One of the more objective ways of identifying an outstanding workplace is by awarding it the “Great Place to Work” title. The company I have founded and have been running as CEO since 2006, Sii sp. z o. o., has been awarded the “Great Place to Work” title four times in a row. In this article I will share with you how to build a “Great Place to Work”.
What exactly does the Great Place to Work title mean?
The title has been awarded for over 30 years all around the world by the Great Place to Work Institute. An anonymous employee survey, it provides insights into employee satisfaction and Trust Index within leading organizations across a range of sectors. The Great Place to Work Certification provides valuable data about the current state of your workplace culture. Great Place to Work website
How to build a “Great Place to Work” company? One of the most important aspects is to properly define your company’s mission and make sure that everybody in the company shares it. Our mission is “Power People – identify and promote our best employees”.
There are many companies which, instead of promoting their own employees, recruit executives from outside of the organization. Such a solution certainly has some significant drawbacks. It is a sign that those companies don’t trust their staff. Giving your own people a chance to develop and get promoted creates enormous motivation for everyone at the company.
Of course, you must be careful to promote the right person. They may not necessarily have the experience or qualifications for the job at first, but they should have a huge potential for growth and natural leadership skills. Also, sometimes it’s good to recruit somebody from outside to bring new ideas inside the company.
Apart from its mission, most important at Sii are its 5 objectives. The first one is Profit. It comes before Employee Satisfaction. Why?
Not only does it come before Employee Satisfaction but the two are sometimes at odds with each other! To generate profit, you must carefully control costs, so, for example, avoid recruiting too many people or paying them too much. You must also put pressure on your employees to deliver good KPIs and perform well!
At the same time, financial performance and profit are vital for employee satisfaction. Let me explain why. It is impossible to be a “Great Place to Work” if the company doesn’t generate profit, because poor profit means cost cutting, fewer investments, and by extension, dismissals, and these are only some of the consequences. It’s difficult to be happy in a company which does not invest, grow, and lays off its staff! In short – Great Places to Work are always companies which deliver solid profitability.
Generating profit is the main objective of every company, even more important than employee satisfaction, however cruel it may sound at first. Why? Because profit enables new investments and projects, in short – the company’s development. Exceptions are some start-ups which may not look for profit, but growth, if they have a lot of money from investors. We have the same objective at Sii when we launch new investments, new business units or new offerings: we generally look for fast growth in the first 3 years, then a break-even, then profit. But in the end, the most important objective of any investment is always profitability.
A company with great financial resources can create a good, friendly workplace where employees may focus on achieving their goals instead of struggling to survive. Such a situation provides a significant dose of motivation for employees, as well as an opportunity for the company to identify and promote the best performers since there are many new job openings. Best employers worldwide are always very profitable companies.
Also, in a sense, clients are more important than employees because without them there would simply be no employment. Sometimes employees will be more important than the client if the client is unfair or unprofitable (such clients are unimportant to me and since I have a choice I prefer not to cooperate with them).
If I had to put it in order from a global perspective, I would say that the client is less important than the profit, and employees come third. Yet, all these elements are strongly connected, because, for example, it is difficult to generate profit and have satisfied clients when the employees are unhappy (unless you have a strong monopolistic position). This correlation makes it impossible for those three elements to function independently from each other.
Nevertheless, what brings me the most satisfaction at work are happy people. I wouldn’t like to work in a company where people are unhappy, even if it generated a huge profit.
Apart from generating profit, what are the secrets of building a “Great Place to Work” company?
It’s important for the company to have strong and authentic values. At Sii, our 14 core values are present everywhere, visible in each office, each marketing material. We put them into practice during our recruitment process and look for persons representing them. Those values are not bullshit. They are authentic and real. We include them in job contracts we sign with our managers. We check if they are followed during annual interviews. Working with people who share the same values is another strategic factor that has a significant impact on creating the best workplace.
Let me give you some examples of the importance of values.
- Ambition, engagement and passion. A company that is neither ambitious nor motivated, and, instead of taking risks, sticks to the status quo, does not provide enough excitement and development opportunities for its employees. Company with no ambition can’t win the “Great Place to Work” award. Working with engaged and passionate people is the best motivation each of us can receive.
- Transparency – helps to avoid political correctness. “Great Place to Work” companies encourage transparency. They always say what they think, even when it hurts, to both their subordinates and superiors. At Sii, we are always open to criticism. We encourage problem escalation. We listen to and accept criticism from our subordinates. We strongly believe that they often know better than us and are often smarter than us. Sometimes it may cause heated arguments, but it is healthier than suppressing one’s opinions.
