Needed: Workplace Development

This article was originally published on Tim Waldo’s LinkedIn page.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This old adage infers the idea that we’ve looked at it and evaluated whether or not it needs fixing. We constantly talk about our workforce concerns and the need to improve the skill levels of our workers; and this is important. Sometimes though, we fail to look at the workplace to see if those folks we’ve trained would even want to come and work there. Often times our workplaces are in need of fixing…they’re broke.

There is no one definition of what makes a company a great place to work. In large part, it will depend upon your industry – a great workplace for a mid-sized manufacturer may be very different from a great workplace in a small design firm.

It seems to be mostly a combination of these three aspects of an organization – the environment, the culture and the attitude. The environment relates to safety; how organized the place is; cleanliness and how inviting it is being there. Culture comes from the way people are treated – encouraged, engaged, included and valued. The attitude of the place is its personality – how the team attacks challenges; how the company shows appreciation; how it celebrates or recovers from disappointment and also how it handles success…and failure.

We tend to look closely at our systems and processes; after all, this is how we get things done. The environment is something we take stock of too because it also impacts how we get things done. But to truly get a sense of the type of workplace we have, there has to be some intentionality. We have to really look at it. It’s not about coddling either. It’s about creating an atmosphere at work that motivates people and encourages them to do their best – that’s what you pay them for.

To start, commit to an in-depth analysis of your workplace; get past the surface level and put aside your personal views. Try to see things from your team’s perspective. Then (this is most important) ask your team – all of them! Listen to what they say. Also, consider generational differences. Yes, the generations are different, but different can be a good thing. Look at examples from other organizations and other industries. Be careful not to copy them too closely though; you are not them. Finally, be willing to try new things.

Why do this? Why is a great workplace important? It is no secret that attracting and retaining talent is crucial and difficult. Exceptional places to work capture emotions and invite people to contribute to the efforts that keep that workplace exceptional. Inclusive and engaging workplaces instill a sense of loyalty, a sense of belonging to something greater. These attributes draw people in and keep them involved.

In a highly competitive market, a great workplace can be a real drawing card for smaller companies with fewer benefits to offer. Companies that enjoy such an atmosphere can gain particular competitive advantages because that type of environment tends to breed innovation and promote improvement. When people enjoy their workplace, when they feel connected and appreciated, they are more productive, more likely to offer ideas and generally are more dependable.

Developing our workforce is vitally important. But sending them to work in places where they feel unengaged, underutilized and unappreciated will only result in disappointment for all parties; and eventually with their departure. So, look…look closely to see if your workplace is broke, and then work to fix it. Good employees are more likely to be drawn to bring their energies and their passions and ultimately contribute to the organization’s success.