Is It Happy Hour Yet?

Why do we limit happiness to an hour?

We have all been there; It’s Monday afternoon and the first day of the workweek, already you and your colleagues are itching to get to happy hour to bitch about your day. Why aren’t we happy at work?

Now, I’m not saying that leadership should have an open bar in the office, but the atmosphere obviously requires an upgrade if by 10:00 am your team needs a collective drink.

Of course, what I’m talking about is company culture. Is yours so bad that your team would rather be buzzed to cope? How can you change it?

The Bartender is Essentially your HR Director

The bartender is always there to listen. Listen to your troubles and offer tools to cope. The difference is, they are handing out rum and cola, where your HR team can provide tools like mediation, suggestions for improvement, and company-wide training.  Now, HR can’t solve all the problems of corporate unhappiness alone. To change the culture and make things “happy” again, you must start at the top and require buy-in from your leadership. Communicate with the workers to find out what they think can be improved. Reevaluate the mission of the organization or write a new one.

Don’t Belly up to the Bar, Raise it.

  • Raise the bar on the expected behavior of the team at all levels
  • Raise the bar on the benefits you offer
  • Raise the bar on the compensation you provide

Expect Results to change, but not immediately. Like a fine wine, culture change takes time and nurturing.

Cheers to You!

You have gone through the process of culture change. You have partnered with your HR Director and created an atmosphere that your employees can enjoy. You have asked for feedback and listened to your team members to provide better products and services for them and their families. Great job! This rounds on me!

Best to Work For?

We’d all like to say that we are the best company to work for or an “Employer of Choice”. The reality is that the only way to really know or find out if you are is through open communication, employee engagement surveys, and a constant dialogue with your team members.

Communication

You must first build a trust with your employees. In my opinion this always starts with communication. That can mean via an intranet for the staff (provided they all have access to it); a monthly or bi-monthly all-staff meeting; departmental meetings with supervisors, managers, and directors passing along information, goals, and accomplishments; or group email announcements (again, the employees must have access).

If you have diversity in your organization, English will most likely be a second language and need to be taken into consideration when creating an article or group emails for all-staff distribution. You must be sensitive to all employees in the organization.

Meat and Potatoes

The next items are the intrinsic and extrinsic values the employees need to have in order to feel safe in your workplace. We have covered these meat and potato items before but a short list here doesn’t hurt to repeat.

  • Compensation
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Recognition

Mission and Vision

Does the organization have a clear mission and vision that could be stated by any employee in the company at all levels? If not, then that should be your priority. It shouldn’t be more than a sentence or two and should be verbalized and demonstrated from the executives through the entire management team. You must model the behavior you wish t see from your team.

This mission and vision statement is the foundation of your culture. Look at the tenure of your employees. Are you tapping into their knowledge of the organization? It is very likely that they were here before you and have a lot to say. Give them a safe place to say it.

Recognition

Recognition is a key component towards a good culture and a great place to work. Don’t use it as a tool to tame the troops. Recognition has to be genuine and I have recently read a book on the five “love” languages of recognition in the workplace. Not all of your team members are going to appreciate a gift card. Especially since they will have to taxed for it.

Some employees just want you to personally say “Thank you” to them. Others might appreciate a nod in a staff newsletter or department meeting. Knowing what your team members appreciate is part of the solution to being a great place to work. It means you are paying attention and are invested in them. They see it. They see almost everything you do or at least their perception of what you do.

Employee Engagement Surveys

The best advice I can give is to really make the survey as easy and anonymous as possible. You don’t want your team to answer the questions the way they “think” you want them answered. You want them to give you real, straight feedback. The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. It might sting a bit but this is how an organization that is truly committed to culture change will find out the best they have to offer and the worst. This will make you an employer of choice. Suck it up and do it right.

Stay Interviews

How Important is Employee Retention?

If you want to keep good employees in your organization you need to ask your team how they are doing. Don’t just rely on the annual performance review for your communication. You should be speaking to your team at least quarterly and I like to work with my managers and supervisors on conducting “Stay Interviews”.

What is a Stay Interview?

It’s a conversation that increases employee engagement and retention.

These structured questions are asked in a casual manner and usually take only about thirty minutes. Here are some examples:

  • What makes you get up and come to work each morning?
  • What keeps you home pressing the snooze button?
  • Do you believe your work here is meaningful?
  • Have you ever considered leaving this job for another opportunity?
  • What can I do as your manager to make your work experience better?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be?
  • What motivates you?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Hey, Wait a Minute…You Asked if they Would Leave?

