Ready or not, summer is here. With it comes heat, vacations, and typically, a hit on organizational effectiveness.
According to AAA, more than one-third of Americans will clock out to leverage paid time off for family vacation this summer. Many Europeans take the month of August off each year for prolonged family holidays. There is no better time of the year to stop and reflect on the health of your workplace culture and the impact culture has on productivity.
Before your own mental focus gets diluted by vacation planning, invest in optimizing your office culture by examining three areas: workplace health, workplace connections, and a workplace constitution.
How healthy is your organizational culture? Culture drives everything that happens in your company, for better or worse. Whether you’re a small business, a municipal office team, a division of a large company, the headquarters of a multinational organization, or anything in between, take advantage the quieter time to ask yourself these five questions. Honestly assess:
- Do we provide a work environment that is consistently bright, clean, and inviting?
- Do leaders and team members enjoy positive, trusting relationships with each other daily?
- Does our work environment provide safe passage and safe operation 24/7?
- Do team members know their performance requirements and are they actively engaged in delivering them?
- Are internal and external customers treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction?
Few organizations will score perfectly on all five of these elements. Yet if you’re doing well on four and poorly on one, that one poor element can erode workplace productivity, respect, and cooperation across your organization.
After you score the five workplace health elements yourself, start conversations with employees to learn their answers to the five questions. Employees don’t miss much. They have opinions. They see where their workplace is healthy and where it's not.
By engaging employees in this assessment, you’ll get a more accurate picture of the day-to-day reality of how your culture operates. Employees will appreciate being involved. Typically, employees will surprise you with their new ideas and refinements for a better way of working together, cooperating, serving, and leading.
There is one more powerful question you can ask employees after they grow comfortable with discussions about improving the quality of their work culture. Ask them what frustrations they face in getting work done. You’ll learn all kinds of things. Typically some frustrations will be easy to fix — and some will be rather complex. Take on those frustrations one at a time. Invite employee ideas on how to reduce inefficiency and how to eliminate silly policies or procedures. Eliminate issues as quickly as you can — and keep asking, learning, and refining the quality of your work culture.
Lastly, don’t assume people know how you want them to behave every day. Be intentional with an organizational constitution, which specifies your team or company’s present day servant purpose, your desired values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. The powerful approach, detailed in my book, The Culture Engine, maps the way forward by formalizing:
- Whom do you serve and to what end, besides making money?
- Define how you want leaders and employees to treat each other and customers by formalizing your desired values and observable behaviors.
- Formalize your performance standards through clear strategies and goals.
- Determine how leaders must live the values and behaviors to build credibility for the new culture, and
- How leaders will praise aligned behavior from employees and redirect misaligned behavior until everyone in the organization embodies your purpose, values, behaviors, strategies, and goals.
While there really is no such time as downtime in today’s world, a slight decrease in pace during vacation season is the perfect time to reflect and create a plan for behavioral change in business culture. The truth is that there's just a better way to do business. As you refine your work environment to address the five questions — and reduce employee frustrations — you’ll enjoy higher engagement, vastly improved service, and boosted results and profits.
Don’t leave your team culture to chance. By focusing on the health of your workplace culture, building stronger connections with employees, and formalizing your desired culture with an organizational constitution, the path forward will be clear.