S. Chris Edmonds
What’s on your to-do list today? I’ll wager that “building workplace relationships” doesn’t appear on that list — but it’s something that all agency owners and business leaders should be focused on daily.
The reason is because our workplaces aren’t great places for employees to hang out. Don’t believe it? Here are some studies to back this up.
Christine Porath, in a Harvard Business Review article, wrote that 98 percent of the employees she interviewed over the past 20 years have experienced incivility or rudeness in the workplace.
Only 35 percent of employees around the globe are actively engaged at work, according to Gallup’s most recent “State Of The Workplace” report. That number hasn’t shifted significantly in more than two decades.
Respectful treatment of all employees at all organizational levels occurs in only 38 percent of global workplaces, the Society for Human Resource Management found in its 2017 report “Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement.”
Your agency may be much better than these studies indicate — but I’ll bet there are opportunities for your organization to improve the health and quality of its work culture.
HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR WORK CULTURE?
Why don’t leaders invest as much time and energy in creating a healthy work environment as they do in managing results? Because they’ve never been asked to manage culture. Most don’t know how to do it. They’ve never experienced a successful culture change, much less led one.
The good news is that executives agree culture matters. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found 80 percent of executives rated the employee experience — organizational culture, engagement and the employee brand proposition — as very important or important. But only 22 percent believe their companies are excellent at building a positive employee experience.
Even better news? Leaders can fix their damaged or broken work cultures. When leaders embrace their responsibility to create a purposeful, positive and productive work culture, the following three-step process will guide the way.
The first step, define, requires business owners to formalize their desired culture through an organizational constitution. An organizational constitution is a written document that specifies your company’s servant purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals.
Your servant purpose clearly describes your agency’s present-day “reason for being” besides making money. Making money is certainly important for the long-term success of your business, but making money is not the be-all and end-all for many humans. Your team members know that making a profit is important to the success of the business, but a more natural motivation can make a huge difference.
A servant purpose describes what you do (your product or service), who you do it for (your clients), and “to what end” — how what you do improves customers’ quality of life every day.
Most company mission or purpose statements don’t meet these criteria — and they don’t have a positive effect on employees. Here’s an actual purpose statement for a real company:
“Creating superior value for our customers, employees, partners and shareholders.”
Is it clear what they do? No (they are a tire company). Is it clear who the company’s primary “customers” are? No. Is it clear how what the company does improves others’ quality of life? No.
Compare that to this purpose statement from a pharmaceutical company (Bristol-Myers Squibb):
“To discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.”
Is it clear what they do? Absolutely. Is it clear who they do it for? Absolutely. Is it clear to what end employees are toiling — how they improve customers’ quality of life? Absolutely.
This purpose statement creates clarity of how their customers benefit, which creates meaning and significance for employees every day.
Continuing the “define” step, agency leaders must define values in observable, tangible and measurable terms — just as performance standards are defined in observable, tangible and measurable terms. If your company has values defined, they probably are not measurable. They are aspirational (“We act with integrity”) but likely not behavioral (“I do what I say I will do”).
Only when values are behaviorally defined do they become actionable. Behavioral definitions shift values from vague ideas to clear requirements for trustful and respectful treatment of others in the course of one’s work.
One business, a seven-state region of the world’s largest retailer, defined its customer service value with behaviors like these:
» I initiate friendly hospitality by promptly and enthusiastically smiling and acknowledging everyone who comes within 10 feet.
» I ensure that each customer is assisted in finding requested items.
» I deliver a clean, fast, friendly experience to each customer.
These behaviors (three of eight of their service behaviors) are measurable. Someone could observe me working over a week’s time and be able to rate the degree to which I model these specific behaviors.
Another business, a three-state region of a waste management provider, defined their respect value with these behaviors:
» I seek and genuinely listen to others’ opinions.
» I do not act or speak rudely or discount others.
» I work to resolve problems and differences by directly communicating with the people involved.
Again, these behaviors specify a very specific path to demonstrate respect in this division.
Strategies and goals in your agency are probably defined already (most do define performance expectations and strategies). Including them in your organizational constitution ensures that team leaders and team members understand that values demonstration and performance accomplishment are equally important.
The second step, align, is the hardest part. This is where senior leaders demonstrate their agency’s valued behaviors in every interaction — and coach others to do the same.
By defining your organizational constitution and announcing the new servant purpose, values and behaviors, don’t assume that anyone will embrace or model those behaviors. They won’t model them until they see senior leaders living them, coaching them, praising them and redirecting misaligned behaviors.
When agency owners and leaders model your valued behaviors and hold everyone accountable for demonstrating your valued behaviors in every interaction, you make values as important as results. You make treating others with trust and respect in every interaction as natural as breathing!
One critically important piece of alignment is that you will no longer tolerate bad behavior from anyone. You won’t allow or ignore aggressive behavior, rude behavior, demeaning behavior, harassment or teasing ever again.
Just as you monitor performance traction with daily dashboards of key metrics, you must create a clear, reliable means to monitor values alignment. A custom values survey does that. It allows employees to rate their bosses on how well those bosses demonstrate your valued behaviors.
A values survey must be done regularly — at least twice a year. Some businesses are using weekly pulse surveys (one question a week; it takes three minutes for employees to complete it online with their smartphones or computers) to keep a more frequent tally of values alignment.
The third step, refine, happens every two years or so with a review of your valued behaviors. You’ll update the behaviors list by removing well-embraced behaviors (they won’t disappear in your environment), revising some behaviors or adding new behaviors to address “opportunities” for better citizenship in your evolving work culture. Your servant purpose and values rarely change. But your strategies and goals might change annually.
Through these steps — define, align and refine — you can craft a purposeful, positive, productive work culture. Don’t leave your culture to chance. Be intentional with an organizational constitution.