Gallup did a great study on what makes great workplaces. However, the information is published in the online Gallup Business Journal in such a way that makes it difficult to read the whole thing. What follows is a summary with links to back to Gallup’s original text.
12 Keys of Successful Workgroups
An associated research effort, in which Gallup studied more than 80,000 managers, focused on discovering what great managers do to create quality workplaces.
The 12 key dimensions listed below consistently correlate with workgroups that have higher:
- Employee retention
- Customer satisfaction
Below are summaries of Gallup’s results. The item titles below link to expanded information for each dimension on Gallup’s website.
The best managers tell us they define the right outcomes first, and then let each person find his or her own route toward those outcomes. This approach resolves the manager’s dilemma.
- It allows the individual to grow via the discovery of his or her “path of least resistance.”
- It appreciates and values differences between employee styles, and lets people capitalize on their strengths to achieve their fullest potential.
The best managers shift the decision to the employee. They ask, “How will this new tool or piece of equipment help you as an employee, our company, and our customers?” This approach:
- Broadens the perspective of the employee
- Elicits an explanation of desired outcomes
- Builds better communication between individuals and managers
- Takes the manager out of the traditional “parent” role and allows for true ownership and accountability
The best managers:
- See the specific talents needed for every role. The best front-desk clerks in a hotel, for example, have a talent for “winning others over.” They establish a trust relationship with people within the first 7 seconds of an interaction.
- Choose the right person for that role. A manager’s job is not to make people grow talents they do not have, but to identify and use their existing talents to their fullest potential.
Although recognition can be either positive or negative, effective recognition has the following characteristics:
- Positive in nature
- Immediately connected to performance
- Specific about what is being praised
- Close to the action
Many organizations have formal recognition programs that have limited effectiveness. This is probably because these programs do not always give employees a clear idea of what, exactly, is being recognized — such as profit, growth, or productivity.
- Genuinely care about the people they work with
- Treat people as individuals rather than treating everyone the same way
- Help employees make sense of new initiatives and thus gain true acceptance and understanding
For employees, the credibility of senior management is driven largely by the quality of relationships employees have with their supervisors. Thus, rather than feeling the need for a town-hall meeting, the CEO should feel compelled to ensure that all employees have caring relationships with their managers or designates.
- Recognize that development embodies the degree to which employees are growing within their current roles.
- Emphasize lifetime employability of employees rather than lifetime employment.
- Assist in developing employees’ self-understanding and a have a clear perspective on the roles they will excel in.
- Persist in looking for employee opportunities as employees move forward in their self-knowledge.
- Consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions.
- Explain the rationale behind their decisions when employees’ desires and managers’ decisions differ.
- Help employees to see the full scope of a decision and to understand the reasoning behind it. A straightforward explanation can build credibility and communication.
- Never ask employees for their opinions and then decide to do the opposite without clearly explaining why.
The degree to which a company’s employees feel their opinions count is readily apparent to its customers. We have all encountered an employee who felt detached or insignificant, and we know the impact that employee had on us as customers.
- Continually strive to help employees understand how the company’s mission or purpose directly relates to individual duties. This relationship helps employees find a connection between the company’s values and their own.
- Translate the company’s purpose into language that each employee can understand.
Employees all want to know whether their purpose meshes with the company’s mission. Because each employee looks at the world in a slightly different way, each comes up with a different answer.
In the best workplaces, managers:
- Realize that human beings will make mistakes, and can learn from correcting them. In these workplaces, quality is defined as the process of recognizing and solving problems. In healthy workplaces, employees understand that a customer’s loyalty can actually increase if the employees take a positive approach toward problem solving.
- Do not scapegoat; rather, they see quality issues as challenges to improve their product or service and, thus, to increase positive customer outcomes.
Often, the definition of quality sets the tone of a workplace culture. If quality is defined as the absence of defects or mistakes, we indirectly encourage employees to cover up mistakes or problems quickly, without drawing attention to them.
The best managers:
- Observe that the quality and depth of employees’ relationships is a critical component of employee loyalty.
When strong engagement is felt in a workgroup, employees believe that their coworkers will help them during times of stress and challenge. In this day of rapid-fire change, reorganization, mergers, and acquisitions, having best friends at work may be the true key to effective change integration and adaptation. When compared to those who don’t, employees who have best friends at work identify significantly higher levels of healthy stress management, even though they experience the same levels of stress.
- Encourage employees regularly to “look in the mirror” — to know themselves well and to know the roles in which they are most likely to succeed.
- Know their employees: They can answer basic questions about every one of their employees:
- What do they enjoy the most about their current and previous work experiences?
- What attracted them to the organization and what keeps them there?
- What are employees’ talents and strengths?
- What are their goals for their current roles?
- How often would they like to meet to discuss their progress?
- Will they tell me how they’re feeling or will I have to ask?
- What are their personal goals or commitments?
- What is the best praise and recognition they have ever received?
- What have been the most productive relationships they have had with a mentor or manager and what made the relationships so special?
Talent responds only in relationship to another human being. Thus, feedback must be specific to the individual, and must be given in the context of a positive employee-manager relationship. The last words of Item 11 — “my progress” — are extremely significant. Employees must walk away from any discussion of their growth with a clearer understanding of who they are, instead of who they are not.
- Create a culture that is open to new ideas and lets employees explore possible implications of those ideas without fear of rejection or retribution.
- Know that good ideas often start abstract, and need discussion so they can be defined and sculpted. This process takes time and energy, and both are limited resources. Nevertheless, this investment is imperative to making good ideas useful. For employees, the creation of a culture receptive to new ideas also involves significant belief and trust in their managers and teams.
A company’s future is dependent upon the learning and growth of the employees who are closest to the action. Great managers, employees, and teams are never quite satisfied with current ways of doing things. They always feel a slight tension about finding better, more efficient ways to work.