By Norm Spitzig
What exactly makes a workplace great? What are the characteristics common to those workplaces recognized as superior? Regardless of size or industry, a workplace can be considered great if it boasts all of the following attributes.
A Clear Mission
The best workplaces in the world have a clear purpose, a straightforward, concise mission statement that explains who the company is. The statement is readily understandable and enthusiastically embraced by every employee.
Such great companies have carefully identified those factors critical to their long-term success as well as generated a specific vision for the future. Great workplaces create detailed action plans and accompanying areas of responsibility to ensure their vision is more than some pie-in-the-sky dream. Its concrete, actionable, measurable andwith perseverance on everyone's partachievable.
A Trained Staff
Great workplaces have forward-thinking, creative senior management and a caring, well-trained staff. No workplace can remain superior over a significant period of time without quality leadership at the top as well as quality support staff. At great workplaces, everyone from the CEO to yesterday's hire are fully committed to doing whatever it takes to guarantee the company's ongoing success year in and year out.
Equally as important, great workplaces attract people from myriad backgrounds and with varying arsenals of professional and personal skills, talents that complement and enhance each other to the benefit of all employees as well as the customer base. At a great workplace, individuality is valued and cherished, but teamwork remains first and foremost.
A great workplace encourages employees to do what they deem as meaningful. Of course, the term denotes different things to different people. Whats meaningful for a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company may differ from that of a solo entrepreneur working at home. Both positions can be genuinely viewed as meaningful, depending on the perspectives of the individuals involved.
Malcolm Gladwell is correct when he notes in his book Outliers that, for most people, work is meaningful when its sufficiently autonomous, appropriately complex, and has a perceived direct relationship between the effort invested and the accompanying return. Great workplaces offer team members the opportunity for every employeeirrespective of their education, talents and experiencesto consistently do what they perceive as genuinely meaningful.
Rules and Policies
Reasonable, understandable and uniformly enforced work rules are the final piece to the puzzle. Great workplaces have rules and policies that are reasonable, understandable and, perhaps most important, fairly and uniformly enforced. For example, if smoking is prohibited in the work environment, that means no one smokes, not even the CEO. The rules and policies at great workplaces are neither capricious nor arbitrary. They are not written in language so arcane that anyone but a senior tax attorney can comprehend.
Ideally, they are not written to prevent employees from doing something, but rather to set appropriate standards whereby all employees are assured the opportunity to maximize their potential. In short, great workplaces embrace rules and policies that reflect the core values of the workplace as well as the expectations of the employees and customers in a fair and logical manner.
A Blend of Tradition and Innovation
While great workplaces are environments where employees devote a significant amount of time to improving current products and services as well as creating new ones, they are also places where tradition and continuity are highly valued. Longstanding products and services are not whimsically eliminated to the detriment of loyal customers. Rather, theyre continually improved as circumstances dictate to the benefit of all concerned.
At great workplaces, all are aware and proud of their company's origins and heritage, growth and evolution, positive reputation in the community, quality products and services, mission for the present, and vision for the future.
Great workplaces have regular, honest communication between everyone involved in the long-term success of the company. Staff and customers are kept informed and encouraged to participate in the company mission, vision, policies and procedures as well as any significant changes under consideration. In other words, theyre given adequate opportunity to convey their ideas and suggestions to company leadership.
Managers at great workplaces are unwavering in their commitment to management by walking around, because they know this time-tested practice promotes open communication and minimizes potential problems. Great workplaces typically have company newsletters, both electronic and print, that regularly and effectively communicate the various opportunities available to staff and customers in an accurate and timely manner.
Last, but certainly not least, great workplaces are fiscally prudent in the manner they operate. They have detailed, multi-year business plans that feature accurate income and expense projections, conservative cash-flow estimates, sufficient funding for research, development, infrastructure maintenance, renovation and expansion, and realistic cash-flow projections.
In addition, great businesses rigorously monitor and adjust their financial plans on a regular basis as circumstances dictate. They know exactly how much money will be required to provide the quality products and services their customers want and expect the specific costs associated with them. The long-term financial well-being of the workplace remains a high priority in the minds of all concerned.
A great workplace employs happy, productive and talented people who perform meaningful work compatible with the mission, vision and financial goals of the company. It takes constant effort and vigilance to be a truly great workplace, but the end result is well worth it.
Norm Spitzig is principal at Master Club Advisors, an executive placement firm for the private club industry. Hes a speaker and author of Perspectives on Club Management and Private Clubs in America and Around the World. For more information, call 352.735.5693; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.masterclubadvisors.com.