It’s easy to see why companies would want to start building a great workplace. Where to begin can be more difficult to discern. This lack of clarity makes it tough to take focused actions that move a company forward. In some cases, it can even discourage leaders if the scope and breadth seems too large to overcome.
If you’re among those aspiring to build a better workplace, even a great one, here are seven tips from the leaders of companies recognised on the USA's 2011 Best Small and Medium Workplaces list.
1. Begin with yourself. “In order to build a great workplace, you must first build yourself by gaining a deep understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and you must completely commit to developing yourself into the best leader and person you can be. At the same time, you must hire outstanding people who are as committed as you are to build a great workplace.” – Robert Pasin, Chief Wagon Officer, Radio Flyer
2. Flip the traditional management dynamic. “Treat every employee as a colleague, and turn the management structure upside-down. If you are hiring well, then the management of the company is there to support the talent and aspirations of your employees, and not the reverse.” – John Saaty, CEO, Decision Lens
3. Hire the best. “Hire people smarter than you. This is the best advice my father gave me when I was starting my business, and I believe it holds true today. In today's competitive environment, your time at work will be easier and more pleasant if you are surrounded by smart people-- those who share your values, mission, and vision and like to have FUN! Talented employees will help your business to grow, and create a great place to work. Customers value knowledgeable employees -- the smarter your new hires are, the better off your business will be in the end.” -- Lauren Dixon, CEO, Dixon Schwabl
4. See employees as whole people. “Every employee has things in their life more important than work. If you fail to realize that, there will be a fundamental disconnect in your relationship with that employee. Realize it and embrace it, and you will be on the way to a mutually beneficial relationship. ” – Tim Storm, CEO & Founder, FatWallet
5. Use positive, constructive motivation. “It’s said that eight out of 10 people come to work in the morning wanting to make a difference, but by lunch it’s down to four. That’s usually a result of the environment more than anything, not just the physical but the interpersonal. Lead your employees with a clear vision, support them with adequate resources, and possibly most important – reward them for treating others with respect. Motivate everyone in a positive, constructive way, and your biggest problem will be having to build more office space sooner than you thought!” – Tim Hohmann, CEO, AutomationDirect
6. Practice accountability to your values. “Hold everyone accountable to your core beliefs and values, including you. No ‘license to kill’ is allowed no matter how much money someone brings into your business. Otherwise, a double standard develops which will derail the creation of a great workplace.” – Jim Rasche, 3EO, Kahler Slater
7. Start now. “Don’t wait till you get bigger to put in place key items, such as staff surveys, peer interviewing for hiring and clear standards of behavior [developed by staff].” – Quint Studer, CEO and founder, Studer Group
Join us on October 24th in San Jose, California to learn best practices directly from this year's Best Small & Medium Workplaces.
Marcus Erb is a Senior Research Partner and Senior Consultant with Great Place to Work® and author of a monthly column on creating great workplaces in small businesses for Entrepreneur magazine.
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