12 Big-Impact Ways to Improve Your Company

Oct 24, 2011
8 Min Read

Is your company lacking in employee engagement? Is there high turnover? Or perhaps your company is on the 100 Great Places to work list like Intuit? No matter where your organization falls on this spectrum, there might still be room for improvement! Last month, Tony Schwartz had a fantastic blog post over at HBR blogs on the 12 Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work. What really captured my attention was when he wrote, “in more than a decade of working with Fortune 500 companies, I've yet to come across a company that meets the full range of their people's needs in all the ways I've described.”

Here are his twelve ideas, chunked, with suggestions on how to implement them at your company:

Lead Organizational Change

  • Institute fair compensation throughout the organization. Ensure all employees, no matter their role, are paid a wage that a family can live on in their area. If this is truly not possible for some entry-level positions, provide a way a higher wage is eventually attainable via high performance, length of tenure, or a career path.
  • Allow all employees to have a stake in the company’s success. This can be financial, such as profit sharing, stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. But this can also be emotional. When I worked in retail, at one company there was a board in the break room that showed all the numbers of the store’s performance and how each department had contributed. It was neat to see how what you do in one day has an impact that week and that year. When the company is doing well, all of the employees should know about it, be able to celebrate it, and profit from it. It creates a positive energy that allows for sustained performance.
  • Look to add value. Not just financial value, but something that is meaningful. For some companies, this is inherent in their business model. For others, perhaps a corporate-sponsored volunteerism or foundation needs to be pursued.
  • Commit to employee learning and development. In my view, this ideally comes from two directions—what the company thinks the employee needs to know and what the employee is driven to learn more about.

Support Human Needs

  • Revamp the office design. Is it updated and modern? What does it say about your culture? Does it fit with the type of work that is being done? Are the chairs comfortable and the desks roomy? Is there opportunity for either privacy or collaboration, as needed?
  • Make sure there is access to healthy, high quality food. If there is a cafeteria, provide nutritional information about what is being served. Consider what restaurants are nearby and how accessible they are to worker… and whether your lunch and break policy complements that. Is there a safe place to store brown bagged lunches? What can you offer as complimentary---coffee, water, fruit, weekly team lunch, or perhaps a monthly office luncheon with speaker?
  • How can employees rest and renew during the workday? There should be some sort of encouragement to take breaks, either from the company or from the manager, as most of us are not accustomed to this being the norm. If employees want to exercise during lunch or take a nap, is there a reasonable way to do so? Keep in mind that working smarter, not harder, is the key to productivity.
  • Provide access to a gym. If your company can’t have one on campus, compensate employees for their gym memberships. Encourage use during the work day.

Develop Managerial Competence

  • Define success by setting clear expectations. What are the metrics by which job performance is determined? Does the employee and their supervisor know and understand this? Then, in Tony Schwartz’s words… “[give employees] as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished.” I love it!
  • Have performance reviews go both ways. It’s one thing if your boss thinks you are doing a great job, but where you get the best feedback is when your direct report rates you as excellent. It might also be a good idea to collect these more often than just once a year.
  • Treat everyone with respect. This includes both positive and negative events. When there is negativity (layoff, critical feedback), make sure employees are treated with care. On the other hand, when someone does something well, make sure they are rewarded and recognized for it.
  • Focus on quality work. Don’t let busywork, urgent matters, and maintenance activities take a priority over creative and strategic initiatives. Make sure people are able to set aside time to work on projects they love or projects with a big impact to the company.

Some of these clearly go beyond the scope of your job. But some of them don’t. Someone, somewhere is responsible for each one of these items. Is it you? Even if it isn’t, there might be an opportunity to brainstorm a way to get one of these areas improved at your organization. Not sure how to start? Go back and check out Anita Bruzzese's post from August, Selling Your Bright Idea.

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