Why it pays to foster a positive business culture

One of the most common mantras I hear from manufacturing business owners and managers would have to be “our people are our greatest asset”.

Training, incentive programs, team bonding sessions and other benefits are some of the ways businesses try to demonstrate they value their greatest asset.

In Australia, our cost to employ people is high, relative to our close neighbours in Asia, or even New Zealand. Given that employment usually sits within the top three costs for many businesses, it would make sense that people should be one of their most valued assets.

So, if that’s the case, are you doing enough to foster a positive business culture and influence job satisfaction?

Are your employees satisfied?

Over many years, a wide range of organisations have conducted job satisfaction surveys. The results tend to vary dependent on much broader economic factors impacting the sense of relative security, with most surveys presenting satisfaction rates in the range between 50 to 75 per cent.

It’s no surprise that job satisfaction is higher at companies with a positive culture. The other clear benefit is that a positive culture fosters a sense of employee loyalty. Employees are much more likely to stay with their current employer when they feel they are treated right and enjoy going to work every day.

Are your people assets the right fit?

An equally important question for business owners to ask themselves is, ‘have you got the right people in the right roles?’

Some have touched on this subject previously, clarifying that what is more important and accurate is that the ‘right people’ are our greatest asset.

Strategies I recommend to ensure you are employing the right people include ‘hiring for attitude’, ‘training for skills’; creating the ‘right culture’ and adopting the principles discussed by Daniel Pink in his book – Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us.

Ensuring we have the right people on board ultimately begins with the recruitment process – where it is vital to be very clear about what qualities and skills are important and required for a person to be successful in executing the role. Surely then, if we can get that right the rest will follow?

A key factor to foster job satisfaction

After 30 years in the steel and manufacturing industries, working for some of Australia’s most enterprising companies, I have come to understand that one of the key elements for employees to succeed in their role (and therefore, experience job satisfaction) is that they are confident about what is expected of them.

Today’s world is characterised by constantly changing circumstances and, quite simply, there’s no sign of that rate of change, or level of disruption, slowing down.

So, on the one hand you have a technological evolution occurring within many industries – creating ongoing change in operations.

On the other hand, people perform best when they have certainty and confidence in what they are doing and why they’re doing it.

It clearly creates a conundrum for business leaders.

Smart communication is key

Does this conundrum mean we are destined to a world where there is increasing job dissatisfaction because of change and uncertainty? I don’t believe so.

It’s the ability of our business leaders to communicate with their people that is the critical factor.

Leaders’ capability to have crucial, difficult, hard and open conversations is fundamental to successfully lead people and deal with a rapidly changing world.

Interestingly, this so called ‘soft skill’ of communicating clearly and openly is often seen as too hard. This is particularly so with SME businesses where the owner has a technical background and, who just happens now, to lead a business with people.

The opportunity for leaders, independent of their business size: pause before starting conversations with their people and consider what they need to communicate, think about how the recipient might prefer to be communicated with, and then do it. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Conversations need to cover only a few simple things: the situation to be discussed, the reason for the discussion at this time and the outcome that is the end goal. In a complex world, simplicity is a good response.

Listen to your people

Of course, communication is a two- way street. It’s not just about getting your message across to your employees. It’s important to listen to your people if you want to genuinely foster a positive workplace culture. But don’t think you have to start from scratch.

Ask your employees what they like and dislike about the current culture and work environment. You may be surprised with what you hear – and if your people are involved in the process of improving their lot, it’s more likely they’ll be on board in upholding it.

Contact manufacturing growth specialist Graeme Fitzgerald for business strategy and consulting services that create clarity, drive profitability and deliver work-life balance – 0407 093 662.

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