We all hear about how disengaged people are at work these days. So what does it take to change the productivity quadrant? There are 7 components to the “Value-Driven Autonomy” pillar so let’s dissect them:
Is your staff learning at work? This includes learning beyond how to do the job. Are they being prepared for a brighter future and becoming a better person as a result? When you truly care about your workers and individuals contributing to your well-being by coming to work and doing their jobs well, shouldn’t they be considered a part of your family and taught to grow?
When you are privileged with numerous staff, each has unique skills at work or beyond that can be taught or shared with the group for their individual benefit even if it is primarily used at work. Leverage this talent in an in-house classroom. There are books that can be shared and discussed in group meetings where all levels can benefit. When we use this method in our company, we assign a chapter or two to each associate to study and lead the discussion at the appropriate time when those chapters come up. Outside consultants can be brought in for particular topics. Also, don’t forget your suppliers who will be more than happy to share knowledge with the group. There are unlimited ways to bring learning to the staff even if only occasionally. We have found the best learnings come from inside staff which is also the least costly way. The question remains, do you care enough to do it?
Nothing demonstrates trust to employees more than open book accounting. Granted it takes new thinking allowing the staff in on the ebb and flows of the company economics. This is a great teacher of entrepreneurship to all members on staff. Small to mid-sized companies have experienced tremendous growth by giving their staff, at all levels, the freedom to think and act entrepreneurial on the job. If you really see the need to keep the numbers “close to the breast” hopefully it is for a good reason. Of all the items on this list, this one can bring the most favorable impact on the company.
The highs and lows of life affect all of us. When these events occur in the life of your workers, it is a time to care. Celebrate the good times and help shoulder the difficulties. Hospital visits are not out of the question. Sometimes a worker needs a little safe harbor time to work things out. Occasionally crises hits and other staff can be mobilized to help. All these events provide opportunity for emotional deposits toward genuine company connecting. Empathy can’t be faked, it has to be real.
I worked for a boss once that relished finding his managers doing things wrong. He was quick to punish and slow to teach. There are people builders and people shrinkers. We all have strengths and weaknesses. The leadership of today focuses on the strengths and avoids trying to fix the weaknesses that being a proven lost cause. If everyone on staff is successful in their job, isn’t that best for the company? Let’s make it so.
Never a fan of Human Resource directives I swore not to have an HR Director in our company. I had conversation with Jack Stack at a Small Giants Summit in Chicago a couple of years ago after I had visited his plant in Springfield, Missouri as part of a Small Giants Passport event. Privileged to sit in on his dynamic department head meeting during the visit demonstrated to us a serious review and focus on financial results by the SRC management team. I was taken back by the HR Director report however merely touting the United Way Campaign. This seemed out of sync with the others at the meeting. Now Jack’s book (“The Great Game of Business”) and his company (SRC) represent a positive culture example for the entire business world so I asked him why he thought it was necessary to even have an HR Director.
Jack shared how one acquisition they made in previous years resulted in a Federal Marshall raid on the premises due to some illegal (or it may have been counterfeit) components used in the assembly. They had been totally unaware of this. The raid was executed with SWAT team tactics and shook the plant personnel to the core! It eventually cost the company a great deal in legal fees not to mention the negative publicity surrounding such an event.
Okay, I am convinced, we need reasonable compliance oversight. The emphasis however is what is both reasonable and necessary. A company with a positive culture does not need “HR compliance police” or company attorneys creating an uncomfortable (unsafe) working environment causing fear at every decision turn.
Self-managing professionals are not satisfied with a routine JOB at work each day. Perks and recreational activities will not hold this staff for even a day! I attended an Inc. Leadership conference a few years ago and joined a break out session with Chester Elton (co-author of the book, “All In”). At that session he said, “Teach your staff to be entrepreneurs and figure out how to keep them”. What great advice! My key staff accompanies me on most of these learning conferences because I want them to think and act like entrepreneurs for the company. Can you think of a better team strengthener than that?
Here is another point. One company principle for us is avoiding punishment for mistakes. It reads as follows:
“We are a ‘continuous improvement’ organization. We capture learning’s from successes and from failures. Successes are celebrated and failures stand without blame. Systems are implemented or improved to build on successes and avoid repeat failures.”
The lower the level of decision-making that can be authorized to the staff, the more professional the team will interact with your clients and coworkers. As department heads approach with good decision options, the response should be, “you decide”.
Well, are you ready to make the leap to a Virtual Culture? Look for the final post in this series next month and you decide!
READ MORE: If you like this article, you should read “The Virtual Culture Part II”
Jim Mullaney is President and CEO of Edoc Service, Inc. a “Fast 55” virtual company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.