Every business owner wants to have an ideal workplace that employees would love to work in, however, not every company has the resources of Google or Facebook to pimp up their offices with high-end amenities and offer amazing perks.
I’ve worked with many companies looking to strike the right balance.
In terms of improving company culture, while it is easy to find intangible tips such as spreading happiness, giving positive reinforcement or cultivating an attitude of gratitude, it is not always easy or feasible to implement behavioural and management changes immediately as they may seem fake or insincere.
When working with companies, these challenges pushed us to look deeper and find out what things really create frustrations amongst our employees and surprisingly, we realised that just by changing small things in the office and in our operations, we were able to increase our employees’ happiness and satisfaction rates thus, also increasing productivity. And no, this did not involve providing unlimited vacations or setting up sleeping pods in our offices.
Here are 5 things that we did that made a difference.
We provided the right equipment, resources and space to make work easier
When we started this process, we asked ourselves – How can we make the lives of our employees easier? And we found out that a lot of common complaints can easily be addressed as long as these are properly communicated to the management.
Issues reported to us included not having the right device or equipment that can support their day to day tasks. Some said that their computers were too slow or they did not have the latest version of the software that they needed. Another surprising complaint that we never thought was causing frustrations was when equipment breaks down and stops working. A few of our employees recounted that their most stressful time at work was when the coloured printer broke down a few hours before an important client pitch.
When these things happen, work is disrupted and cause unnecessary stress for the employees involved. We knew that all the requested changes cost money but we also recognised the importance of making these upgrades to increase productivity. What we did was implement the changes in different phases to make it easier for our cash flow.
Here are some examples of the necessary actions we did.
- We upgraded the company’s internet speed. It had been some time since we’ve renewed our company’s internet plan and surprisingly, the upgrade was a much better deal than the old one.
- We replaced old computers and laptops that were not working well. We also updated and procured software that can help in business processes such as project management software and social media analysis tools. We also updated the security software in their laptops and provided training to employees on how to keep their computer devices safe inside and outside the office.
- When equipment breaks down, we made sure that the downtime is lessened. For our printers, we signed up for remote diagnostics services which removed problem printer stresses.
- We provided an area for standing desks and changed old chairs that were not ergonomically designed to support hours of sitting down.
- We cleared the office of clutter to make the space less crowded. We also changed the layout of some of the common areas to make employees more comfortable.
We gave them a break
While we could not afford to give out unlimited vacations, what we did instead was stopped enforcing scheduled breaks. Instead, we now encourage our employees to take short breaks whenever they feel they need to recharge.
Some of our employees confided that they were always in a rush or were worried their managers would penalise them if they take frequent breaks. It was surprising for us to know that employees would feel this way. When we put ourselves in their shoes, we instantly understood how it will affect our attitude towards work.
Some managers argue that coffee breaks cause wasted time and decrease productivity, but in reality, we found that these breaks keep our employees relaxed and more energised to complete their day to day tasks. This is even backed by science! According to studies, micro breaks such as office coffee breaks are good for your team. These breaks help in boosting productivity, can keep employees more alert and improve their focus.
We even took the extra step and provided them with an office coffee machine that dispenses different coffee varieties like espresso, lattes and cappuccinos. Our employees loved the free coffee as they were able to save money because they did not have to go out to the local coffee shop to get their favourite blend.
We allowed flexible time and focused on results
Flexible working hours are now very common in the UK. If your company is still not doing this, then you should start considering to do so. When we started allowing employees to adjust their timings, we found that we had a dramatic decrease in tardiness and absences.
Outputs also increased and our staff are just generally happier. Not all of our employees chose to exercise flexible timings, but they said that just knowing that this option is available gives them the peace of mind that they can do so if they require to.
To ensure that projects were still being completed on time, what we did was to set goals for teams and individuals so that everyone knows the management’s expectations. We were never a fan of micro-managing our staff so it was just a matter of setting achievable deadlines to make sure we were still getting top-notch results. Unexpectedly, we even had team members exceeding their targets month after month.
If you would like to try implementing flexible hours, there are different ways of doing this. Some companies prefer employees to inform the management in advance regarding their preferred schedule, while other companies are totally flexible as long as the deadlines are met. The system you choose will depend on your company’s work culture and on how it affects your employees’ productivity.
We offered opportunity for growth
Nobody likes being stuck in one role for a long time. Knowing that there’s nowhere up or that there’s no option to get promoted can cause employees to feel depressed and lose their interest in their jobs.
In marketing for example, new techniques and technologies have significantly changed the industry. These developments have made some of the much older employees feel uncomfortable and unsure of how to navigate this new landscape. Because of this, they often fear that they’re not going to get promoted, or that they’re going to get replaced or terminated.
In order to address this issue, what we did was we introduced employee training programs on top of annual performance reviews so that those who are willing can learn new skills. This means that when new promotions or positions open up, we can tap into our existing employees instead of looking for candidates outside of the company.
We found that most employees are always excited to learn something new and add to their skill set. We tasked our senior, more experienced managers to provide the training and also invited industry experts for specialised lectures and talks.
One of the most successful lecture series we have implemented is the Digital and Social Media Marketing Training that we hold every quarter. We invite all of our employees to take part in this one-hour training session where we run down and discuss all the new trends and updates that took place within the past three months. This informal session is usually driven by the latest changes in tech and it helps keep everyone in the team at the same page.
We also introduced a one-on-one coaching system wherein more senior members can mentor junior employees. This became a good way for us to gauge which of our employees are eligible for promotion.
We have been very pleased at the results of our digital training efforts so in the coming year, what we are planning is to encourage more of our employees to get certified by platforms such as Google and Facebook. These tech giants offer free courses so agencies and digital marketers don’t need to shell out big bucks to get certified. We plan to focus on Facebook Blueprint Certifications which we feel will give our staff and our company an added advantage in this saturated industry.
Creating a Foundation for Success
Creating a workplace environment that employees will love and thrive in requires time, effort and commitment. This should not be a one-off activity, rather, it should be a constant exercise of anticipating and responding to the needs of your employees.
It is not always the big gestures that make the most difference. Sometimes, even small and simple changes can dramatically change your company’s employee experience.
This article has been written for Times of Startups by Nathan Sharpe. Nathan is the entrepreneur behind the business blog Biznas. He knows that you must wear many different hats for your business to be a success. He helps others achieve this success by sharing everything he knows on his blog, as well as any new lessons he learns along the way!