace environment encourages employee well-being, safety and skill development with programs established to mitigate the inevitable stressors that are present on any job. Turnover, in most organizations, is a result of management issues, communication breakdown, and the lack of opportunity to make meaningful contributions. It goes without saying just how beneficial it is to productivity and to your business bottom line to be attentive to your organizational culture. You could offer high salaries, great benefits, and half a year’s vacation, but none of this would make an impact on an employee’s attitude and work ethic. True empowerment and engagement comes in the form of fostering a healthy workplace culture and atmosphere.

Even a 13-year old can tell you that much.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.