I’ll bet there’s plenty of conversation in your workplace — about today’s tasks, about that rush order, about that sudden snag, about the project that should have been done yesterday. But do you and your colleagues ever step off the task treadmill and talk about the workplace itself? If you work full time until retirement age, you’re going to log at least 90,000 hours on the job. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a few of those hours teaming up with co-workers to figure out how to make the workplace better?
Sure it does, but that only sparks more questions: What exactly should you talk about? How do you keep the conversation from turning into a gripe session? Is there a way to make meaningful discoveries instead of talking on and on about the obvious?
That’s what this Top 10 list is all about. It gives you thought-provoking questions guaranteed to open up worthwhile conversation about your workplace. Share the list with colleagues, select the one or two questions that seem most relevant, then set aside some time to talk. There are no right or wrong answers, and you don’t need a full day for this. Just an hour or so of dialogue, with ears and minds wide open, will deepen everyone’s understanding and point the way to practical improvement.
When was the last time you got so caught up in interesting work that you lost track of time? What were you doing? What was it — about the work itself, how you were going about it, its connection to a greater good — that made this such a wonderfully consuming activity?
Seeing the fruits of your labor When you want to see the results of your work, what do you look at? How do you know that your effort is having a positive impact? If you could wave a wand and instantly create a more meaningful system for tracking results, what would it look like?
John W. Gardner observed, “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” What is your biggest insoluble problem? What makes it so tough to tackle, and what is the great opportunity that lies within? How would you go about pursuing this opportunity if you divided the challenge into manageable steps?
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
How many hours do you spend each week in meetings? How many of these hours are well spent, and how many are wasted? If you could redirect that unproductive time to worthwhile activity, what would you do?
The voice of the customer
When your customers talk about your organization behind your back, what do you think they say? Who has the highest praise, who is most critical, and why? Now think about your own immediate customers: When they talk about you personally (and you know they do!), what do they likely say?
The community-individuality balance
What gets greater emphasis in your workplace: teamwork and togetherness, or individuality and diversity? If it’s teamwork and togetherness, does the pursuit of unity prompt people to downplay their differences? If individuality and diversity are the main focus, does the workplace ever feel like a loose collection of conflicting styles and agendas? What can be done to maintain a good balance between unity and uniqueness?
From passive complaints to positive action
What is your biggest complaint about the workplace? Now, rephrase it in the form of a positive goal. Here’s an example: “I’m tired of busywork. I spend half my day crunching numbers that no one looks at.” Here’s the corresponding positive goal: “I’d like to spend my time on work that relates to our mission and affects our customers. If my number-crunching has real value, I’d like to know exactly how.” After defining the goal, think action: What can you and others do to make it happen?
Giving and getting respect
Johann von Goethe said, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” What did Goethe mean, and how does this play itself out in your workplace? What could be done right now to make respect one of the workplace’s greatest strengths?
Can we talk? Is there an elephant in your workplace — a big problem or concern that no one ever talks about? Something that’s well-known to all and in desperate need of dialogue? If so, why is the elephant so unacknowledged? What are the risks of talking about it? What are the potential benefits?
“If I had just a bit more authority at work, I would _____.” Fill in the blank with several actions you’d like to take right now to be more effective in your job. Then explore why you can’t. What’s holding you back? What is the one action you can get started on right now?
Hiring the right candidate is a challenging process. Once you’ve found your successful candidate, you need to make sure that they are effectively equipped to hit the ground running in their new position.
A good orientation program can take time and preparation. The pay-off is employees who are ready to make an immediate impact and transition into their new role quickly and efficiently.
The investment of a little time and money preparing an orientation program can lead to savings from reduced employee turnover in the first year, as well as gains in performance and morale.
The cliche applies, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.
Benefits of employee orientation
Keeps the excitement level of the new applicant high: When coming to a new position, new employees are motivated to learn and succeed!
Retains your new recruits: Where staff members are made to feel welcome, and they are provided with a culture of support, and the information and materials they need to succeed right away, your organization will increase the rate of retention for new employees, and save money on unnecessary recruiting costs associated with turnover.
Saves you money because of increased productivity and decreased errors, stress, and dependence on other staff members.
Increases morale in the new recruit and their team members, resulting from a clear understanding of the role and their obligations.
Increases health and safety, resulting from decreased injuries, incidents and near-misses that may occur where a new recruit is not provided with appropriate health and safety orientation.
Helps your organization meet legislative compliance regulations by providing the training required under the law.
Forget speed-dating, how about speed-recruiting? Pizza Hut is recruiting for a Social Media Manager (or ‘Manager of Digital Greatness’), and candidates will have interviews of just 140 seconds in length!
The company wants applicants to be able to demonstrate that they can deliver in the hyper fast-paced world of social media. “It’s the modern day elevator speech,” Doug Terfehr from Pizza Hut told Forbes. “The time you have to tell a story, engage a customer or leave a lasting impression on someone socially has shrunk to seconds.
