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The Little Things: What Makes for a Positive Work Environment?

How do you feel going into work each day?

I know this is a question I ask in many of my blogs, but that’s only because it’s extremely important information to gather.
Additionally, it’s a subject I regularly discuss in my workshops. I’ve recently been conducting a number of workshops for a wide variety of organizations; everything from tech companies to fire departments to police agencies to financial investment firms.
Without fail, discussions emerge amongst the participants in relation to the culture of their workplace.
As I think back to those conversations, it’s patently obvious to me that the factors influencing an employee’s job commitment, happiness, loyalty, and satisfaction have changed dramatically.
More and more research is conducted into employee engagement and we now know that it’s not always the big things that people are most concerned about.

Oftentimes, it’s the small and sometimes subtle things that matter most to employees.

I’m talking about those intangible factors such as communication, trust, and being trusted that surpass traditional employee incentives such as job security and career advancement.
Employers MUST sit up, take notice, and be increasingly proactive in engaging their workforce because ‘how’ and ‘why’ employees show up each day is central to every organization’s outcome (both positive and negative).
A workforce must and needs to feel heard, recognized, and appreciated.
In fact, you may be surprised to hear that an employee’s pay or salary barely makes the Top 20 List of the things most important to our new generation of employees these days!
And they’re not shy about expressing their feelings.
Within my recent workshops, it was clear how the employees felt about their various employers.
The participants who were happy and satisfied spoke about their situation with enthusiasm and an infectious energy.
They commented on how lucky they felt to be working in a place where their efforts were appreciated, their skills were respected, and their values felt aligned with the values of the organization.

Remember, values are not expressed within an organization’s Mission and Vision Statement. Rather it’s expressed in how that organization is run.

Employers may not think about or focus on this fact every day when they come to work, but employees are watching intently on how the company treats its people.
Something else to ponder within this realm is the importance of customer service, both internally and externally. If there is a perceived, or real, double standard (one face for the public and another internally), employees will see it immediately.
Remember, each day a significant portion of an organization’s workforce is taking both an internal and external assessment.
Employees want to work in a place that is viewed favourably by those on the outside (for a great example of an organization taking the time to achieve this positive external view, take a look at this recent video posted by the Vancouver Police Department to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday…they set a high standard!).
The fact that a business promotes volunteerism, supports charitable causes, or perhaps even has a non-profit mission of its own may not directly bring in money, but it will definitely impact an organization’s workforce.
In those recent workshops I mentioned earlier, the fact that each participant’s organization was active in their community in a meaningful and sustainable way was a huge plus for everyone who worked there.
But despite all of these positive characteristics, can you guess what was at the very top of their list of attributes contributing to how they felt at work?
Could they trust their managers and leaders?
If they said that they couldn’t, they didn’t stay at that organization.
But if they did stay, their presence and attitude wasn’t positive and most likely even destructive.

Just like personal relationships, trust is key to healthy work relationships and sustaining employee satisfaction.

Think back to the last time that you fell into the category of not trusting your boss or supervisor.
How many times did you skip and run into work with a smile on your face the width of the Mersey Tunnel?
“Not very many” is your answer, and I know that without even seeing your face!
I’d feel the same way.
We all would.
Trust is that important to us.
So how do you develop trust?
Most often, trust is built through communication. More specifically, it’s built through open and ongoing dialogue with an employee’s direct supervisor or manager.
If that isn’t there, you might as well turn out the lights and lock the door.
So really think about that question I posed to you at the beginning of this blog:
How do you feel going into work each day?


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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