- Positive can-do attitude – enables to get positive energy from your everyday tasks and, in the case of problems, perceive them as interesting challenges rather than obstacles. One of the most demotivating factors at work is cooperating with negative people who complain about their employer or boss all the time or are against any change. So, if you want to build a great workplace, you should get rid of your trouble makers!
- Fairness – reflected, for example, in differentiating pay based on qualifications and performance of each team and employee. Fairness also concerns promoting employees. We should not promote people who kiss our asses, but people who deliver the best performance, have the best attitude, best potential and natural leadership skills.
- Flexibility, trust and freedom – shown in several aspects:
- For women with small kids –possibility of home office and flexible working hours
- Dress code – not strict, depending on the nature of the job position and everyday duties
- Flexible contract types – depending on the type of the project, job position and individual preferences, we offer permanent, part-time and freelance contracts
- Possibility of changing the project/department – at Sii we introduced “Job Changer”, a powerful application designed to support employees in the process of changing their job position, duties, units or career path. Job Changer enables our employees to take a turn in their career without changing their employer. It is a tool that stimulates career development and a chance of reaching new possibilities.
- Trust – means that we delegate decision power to lower levels, trust our teams and subordinates. In such a way, we show them our high hopes as well as building their motivation and engagement.
- Respect – towards our colleagues, our superiors and subordinates, towards our clients. Respect and civility are essential for maintaining healthy relations and a good working atmosphere. Managers and bosses must always treat their subordinates in a respectful and modest way, not showing superiority or arrogance.
Why are organization, processes and tools so important to build a great workplace?
Another strategic aspect that enabled us to win the “Great Place to Work” title is the efficiency of our organization. By this I mean focusing on implementing lean processes, fast decision-making, avoiding bureaucracy and disorder, having everything established in smart processes managed by efficient IT tools and written down in procedures. Also, staying agile and flexible, changing those procedures when required.
We tend, for example, to implement smart processes in terms of new employees onboarding and annual interviews, which are crucial for people management and contribute to employee satisfaction.
What also plays a significant role in creating a positive work atmosphere are well-designed, pleasant and friendly office spaces. In my company, we keep our Top-Class A office spaces renovated, painted in bright colors, adorned with flowers and green elements. Pictures of our employees are visible everywhere. We are also keen on design. We avoid large, noisy, anonymous open-spaces, too. We let our employees decorate their office rooms the way they wish. We have efficient property management services like service desk, field support, office management and reception. Working in a nice space is essential for the comfort of our employees.
Last but not least, most important are the People
The most important thing that gave us the “Great Place to Work” award was the type of managers we hire and promote. As a successful company we choose demanding managers and tough leaders.
Great managers are fantastic coaches and mentors, excellent team motivators. They care enormously for their subordinates. They try to constantly support their team to perform, grow and win. They take pride in their team’s successes and take accountability for failures. They fight for promoting the best.
But best managers and leaders must also be tough people sometimes. A strategic value that each manager must have is courage. They need to have the courage to:
- say “no” and make unpopular decisions which cause “hate” among their subordinates (but are good for the majority of them in the long term)
- put pressure on subordinates when needed
- always be transparent with subordinates, including moments when it hurts
- dismiss trouble makers and bad performers
Many people want to be loved by their teams and subordinates. They find it hard to criticize somebody. They are not able to dismiss anybody. Too tough decision.
Those people should not be managers because they will be bad managers.
Managers and leaders must be sometimes able to make decisions that are unpopular and strongly criticized, but after a longer period of time tend to bring good effects.
We try to consider the wellbeing of the majority from a bird’s-eye view. Theoretically, I could announce that we will give everybody a 50% raise, effective immediately. Everybody will love me and Sii! But in a year, we will face mass dismissals and bankruptcy.
So as a CEO I cannot be a populist. I must know how to say “no” and sometimes decide to lay off an employee who negatively affects the atmosphere in the company, does not perform according to the expectations, doesn’t care about the results or demotivates other team members who are deeply engaged and work hard.
If I had to choose one most important aspect, it would certainly be people. I truly believe that recruiting and promoting the right persons enables to win the “Great Place to Work” award and leads to a long-term success of any business. But how to recruit the best people? How to promote the best leaders and how to recognize them? Make sure to read my next articles.
Those are the key factors that in my opinion contributed the most to Sii receiving the “Great Place to Work” title. I am curious if you’re planning on implementing any of my suggestions. Or maybe you think I am completely wrong? Either way, let me know in the comments!