You should remember that, as a supervisor, you’ll always get what you reward. if you ignore good behaviour, you may lose it and perhaps a good employee as well. While this may appear to be common sense, it is far from common practice.
We like to be recognized for doing good work. We crave praise, but do not always like to give praise. One of your jobs as manager is to make sure you give out praise as often as possible. In the workplace it really holds true because it is a place where they spend on average 40 hours a week. People want to be happy and secure in a place where they spend so much of their time.
It only takes a few seconds to say, “Thank you,” and “great job,” but you get plenty of return. It’s easy and effective. Timely praise can work wonders.
Here are some guidelines on giving praise:
Make it immediate – Your recognition will be most effective if it comes as soon as possible after the desired activity or achievement has occurred. Saving your praise for a later date will weaken its impact.
Be sincere – Your praise must be genuine and balanced. It will lose impact if it becomes regular and predictable. Don’t exaggerate and say things you don’t really mean.
Be specific – Avoid generalities like “great job”. Wait for a specific action to praise and then say something like, “You
did an excellent job of expediting that order today”
Praise good performance – Praising good performance is an effective way to inspire people to improve in weak areas. Don’t praise ordinary performance.
If you praise your workgroup for doing routine jobs, in a routine way, you’re not motivating them to do better —
and it will makc the praise you give them for excellent work seem less significant.
Give it meaning – Avoid simply recognizing employee achievements in passing. Rather, try to spend sorne time
with them so that they know their efforts to the workgroup and to the organization are recognized.
The supervisor must remember that employees thrive on recognition. They want to know if they are improving and
performing in their jobs. Delivering simple, direct praise for a task well done is the easiest way to show that recognition.
Supervisors who fail to realize this are depriving themselves and their employees of one of the most powerful forms of inspiration to shape desired behaviour and performance.
There are myths or assumptions about what the family-friendly workplace really means. Some of the commonly held myths and the corresponding reality checks are as follows:
Family-Friendly policies are soft HR issues, mainly for women. Policies that increase employee health and well-being, foster employee commitment and support families, positively impact everyone (employees; men and women, customers and clients, families and communities.) In some organizations, it is women who have pushed for family-friendly policies since they are usually the primary caregivers, responsible for child care, eldercare and health care as well as primarily responsible for household management (shopping, meals, laundry, cleaning etc.) and are either major contributors to family income or the primary family breadwinner. Men and women at all levels of companies, in all stages of their career development and all stages of their life cycle are seeking flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance.
Management will lose control. Some managers may have concerns about giving up control over their workforce by implementing supportive policies and practices, however they actually gain more control over outputs and results by giving control of time management to employees. By providing more control to their employees, managers can help establish a better working relationship. These employees, now more satisfied with their work-life balance, are more inclined to show loyalty to their manager and company. As a result, these managers will likely see a lower turnover rate in their departments.
Flexibility is unfair and inequitable. Some managers consider that there needs to be a “one size fits all” solution to flexibility. The reality is that everyone has different needs and so the solutions will be very personal. Different people need different forms of flexibility at different points in their lives (i.e., when they have a baby or when they want to continue their education). Other people are content to work a more traditional workweek and prefer the stability and predictability of a standard work schedule. Solutions to employee needs for flexibility should be custom fits.
Hours at work = results (notion of “face time”) In a traditional workplace, managers could always see their employees and so considered them to be working and productive. With employees exploring alternate ways to work such as telecommuting, managers may no longer see them. Some may have concerns about what employees are doing during the day if working from home. The keys to success are good trust, regular communication and clear performance targets.
Only for non-managerial positions. This was the case when flexible work options were first introduced in the 1990’s. However, as more women have moved into senior management positions and more men are juggling their careers with fatherhood, this has changed. Many companies offer their work-life balance policies to employees at all levels.
Participation in family-friendly policies is a career-limiting move. Research studies have shown that for most people, working a flexible work arrangement does not limit their careers, although it may slow down the career path, or reduce some options. For example, if an employee reduces their work hours, they may not be willing or interested in taking a position or promotion that requires extended travel. Employees need to assess the pros, cons and career impact when deciding whether a flexible work arrangement is for them.If however, the career impact is the result of unsupported assumptions (e.g., those who use flexible work arrangements are less committed to the company or unable to take on increased responsibility), you may need to take measures to dispel these perceptions. It is also one of the reasons, it is recommended to conduct follow-up assessments of your programs and policies. You could, for example, assess over time, the impact on promotions of those who use work-life options such as flexible work arrangements versus those in traditional work situations.
Hard to measure impact on bottom line. Many companies now have access to solid statistics about how family-friendly policies positively impact the bottom-line. Through employee attitude surveys, focus groups and pilot tests, senior management know that employees with lower work-family conflict have less stress and anxiety about “doing it all” and are better able to focus on their jobs and their customers.
It won’t work for jobs with direct customer contact. With more companies moving towards 24/7 operations, telephone call-centres and service provided at customer’s homes and offices, the need for flexibility has grown. Customers are looking for good quality service, and prefer to deal with a happy employee who is satisfied with their work.