Developing positive workplace cultures
As the world of work and business continues to evolve, attracting, retaining and developing the right employees has always been an important factor for business success, but why has it become the latest “trend” in the HR world?
Positive culture – positive employees?
A positive company culture is no longer seen as a desirable element within our organisations, in many cases it is now seen as an essential. With so many changes happening within our workplaces, it is therefore increasingly important to consider how employees are managed and developed. Some factors are more obvious, such as influences from changing technology, organisations need to ensure that employees are equipped with the right skills so that they are aligned with the organisation’s aspirations. This is so that they can gain a competitive edge in their industries and achieve success in their respective markets.
A large part of this success and having that competitive edge can be attributed to the culture of the organisation which is one of the reasons why the topic is now in the spotlight. Creating a positive culture is no longer about free fruit Tuesdays, the annual pay increase or the Christmas bonus, whilst they may be lovely gestures, they are simply not enough to hold the levels of engagement expected by organisations, nor is it proven to achieve employee loyalty. As the world of work has changed and as different generations are now working together, employees are all driven by different things and the desirable elements that employees seek when selecting an employer are flexibility, meaningful work and autonomy, creating a sense of balance within their daily lives.
Another workplace fad?
It is easy to view organisational culture as a fad, but having regular conversations about conflict at work with my clients, I can say first hand that I do not believe that it is a fad and can be backed up with evidence. Recently, Robert Half conducted a survey and established that a third of jobseekers would reject their dream job if the organisational culture was a negative one.
The role of HR
HR are often seen as the drivers behind workplace cultures, but it is in fact everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the working environment is a happier place to be. One of the strongest engagement tools that can be used is the organisations line managers, they know their people better than anyone and they are then enabled to not only manage their employees effectively, but they are in a position where they can win hearts and minds. Additionally, they can provide a view to senior management in order to obtain support and put employee wellbeing as a priority. It is important to keep in mind that this doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a great deal of trust from senior management and from the employees, so the people in the middle need to be able to use their knowledge and skills to influence at both sides. It takes consistent effort and investment, which is sadly not often seen a business priority, but if these elements are in place, this can help to create a positive working environment for everybody.
Let’s face it, the fundamentals of any employment relationship are based upon trust. Trust is also a confident relationship with the unknown, it enables us to feel comfortable with the unfamiliar. Being vulnerable is at the heart of trust and that is why it is incredibly damaging and hurtful when it breaks down.
Over the next few years, we will certainly experience significant changes as we embrace new ways of working, without trust, this can potentially create a toxic culture within which energy that could be spent on productivity is actually spent on office politics and negative behaviours, which results in wasted time, money and energy which could be better spent elsewhere.
The authenticity of business leaders, accountability, ethical working practices, empowerment, fair management all have an important part to play in promoting a positive organisational culture. By creating an environment within which employees feel empowered and working with purpose increases productivity and gets employees working to their full potential. Additionally, it isn’t a secret that a key to attracting and retaining the best talent is by giving employees purpose and making them feel valued. By being transparent and starting with small actions, this can be a great starting point to creating a positive culture.
One size does NOT fit all!
There is no one size fits all when it comes to effective leadership, however, there are many ways to encourage a positive culture through the workplace. By being open minded, line managers can identify the expectations and needs of employees, they can then tailor their approach to their employees. If managers are responsive to the changing environments and combine this with a flexible approach, this can enable effective management of negative behaviours quickly and establish new ways of working. Again, trust has an important part to play as the new ways of working are established, this may include delegation of tasks which many people are generally uncomfortable with.
Management and leadership skills are difficult to find and should never be taken for granted, training and ongoing support through initiatives such as mentoring enable managers to become successful leaders. If organisations fail to support managers appropriately, they risk setting them up for a fall especially in cases of promotion, the employee may be great at what they do, but are they then promoted for that fact into a role beyond the scope of their capability? By investing in development, this can avoid this common mistake made by too many employers.