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The Best Places to Work Roadmap Part 4 of 5: DELI - Everyone Likes Gourmet

Written by: Ralph Twombly
Published: February 2010

In January we looked at leadership through people listening and success in the featured article of our monthly newsletter. If you didn't get a chance to look at that installment we have a link to connect you here; bptw_leadership.php

imageThis month we bring you part 4 of the 5-part series to introduce you to the things learned from The Best Places to Work surveys. This Best Places to Work format is used by various states and private survey companies and administered to participating businesses each year.

The winners of these awards each year are celebrated, published and benefit from the honor they receive in many ways including pride, morale, increased profitability and high retention. Our work with some of these companies and the research we have conducted over the years brought us to the conclusion that if you want to be one of the "Best Places" you can. You can do some work in your organization that will transform it into one of these preferred places. To catch you up, these were the five categories we identified:

Individual Opportunity Creation
What is opportunity creation? As you look at the "Best Places" questions you start to see that individual opportunity creation includes chances to be promoted, acceptance of an individual's ideas, and enabling people to serve their organization completely. This can be through cross training or simply the knowledge to know more about the enterprise.

There has been a recent groundswell of activity around individual opportunity creation fashioned by the recent recession. In years gone by we put out the idea box in hopes of innovation but got discouraged when people put their gum or complaints into the box or employees got discouraged when they didn’t hear about the outcome of their idea. In time, the idea box became as easy to attack as TQM or other new age ideas.

This new energy regarding opportunity creation is happening for a couple of reasons.

  • First - Business needs it! It is a way to get the creative juices of people to work for the organization. It is no secret that people give their bosses/organizations what they ask for. For whatever reason, we are not asking for enough. This recession graphically illustrates to everyone that an antidote for a business to survive is innovation. Creativity and the involvement of people as close to the customer as possible becomes critical and not optional. These people serve directly and they have known for quite some time what the customer wants. We started asking, no, we started insisting that people give more than just their "back" to their work. Businesses need their minds, hearts, ideas, solutions, appreciation and belief. The arguments for not asking people to opportunity create has been around for a long time:

    • If my people have all the solutions, why do they need me, the manager?
    • My people are paid to do the work prescribed in the job description. My people do not have time for ideas or cross training or learning things not aligned with their jobs.
    • My people are not prepared to create the solutions. They don't know how.
    • When you ask someone for an idea, you can hear a pin drop.

Some of the best places have been doing this for a while and all of a sudden it has become fashionable.

  • Second - People really love it! As a young warehouse employee years ago I remember saying, "I am more than just a strong back. I wish someone would use my brain in addition to my back." We all work each day for a finite period of time. We want to be utilized fully during that time, feel valued in a variety of ways and coincidentally, contributing in big ways makes work a lot more fun. Time goes by, energy is high, we forget to gossip and gripe and it is much easier to get us aligned to the greater good of our organization. We all get engaged and feel the power of the entrepreneurial spirit.

So, here is what we know Utilizing people as your creative capital gives the organization an edge in new ideas, nimbleness and the innovation of existing processes. Opportunity creation whether by employee developmental plans, a solid entrepreneurial based idea system, continuous learning opportunities or simple boss and subordinate listening events are good for the organization and good for the employees. Organizations work at their best when everyone is engaged and people really love to work for a place that values them fully.

Would anyone argue with the facts above? Why then is it rare? We know it's rare because we read about record levels of employee dissatisfaction in their jobs.  We talk to leadership all the time about getting the most from their people and many don't seem to hear. The leading cause of turnover is a disconnect between the employee and their boss. So often we see evidence of disengagement, high stress, apathy, and doubt. Wow, now that was cathartic!

Maybe a good way to bring this section to a close is to give you a formula that may help capture Individual Opportunity Creation. Most people love acronyms so here is something to consider:

Think DELI:
D = Developmental plans for everyone. Each person in the organization needs a plan to learn, grow, prosper and be supported by their employer. Personal developmental plans should not be what you do when you have time. It is something as important as getting the daily work out and the health and welfare of your people.
E = Events where subordinates and the boss create time to discuss what works and doesn't and what they can do collaboratively to maximize opportunities. This can be one-on-one or small group time but the cycle of just pumping out work without a look at the process and its impact to customers and employees can be fatal.
L = Learning opportunities for every person who works for you. This is not just a lunch and learn but a commitment to ongoing education for the entire workforce. Formal updates on the business and how it functions, small groups of mentors out in the workforce to teach, required reading and forming the foundation for learning to be the way of life.
I = Idea based systems. We have discussed these in earlier articles but we can't say enough about the power of demanding the best ideas from your people and implementing those ideas. It needs to be written into performance reviews and honored with the time, energy and money required to make it successful. Managers need to surrender their egos and be trained to coach people to get the finest ideas. This is the first priority of every leader.

Next month we will take a look at working life atmosphere and balance in the final installment of the Best Places to Work.  As always, if you have ideas of your own, please send them along. We will include them in the article.

Have a great February and I will be back in March!

Ralph Twombly

Ralph Twombly

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.