"The secret to happy workplaces isn’t spending more money. It’s about creating the conditions that allow employees to do their best work."
A globalized world of opportunities, a new generation of digital-native workers, and a few high-profile examples of “Fun-First” office spaces have left companies trying to “out-perk” the competition in order to woo the most sought-after applicants. But putting a Ping-Pong table in the break room isn’t enough to keep top talent on your team.
In The Best Place To Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, Ron Friedman creates an easily digestible meta-analysis of recent research on the policies, perks, structures, and more that create the most collaborative, productive, happy and proud employees.
Far from a prescriptive “one-size-fits-all” approach, this book presents a wealth of research supporting each of the many possible opportunities for improvement in the workplace and offers a number of different solutions that are in line with that research. Friedman gives each area of workplace optimization its own chapter, and ends each chapter with two clear sets of action steps — one for managers and one for employees. Whether you’re a new employee or a seasoned executive, this book will offer you inspiration and next steps to help turn your office into “The Best Place To Work.”
Make Your People Your Priority
"How much is it costing businesses to leave employee friendships to chance?"
A wealth of data shows that happy employees are the best employees, and that a sense of camaraderie with colleagues is a large factor in everything from performance to company pride. Employees with a best friend at work have been shown to be more focused and passionate, and they also tend to take fewer sick days and change jobs less frequently.
But proximity alone isn’t always enough to upgrade cubicle neighbors to confidantes. Organic friendships are rarely formed over preferred pen brands; employers that create ample opportunities for deeper out-of-office sharing often promote the strongest employee relationships.
Bulletin boards or customized introduction emails that allow employees to exchange information about their hobbies, families, or their favorite books, movies and music, for example, creates a pathway for relationships based on deeper traits. Giving employees a budget for celebrating their coworkers’ birthdays, marriages, and other millstones gives them opportunities to celebrate their colleagues as they would outside the office.
Make Room for Creativity (and Failure)
"Engaging employees is about creating an environment that positions people to do their best work."
Few people are able to do their best work in an environment that feels restricted, stifled, unforgiving, and the best employers make room for employee creativity and the occasional failure that comes with it, both physically and culturally.
An office with a great view, natural light and colors, living plants, or outdoor work spaces creates a biologically comfortable environment that maximizes productivity and happiness. Tall ceilings increase creativity and high-level thinking. Comfortable seating and round conference rooms and tables foster more collaboration than rigid chairs in spaces with hard edges and oppositional positions. Reorganizing offices and desks so that employees don’t have their backs to open areas reduces the feelings of vulnerability and tension that are hardwired into our caveman brains.
But if an office upgrade isn’t in the cards, there are cultural changes that can be made from the top down too. Transparency and admitting faults without shame creates an openness that fosters more of the same. Creating an award for the biggest risk or the most out-of-the-box idea shows that your organization values innovation.
Hiring Is Hard. And That’s OK…
"No matter how closely we might be attending to a candidate’s abilities, our unconscious is ever present, filtering our impressions using an outdated set of criteria that have little to do with an applicant’s actual potential."
No matter how advanced we consider ourselves, many of our decision making processes are based on biological drives that are no longer relevant. We can’t help but perceive height and attractiveness as indicators of leadership ability and overall health and preparedness. We judge strength, integrity and power as most present in those with deeper voices, and discount people with higher pitched voices as the opposite. People who are similar to us make us more comfortable than those who differ from us in background, upbringing or experience.
But we can combat our lizard brains to ensure we’re truly and consciously in control of our hiring decisions to attract the most qualified talent and assemble a talented, motivated and cohesive team.
During the hiring process, avoid consuming irrelevant information — viewing profile photos, looking up out-of-the-office activities, or conferring with other interviewers — ahead of time to limit biased first impressions that could unconsciously alter your interview questions. Create opportunities for “blinded” filters, like tests, challenges, or other assignments that offer unbiased assessments of ability and fit.
As Friedman says, “there’s no one right way of operating an organization,” but The Best Place To Work provides a fascinating and scientifically-supported framework for managers and new employees alike to help create a productive and engaged workforce from the inside out, in whatever ways make sense for them.
Which job has made you feel the most productive and valued, and what contributed to your love of that workplace? Share your experience and tips below.