Working on Fire: A Look Forward to 2021

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For nearly 30 years, many of the world’s leaders have turned to Eric Chester, a workplace researcher and thought leader, for his tactics and strategies on employee development. Chester is a former economics professor, Hall of Fame speaker and author of five best-selling books. He has studied, analyzed and written about attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent.

One of Chester’s books, On Fire at Work, is offered as a tool for companies to ignite passion in their employees without burning them out. There are seven key concepts in the book that show how to bring about the best culture possible:

Naturally, this helps a company attract and retain good employees, but it does not mean your employees are engaged or even satisfied with your company. Regardless of income level, he says only 30 percent of employees are truly engaged at work, according to Gallup’s Work and Education Survey. Compensation is simply a foundation on which to build real engagement. His advice is to be transparent about it. Make compensation known to all employees, even executive compensation, so employees can plan their career paths. Pay people more than is required and invest in their training and careers, which in turn will result in lower turnover and more engaged employees. Tie employee income to employee outcome by offering them a stake in the company’s profits.

He believes the key to establishing a company’s values lies in the alignment between employers and employees via transparency, open communication and the knowledge that everyone is held to the same standards. Be sure to hire employees with closely aligned core values to the company’s, train around those values so they understand how they affect their day-to-day decision-making. Discipline those who don’t honor the values and reward those who do. Moreover, performance reviews should reflect how the employee exemplifies the values, and these reviews should include managers and executives too.

Chester says today’s work dynamic has changed along with an expanding global economy. People want a return on their loyalty, not just in compensation, but in training and opportunities to gain job skills so they can advance. Companies need to agree on a growth agenda with a clear and mutual vision of an employee’s career path within the company, including a timeline for this path and how to individualize the methods to each person’s needs. And, of course, remember to celebrate the achievements along the way.

To truly acknowledge employees, managers must create personal connections and put their employees first. Just rewarding with an increase in compensation is not enough because it doesn’t highlight anyone’s achievements. True acknowledgment is personalized, prompt and known to all.

Trust is a major factor and involves a certain amount of “letting go” so employees have autonomy in their jobs. Foster an environment that is known to think on its feet through excellent training that fosters confidence. Allow them to be creative along the way to achieving their goals. Once empowered, employees will feel vested.

Poor communication is often the reason a company culture falters. Managers are faced with three types of information to pass to their employees: what they need to know, what they should know and what they want to know. The first is standard information to do their jobs. The second is the basics of the company, usually no secrets here. But the last is especially important during both good times and bad. The clearer picture of “how things are,” the better equipped employees are to make good decisions. Companies that speak up and address issues with straight talk prevent problems. Those that give employees an open line of communication to ask questions and improve the pipeline of discussion reap the most benefits.

A good company atmosphere involves seven factors. Safety: All employees need to feel their employer is protecting them. Acceptance: the freedom to be themselves without fear of harassment or bullying. Tools: Employees naturally want the best and most up-to-date tools for their jobs. Boss: Good employees can be lost if the boss doesn’t engage in an equal and compassionate manner. Coworkers: Companies that foster camaraderie and teamwork are better equipped to retain employees. Sensory: Floor plans, sounds, smells, sights and other senses that allow a pleasant atmosphere are important. Fun: Constant work with no diversion is frowned upon.

Workplace culture is simply more than money, perks and benefits. Now, meaningful work is achieved by aligning with a company that shares values and mirrors growth. Working with a great company means learning new skills and advancing your career, all the while enjoying an atmosphere that promotes a safe, fun and enjoyable work day. ■

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