Getting the right people is clearly a major part of the process, but unless you have a positive environment for them to come to, they are unlikely to stay.
‘Not every company can afford the posh surroundings of the blue- chips. Does that mean people won't stay?'
Absolutely not. There are some exceptionally smart workplaces out there that do not have great company culture and that lose people on a regular basis. Make the very best of what you have, and ensure that the environment is appropriate, so that colleagues are comfortable doing their work. You can more than make up for the glitz through strong relationships and respect.
Complete a thorough assessment of the physical working environment:
Do people have enough space for their work? If they are cramped, is there a way to reorganise that will make better use of the space available? If not, put the issue of office space on the next management meeting agenda and brainstorm alternatives.
Is the office warm in winter and cool in summer? Is there natural light and air in the room?
Do the chairs provide a good seating position, with desks at the right height?
Is there a comfortable room for people to go to on their break, with access to hot drinks and water?
Is the building clean and well cared for?
If you have funds to make improvements in the environment, ask your people the following questions:
How do you rate the work environment at present? What is good about it? What does not work well?
Given that we have a limited resource for change, what are the features that would make the most difference to your working day?
Once you have clear feedback, consider the following:
Set up a colleague working party to address the changes. Encouraging colleagues to be part of the process will ensure that you make the best use of the funds available.
Give the working party a float to spend as it sees fit. This ensures that people are proactive and take the responsibility to act directly on some issues without having to confer with management.
Ensure that you have a clear communication process for changes you choose to put in place: regular meetings to give information about changes planned; question-and-answer facilities on both sides to determine the best way forward; suggestions boxes for ideas to add to your management discussions.
The more you include people in decisions about their daily working environment, the more likely you are to make a significant difference.
To attract and keep the right people you must offer a fair deal. Everyone needs money. We all need enough to keep ourselves and those dear to us in the manner we consider appropriate. Companies have different ways of doing this, from competitive salaries to reasonable base salary and bonus. The latter is the choice of those companies that actively encourage entrepreneurial attitudes. At Flight Centre everyone runs their own business, taking bonus on all income once their ‘cost ofseat' is covered. Managers can also buy shares in their own shop if they wish. The outcome is that people make as much money as they need because they are in charge. If you have ever run your own business or taken total responsibility for a project, you know how much this affects your commitment. Not only do you want to do well financially, you also want to do a job you can be proud of - so yet again everyone wins.
For those on ordinary salary, it is true that not every great company pays brilliantly, but what is really important is that they are fair. It is a dreadful feeling to be taken advantage of, and no one works well under those conditions. This is true on all levels, but money is often the easiest means of identifying when you feel mistreated. When people understand the reasoning behind salary decisions, or there are enough other advantages to make a job worthwhile, they accept what they are given.
You should also set this against those companies that pay really well and yet have negative people cultures. No amount of money will make up for the loss of self-esteem caused by working with an inept or neglectful manager. The worst thing about this is that when the money is very good, it is hard to leave. Life expands to spend the money available and it is hard to imagine cutting back for the sake of happiness - fear and uncertainty play all sorts of tricks, resulting in ‘golden handcuffs' and depression.
In that context, the slightly lower income earned by Asda shop assistants is less important, compared to the pleasure they gain from working there. They are really well cared for, to the point of grandparent's leave and to the extent that colleagues who want a long winter break have been sent on ‘Benidorm leave' for a few months. Money will go a long way to making people happy, but once they have a sufficiency, other elements kick in. The positive glow created by an employer who thinks about you and provides perks that make life easier or more fun cannot be bought with a few extra pounds a month.
Provision of benefits is another way for companies to show their respect and concern for colleagues. More than just a way of beating the competition, they also make sense in terms of having a healthy and motivated workforce. The fact that AstraZeneca provides a well-being facility at its Charnwood site, including fitness equipment that people can visit during the working day, is one way to encourage colleagues to maintain a healthy lifestyle. From the same mindset, companies provide massage, doctors on site, dry-cleaners and money machines, access to online shopping - the list is endless.
‘This sounds expensive! Not every company has that much money to spend.'
First, get your priorities right. Ensure that you offer the best benefits package possible with regard to pension, health care, maternity/paternity leave, etc. This is one differentiator for new recruits - they want to know they will be well looked after in exchange for their hard work. It is also a sign that the company will care for them.
Benchmark yourself against other companies. You can find some information on websites. Non-competing companies may be willing to tell you what they offer, if you ask them. Talk with friends and colleagues from other organisations and find out what benefits they receive.
If you do not work in the HR department, write down your findings and present a case for re-evaluating the company package.
Second, look at the local possibilities that can be leveraged. Remember that you have a captive audience and that other businesses may be interested in serving your people.
Ask local dry-cleaners if they will collect and deliver.
Allow time for people to order their supermarket shopping on-line and take delivery at work; it will take minimum time out of the day.
Speak to the local bank to see if it will provide an ATM machine. If its own business will benefit, it may cost the company little while providing a service for colleagues.
Third, look through the Sunday Times supplement for the 100 Best Companies to Work For or look on the Sunday Times website and see if there are any good ideas you can pinch. Many initiatives cost little, are very inclusive, and build a strong sense of team and belonging:
dress-down day once a week
set up a social committee to plan regular events
install a machine that makes really good coffee
bring together all the pregnant parents and ask the local midwife to come and talk to them
provide a birthday cake on the closest working day.
Speak to people to find out what they would like to do. You do not have to read their minds - just ask.
More women want to remain in the workplace these days, and more leaders perceive the value women bring to the business environment. Couple this with the trend for men to be more active fathers and you have created a need for better maternity, paternity and childcare provision at work. Great companies recognise and relish this, not least because the inclusion of actual family in the realm of the business increases that sense of belonging. When the organisation is positive about children and the demands they make, it is more likely that a working mum will return to work, keeping her expertise and her experience of clients in the business. All these measures are good for colleagues and increase the attraction of the company - but let us be clear, they also serve the business very well.
Where funds allow, companies provide childcare on the premises - a big attraction to working mums. If that is too expensive an option, it is still possible to make links with local childcare providers and oil the wheels of getting care organised. Also be aware that childcare may go wrong and that kids may fall ill. Managers who trust colleagues, encouraging them to get things sorted out before thinking of coming back to work, earn huge loyalty and commitment. Of course there will be some people who try to take advantage of this level of flexibility, but knowing your people will help you to nip this in the bud.
Which brings us to flexible working generally. This is not new to most great companies, who have already identified this as a positive advantage to the workforce and the business. Legislation is bringing other companies on board by ensuring that parents/carers can work flexibly to cater to the needs of children and dependants. However, limiting this right to carers is a risk - there are many unfettered workers out there who would love to work different hours in order to enjoy some rest and recreation or to follow a particular hobby. Companies that recognise this are on the way to keeping a very happy workforce without the underlying niggles of inequality.
The levels of trust inherent in great company culture mean that the essence of flexible working will have been in place for a long time and it does not need the government to tell the company it is the right thing to do. When you trust a person, you know that they will get a job done, so you adjust the timing to suit their needs. Some places have also found this to be a business advantage, enabling them to give the customer greater flexibility. Life is made considerably easier by adjusting time, providing childcare on or near the premises, and having an understanding boss who knows full well that sports day is a major event and that emergencies will inevitably arise. Equally, the boss who realises that taking time out in the middle of the day to watch Wimbledon in June, catching up on work in the evening or starting early because you are an early riser, will make work more suited to having a good life.