When it comes to Human Resources, there are a few professionals who have captured the essence of the field so well that they’ve turned it into an art form. USAMDT of NW Minneapolis asked some of these industry experts to share their advice to creating a happy and productive work environment, and now we’re going to share it with you.
Keeping employees happy and ensuring a productive work environment can be particularly challenging in today’s Era of Disruption. Technology is speeding up the pace of change exponentially, while companies merge and divest at a breakneck pace. Keeping employees motivated and engaged through these global pattern changes is no easy feat, but it all comes down to basics.
First, remember that motivation is internal. As a leader, company owner, or supervisor, you’re not (technically) responsible for motivating your team—only they can do that. However, you are responsible for creating an environment in which people can motivate themselves. Getting there is reachable if you help them “tone down the noise” and focus on key motivators that keep workers engaged and productive.
Second, make sure you’re spending enough time with your people. Get to know them more personally in terms of their career goals and ambitions. Practice MBWA (Management by Walking Around) so that seeing you is always positive, not something that only occurs when there are troubles brewing. Give them the gift of your time in terms of helping them find their own solutions and creative approaches to challenges that come their way in the workplace.
Third, help staffers plot their own course for career growth and development. Everyone wants to make a concrete contribution to their companies while building their own resumes and benefitting from an ongoing learning curve. You can’t know what that looks like until you ask, but with competition for in-demand talent increasing, getting to know your people better now makes for a wise investment of your time and energy.
Fourth, become someone’s “favorite boss.” We’ve all had favorite bosses—leaders who had our backs, helped us grow and challenge ourselves, and make us feel like we could do little if any wrong. Would your employees describe you that way? If not, now may be a great time to make yourself a bit vulnerable and make your intentions known to some of your key employees. (It’s always best to start small and with your best and brightest when it comes to reinventing your workplace and culture—you can expand the circle later.)
Finally, ensure that you hold others accountable to very high standards that you model yourself, while remaining fair and consistent in the application of company rules and guidelines. After all, perceptions of unfairness at best create an atmosphere of favoritism; at worst, they make for grounds for discrimination claims. So you be the first domino. Go ahead and reinvent yourself. Leadership is the greatest gift the workplace offers because of its innate ability to touch people’s lives and make the work world a better place. Happy workers and a productive environment will follow quite naturally from the example you set.
Be a person of your word. Period.
Employees want to know that their manager (or owner) will give them answers. They want to know that they can trust them. Please notice I didn’t say that employees want sugar-coated responses or that you always have to tell employees the answer they want to hear. But employees do want you to straight up communicate with them. Here are a few examples:
During recruiting, tell candidates the good, bad and ugly of the job. It’s called a realistic job preview. Candidates deserve to know the whole job, not just the good parts. The last thing any company wants is to spend a lot of time and resources hiring someone only to have them leave.
Set expectations with new employees. Let a new hire know what’s expected of them when it comes to performance, attendance, etc. There’s nothing more frustrating that being told the groundrules after something goes wrong.
Give employees regular feedback. I’ve always said, “No news is good news” isn’t a management philosophy. Let employees know what they’re doing well and areas they need to improve. Employees genuinely want to do a good job. It’s up to managers to help them achieve that.
The good news is that none of these things cost money. And frankly, they’re things that you have to do anyway – hiring, coaching, and performance reviews. The point is make the investment to do them well. And the investment will pay off big time.
When I’ve been most productive and happiest, it’s been at places where I’ve felt my work makes a positive difference and where my coworkers are also happy. There’s another trait of those happy and productive workplaces—supervisors always seemed to not just pull their weight, but be more knowledgeable and work harder than anyone else.
It’s the difference between a boss and a leader. Not many people l know relish unreasonable expectations. There is a respect earned when supervisors prove they can handle for themselves the same responsibilities they assign to others, but even more impressive is when those employers are seen regularly rolling up their sleeves. It most certainly can’t be for show, because that only makes an unhappy situation worse.
Those supervisors and employers who get their hands dirty the most also tend to be able to sniff out coworkers who don’t pull their weight. Almost as equally important to a happy workplace as good leadership is good fellowship with colleagues. Employees who are allowed to slide through days and weeks with poor conduct and poor attitude set an ugly precedent. Knowing who is a bad apple and who is just having a bad day requires an investment of time.
In order to be productive over a long period of time, employees have to be happy enough to weather the storms that inevitably develop in day-to-day business. In order to be happy, the team has to have leadership that models the productivity it expects. In that sense, the “secret” of being visible and vocal with the team isn’t really much of a secret at all. Start by making it a habit to lead—by example. That kind of work is inspirational and pays the most dividends.
I’d definitely say that a drug-free workplace helps create happier and more productive employees. The reasons are clear when you see it in as many businesses as we do.
You’ll see less absences and less accidents, less injuries and less time lost because of them, and a safer employee is a happier one. People won’t have to pick up the slack as much, whether an employee is out because a drug-related accident or simply the side effects of drug use. Co-workers will trust each other more and trust management more because they’ll be more comfortable knowing they are safer in their workplace than in one where drug abuse goes unchecked.
It will be a more productive workplace, too. First and foremost, you’ll have less downtime from those types of absences and that means the employees you’ve hired will be working more. They’ll be less likely to be unfocused on their jobs than drug users and you’ll spend less time having to hire and train new employees. There was a statistic that the Department of Labor reported where American businesses lost more than $81 billion on productivity because of drug and alcohol use. It affects the entire nation—some drugs more than others in some places, but it’s everywhere.
It’s not the only thing you have to do to have a happy and productive workplace, but it’s definitely a start and it happens to be something I’m very familiar with having spoken with many of the HR managers who are part of the programs we help put into place.