Vail Daily column: Building the best workplace
June 7, 2013
Last week we asked the question, what would the best company on earth (or maybe just in Eagle County or Colorado) to work for look like. We posed this question in the context of employee work flex options and feedback from a recent Eagle County business survey layered with national data and research.
Harvard Business Review also recently explored this question, but from the perspective of executives rather than from employees. They asked hundreds of executives to describe their ideal organization. Given the various industries and size of companies surveyed, they found six common requirements for effective organization building. Similar to the Eagle County research, the national research describes an organization that operates at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work.
The six common requirements outlined by the Harvard Business Review required for the "ideal organization":
• Individual differences are nurtured.
• Information is not suppressed or spun.
• The company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them.
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• The organization stands for something meaningful.
• The work itself is intrinsically rewarding.
• There are no stupid rules.
These overarching topics can be applied to individual businesses and organizations to their fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work in order to help strengthen the bottom line.
Regardless of business sector, people generally want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something they can believe in. In our case here in the Vail Valley, that can be making a memorable vacation experience for our visitors or contributing to one of the many nonprofit organizations that help make this community strong.
Recognizing and focusing on individuals and their strengths can not only help build strong bonds, but it can also create a team environment where employees recognize each others' strong points and defer projects within the team so everyone is valued. The fact is that people are not the same, and as explored last week, people might not value the same benefits across generational lines. Treating people individually and not with "one size fits all" policies can have immediate organizational benefits.
The second requirement related to information ties to organizational transparency, as well as the emerging trend of big data. Micro-targeting your customers, using your database of past clients and using other data tools at your disposal allows for more effective and more cost-efficient marketing. Valuing the information your front line employees share with management allow their voice to be heard, increases their engagement and perceived value to the organization.
Nos. 3 and 4 requirements tie directly to human nature by recognizing that people generally want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something they can believe in. Building on strengths that people bring to the table and thus transforming something strong into something magnificent is inherently easier than transforming an area of weakness into an average skill. This lesson applies to businesses as well, not just philanthropic organizations or medical providers. Within the realm of what we do, leaders and businesses can provide this to their employees. How are employees, via their business, able to build on their strengths to impact the way they do business?
A bit touchy-feely for my taste, the executives studied as part of this research into the ideal workplace highlighted the need for work to be intrinsically rewarding. While possibly more internally driven than something leadership can impact, the concept of employees recognizing the psychological ownership of what they are doing on a daily basis has value to our business community.
A valuable lesson to our legislators at every level, the business leaders surveyed indicated that "stupid rules" (or as we might call them, regulations) are detrimental to business success. Of course, some structure and policy is needed. But it's important that people recognize the benefits of the rules and policies and that these don't exist simply to make achieving success more difficult, but to provide basic ground rules to ensure safety and build on best practices as opposed to creating needless bureaucracy.
The opportunity certainly exists for our business community in the Vail Valley to improve at both a micro and macro level. Combining the above lessons from executives and cross-referencing the workplace-work-flex survey outlined last week, we might just be able to achieve the goal outlined by the Business Champion group: to make Eagle County the best place in Colorado to work, play and grow a business and a family.
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.