Friday, October 14, 2016

If It Looks Too Good To Be True... It Still Might Be

I'm as skeptical as anyone, and I often think there's a strong correlation between complexity and results, and simple things are just too often too simple to really work. But once in a while I see an idea which has been distilled down to just a few coherent thoughts, and I think, wow, it really can be that simple and it really can work. It looks too good to be true... but just maybe it still is.

Um, well, not that kind of culture.
Such was the feeling I had while meandering through cyberspace last night and searching for workplace culture ideas, which, IMHO, one can never study or be concerned about enough. And there was the Forbes article by Chuck Cohn, from way back in 2014, How To Create and Make a Workplace Culture That Will Make Your Company Thrive.  

First, the title is just too plain spoken, so the entire article was immediately suspect of being unusable. I mean, we need to have deep and far reaching studies every time we address these things, right? Wrong. Chuck's article is spot on, and I've taken the liberty of listing his four ideas below, and editing the content to make it as relative to our domestic staff environments as I can think to do. 

- Be transparent and set clear expectations.  These are two separate ideas, but they go together well.  Transparent means your staff and co-workers just never get the feeling you have a hidden agenda. This means you do what you say and say what you do. It really is that simple. It's a reputation that develops over time, and it's on auto-pilot. You will reveal yourself as to your transparency over time, and it will matter. Clear expectations? Anyone who's read The Citizen over the past five years knows that's a favorite topic addressed.  Every principal, household manager, staff member, and even the family pooch has expectations. But are they clear? There's the real difference, and it matters.  Does your staff have an employee manual which outlines clear expectations for workplace performance and behaviors? If not, is everyone having their own individual expectations for workplace results working out well for you? Here's one area where succeeding is actually easily done. How about yearly (or better, monthly) performance reviews with your staff, your manager, or the principals?  Would this move the culture toward that of providing everyone clear expectations? You bet it would! And it's no secret that workers at any level of responsibility like to know what is expected of them.

- Be consistent and stress accountability.  This one is so obvious, it's easy to overlook, but how often in workplaces do we need the reminder? Often, even in the best workplaces, we do. Consistency gives people comfort to know that they don't need to cower and duck, unsure what is expected of them (see above). Setting expectations is a waste of time, if those expectations are not consistent. Accountability? We've covered that topic many times, and it's a favorite. Studies consistently show that not only do good workers want to know what's expected of them, they want their managers (and co-workers too) to notice, and to appreciated for it. If the household manager is not holding staff accountable for the performance that's been agreed upon, then staff will realize the performance doesn't really matter, and the culture will go into a tail spin.  

- Invest in enriching and maintaining your company culture.  I love how he worded this. He's saying that whatever your workplace culture is, make it strong, and make it better. Workplace culture is a living, breathing phenomenon and it needs to be fed. You can do that by actually talking with your staff about it, and you'll be pleased to know that most people want to be a part of it's care and nourishment. This can be a standard topic at weekly staff meetings, just so it doesn't get neglected. If one of your values on your estate is for the staff to have an enjoyable, friendly work atmosphere, how could that be maintained? How could that be enriched? The possibilities are many, and every person on staff should have their input listened to and respected.

- Hire values compatible people.  This is perhaps the best interviewing advice I can think of. So many times, people interviewing others simply want to know what domestic technical skills they've become adept at, and for how many years they've been doing it. But that tells you nothing about the values of that candidate. Values are not right or wrong, but they are the way things are done in your workplace. If one of the values you collectively decide upon and incorporate into a Mission, Vision, and Values statement is "continued learning," then you wouldn't want to hire someone who is complacent with only knowing what they know and never learning anything new, because no matter how many years they've been doing their primary tasks on other estates, if they sit in staff meetings grumbling about having to learn something, they will bring everyone else down. The great thing about how the author worded this is that he didn't say what your values should be; he just said your new hires need to be compatible with them.

There's endless articles, books, and studies which encompass company culture and how to recognize, create, build, and nourish it. But the above four suggestions are a great starting point, easy to start with, and true.

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