Yes, I did and you should too. This is not used as a means to punish people and there definitely should be NO retaliation for any answers you receive. This is an information gathering meeting so you may retain the employees that are doing the best job for your team, department, and organization. Remember, that stay interviews are conducted to help managers understand why employees stay with the company and what might cause them to leave.

Communication is a Two-way Street

Make sure you give the employee plenty of warning for this meeting so they have time to prepare and feel comfortable asking you questions during this one-on-one time. In fact, encourage them to come with questions and suggestions.

If you stay on a regular schedule with these interactions your teams will be increasingly engaged and come to expect them. That would be an incredible result! These are only a sampling of the questions that you can ask your team.

Remember these Simple Rules

Never promise something you can’t deliver. This would be a raise, bonus, or promotion. Keep asking them what you can do for them. You are bound to find one or two things you can do for them.

The second thing to remember is to keep these meetings short and sweet. Thirty minutes is the maximum. If the conversation is great and you are both communicating in ways you haven’t before then by all means don’t cut them off, just remember you have other people on your team and want to be fair and consistent.

Employee Engagement, How can I get it?

Employee engagement is when your employees are committed to your organizations goals and values. They are motivated to contribute to it’s success with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Instead of starting off with what it is and why we want it, let’s get right in to some examples of what you can do. Are you hungry for information? It’s meat and potatoes time!

Meat and Potatoes; Employee Engagement style…

  1. Try to be flexible in their schedules. I know not all company’s can let people change their start/stop times but if you can, then do it. Give clear guidelines and deadlines for projects and you might be surprised that they get the job on time and correct! When you give them the freedom to finish things at their discretion, you are treating them as the adults they are.
  2. Encourage your team members to volunteer, or better yet come up with an idea and volunteer as a team. Some employers set a side a day of volunteering with specific projects in mind. Ask your team members for suggestions, I bet you will get quite a few!
  3. Build trust with your employees. When you are open and an authentic manager you will build trust and remove the need for them to hide things from you. When they feel they can come to you without retaliation, they will respond better and engage themselves more in the department.
  4. Make sure your team receives their breaks and lunch times. Uninterrupted. Another nice thing to do is if you see an especially stressed out employee, give them a chance to take five to care for themselves. They may have just had a rough experience and need to compose themselves. This shows you care for their well-being.
  5. Ask for feedback from your employees without fear of criticism or judgement. This doesn’t mean you have to implement everything they suggest but make sure you try to choose one idea to put into effect so they continue to share ideas. After all, they are the ones in the trenches making it happen.
  6. Play office games to get them to know each other. Have group fun events like a pizza party or karaoke after work on a Friday night. This breaks the monotony and allows some fun down-time for the team as a whole.
  7. Promote honesty; Build relationships; and show gratitude regularly.

The main way to engage employees is to get leadership buy-in and action. If the executives don’t lead by example the trust is never built and engagement fails.

How do I do this?

Provide your employees with tools for success. If they don’t have the computer, or training, or office supplies necessary and feel like they have to provide all those things themselves, they won’t stick around because they don’t think you care.

Communicate the goals of the organization. Make sure you have regularly schedule meetings with the team so they know the “why” of what they are doing. Let them know where the company is headed and how their contributions are getting them there.

Give them as much autonomy in their roles as you can. I hear it regularly during the hire process that employees want to be valued for their expertise and to have managers just let them do their jobs without hovering. You hired this person for a reason, let them shine.

Recognize their hard work. Not everyone likes open public recognition or a gift card, but telling someone how well they are doing with a “great job” once in a while can move mountains!

Get to know your team. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone and as a manager I don’t suggest you do that at all anyway. However, you can find out about them, what they like, their hobbies, what is important to them, or their charities. Asking about things other than work is another way to show them that you care.

How do I increase Employee Engagement?

Simple. Train them. Give them meaningful work. Make sure they are in the right role. Check in with them often.

What are the benefits of Employee Engagement?

I’m sure you all know but here they are:

  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Lower turnover
  • Higher productivity

Engage with your team and work with all of your managers and supervisors to create the atmosphere that stops people from pushing the snooze button multiple times and makes them want to jump out of bed and come to work!