An ideal workplace would be a nice place to be for the majority of employees and at the same time successful from a business perspective and smart enough to remain ahead of the competition.
The business would keep things as simple as possible to meet requirements and not oblige employees to play games and role-play any more than necessary. Similarly, business values would be as sincere as possible, including practical obligations that need to be met for marketing in a competitive world.
People would be inspired by their own professionalism and motivation to get the job done well. They would not feel unduly obliged to change or mask their true personality and assume a business image alien to their own individuality – particularly if not necessary (simply an illusion) to get the job done.
The business would be defined by its practices. In turn, the executives and managers would be similarly defined, directly linked as upholders and implementers of the practices. Values and practices may include:
- Appropriate levels of staffing to get the job done without forcing employees to frequently work excessive hours, possibly without pay
- Work breaks and time-off from work that employees are expected to take to enjoy and refresh
- Some flexibility (e.g. hours) to allow employees to meet important personal demands (e.g. children, care giving) while still able to fully meet job requirements
- Fair processes to select employees for internal advancement, training or developmental opportunities based on objective and understood criteria
- Fair and objective processes for handing disputes, problems and disciplinary processes
- Adequate training and access to help to ensure employees have resources necessary to perform their job well
- Ongoing communication so employees understand business challenges and are ready, willing and prepared to put in additional effort in exceptional times e.g. to meet a critical business order
- Competent management and a strong HR department committed to upholding and promoting the values of the organization and to evaluating the continuing success of the organization, in real terms, in acting in accordance with its values
Nothing listed above is unusual and many organizations may have policies and procedures that are relevant. The difference in the “ideal” organization is that they would be followed with sincerity and pride. In addition, of course, the physical working environment would be appropriate and matters such as occupational health and safety practices and training taken very seriously.
It would be a workplace where people are calm, confident, committed (in their own individual ways) and able to get the job done without a fuss. Leadership would be firm and fair, but still in touch with human reality and social conscience.
Here are some assumptions, including technology based, that should make the ideal workplace more possible:
- The role of managers would focus on the efficient and strategic direction of the function for which they are responsible. Effectiveness would be tracked based on data that would be shared with employees, including performance data and feedback that would be tracked online. Relationships would be adult and respectful and managers would focus more on supporting employees rather than micro managing. Employees would know where they stand at any point.
- Technology would facilitate employees being largely self-regulated. Logging in and out would take care of timekeeping and recording against labor distribution codes, when applicable, would feed the system automatically. Employees (and management) would know they are doing well from continuous online feedback, or, from the same source, receive alerts about any concerns or negative variances. Performance management, as we know it today, would no longer exist.
- Training, help and support would be available at all times, whether online, from the manager or Human Resources. HR would be very active in this environment with a strong employee relations, management support and trouble-shooting role.
What else would employees look for in an ideal workplace? Pay, benefits and perquisites are important but may not directly affect life in the workplace, unless they are clearly not handled fairly. People relationships, more than anything else, I believe, make it feel good about going to work and spending large amounts of time away from home. People at work may be very different, but if there is mutual respect and a culture that promotes fair treatment and positive interrelationships, the differences may evolve as collective strengths. Enjoying the specific work (for what it is) is desirable but not always possible. However, performing less than exciting work in an environment with good people and sound and fair business practices can make the total employment package very desirable.
These are just a few initial thoughts about an ideal workplace. Do they make sense? Do you agree that there is a need for an adult environment and for a shift in performance management from retroactive management assessments to a more automated system with continuous feedback and related support systems? Do you believe that a strong HR function is needed (particularly in fairly large organizations) and will be directly instrumental (with an appropriate mandate) in ensuring that the dream of an ideal workplace may become reality to the extent possible, in this imperfect world? What do you think?
Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.