So like any entrepreneur, small business owner, or soon to be leader, I have read a bunch of books, blogs, and articles that discuss how to build strong employee morale and get the most from your employee productivity. I took a variety of classes in college, performed market research, and analyzed case studies to help prove that happy employees and team building exercises help increase productivity in the work place. Does that mean you just do things to make everyone happy and that is all? No, because there still needs to be a standard set that you play hard and work HARDER.
There are a variety of great case studies, such as Happy Workers Are More Productive by Jamie Doward or 15 Ways to Boost Employee Morale by Lea Hartog, that support the notion that happier employees are more productive. However, even though this seems extremely obvious to any great competent manager, many people don’t understand this simple concept.
I have worked a variety of jobs including full time, part time, and contract where I have never seen any tactics practiced to build stronger employee productivity. I’ve worked in large fortune 100 companies as a contractor where people barely know each other and it takes 6 months to 1 year to become comfortable in the corporate culture. I’ve worked in smaller companies where as long as the boss liked you then you were accepted. If the boss didn’t like you and she decided to be passive aggressive, then you were no longer an insider. This seemed to be the story of my life; working for managers who didn’t know how to build a solid cohesive unit. However, one day it seemed my luck had changed and I had the pleasure of coming on board with a management team that knew how to make employees happy, build a solid team, and achieve results. Let me point out some key practices that made this past company so successful:
Attitude and behavior come from management down
From the second you read the job description you get a feeling this is going to be a down to earth company with a young management team. Why is that you say? Such phrases as “we have a basketball court in our office and yes we use it” or “this is a business casual work environment” kind of give off that vibe. Then when you walk in for an interview the secretary already knows your name and she takes you right into managements office. The interview is casual with sarcasm and jokes being cracked but there is still discussion of previous growth, current projects being worked on, and plans for where the company will be in the future. Now don’t get me wrong, I have interviewed and worked at many places that have a similar aura. But sadly this is a mask to disguise the companies true colors. However, after working at this company for some time, I could see day in and day out how this attitude is carried throughout the workplace. Every morning management came in to talk to everyone, brought in donuts or apples, and communicated throughout the day about what is going on within the company. They performed all these actions but yet the team still respected the hierarchy.
Team building activities
As mentioned in the previous point, we actually did play basketball. In fact we played pick up games twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday night. Then throughout the day if you needed a 2 minute break from your day to day activities, you can walk on out to the court and shoot some shots. This allowed you to clear your head, which especially came in handy when you’ve been working diligently with a client all day. Then came free throw Fridays. Every Friday depending on how many deals you have closed for the month, you get that many free throw attempts to make a shot. If you make a shot, management would take you out to eat with other members of the team that also made their free throws. So not only do you get a smile put on your face with a couple bball shots, you also got to go out and spend casual time with other team members. Let me make note that if the team wasn’t producing I’m sure none of these activities would be occurring. The point here is bigger than basketball. Its the fact that a culture that allows everyone to come together in an enjoyable central activity builds stronger employee relationships resulting in a more productive team.
Hiring employees with similar personalities
If you were to spend about 5 minutes in the sales room with all of the guys, you would instantly notice a similarity among all of us. No, I’m not talking about appearance, age, or background. I’m talking about attitude. Everyone one of us, both men and women, have an individual personality that is personable, witty, and supportive. There isn’t a day that went by when someone isn’t cracking a joke, sending a funny photo, or making everyone smile. Although all of this is going on, we were still closing multiple deals per day with hundreds of outbound calls. We were also constantly pushing the envelope of what is possible among our team.
When I interviewed, management told me that everyone in the company knows who closed what deal, how much it cost, and how many deals they have closed in comparison to the rest of the team. I remember thinking yeah right I doubt that really happens. Sure enough, it really did. Not only did we have a box down the side of the computer screen that hold the number of deals you closed for the month, it also had your ranking among the team. It doesn’t stop there. Any time someone made a sale, an email got sent to everyone informing them who closed the sale. Rather then people being jealous and bad mouthing the person who closed the sale, everyone congratulated them enthusiastically.
I am aware that every company cannot be established and structured this way. Each company develops it’s own unique culture based upon the nature of the business. However, the founder of the company determines the initial direction and how he wants the company to operate. From there, it is up to that individual to structure the management team that supports the same vision. Then from there, the additional pieces of the team must be put in place to carry out this same vision. Essentially, the point I’m trying to make is that…