how to build a thriving workplace in the uk

How to Build a Thriving Workplace

With unemployment in the UK currently around 4%, the lowest on record in almost 45 years,1 businesses are struggling to attract and retain talented employees. In order to remain competitive, employers must create a workplace that fosters employee satisfaction and productivity. To stand the best chance of recruiting and retaining your best talent, you need to consider three key areas: culture, transparency, and employee engagement.

Culture

Company culture encompasses everything that makes an organisation special. Culture is shared, pervasive, enduring, and implicit. It can be hard to define, but everyone knows it’s there.2 Here are a few tips for growing a healthier culture in your business:

1. Make sure everyone feels heard

Hold regular town hall-style meetings in which anyone can contribute their ideas and opinions. Create space for employees to ask questions of the CEO and the leadership team. Make questions anonymous. This will help keep a level of accountability for those higher up in the company and employees don’t have to wait for an opportune moment to raise concerns.

2. Encourage positive working relationships

Employees who make friends with their colleagues are happier, more productive, and less likely to leave.3 Make it easy for everyone to socialise and build meaningful connections. Set up an attractive communal area and arrange regular team outings.

3. Be proactive in supporting minority groups at work

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide employees of a similar background with a safe place to talk about the barriers they face in the workplace, together with social support and networking opportunities. When an employee discovers that others share their concerns, they’re more likely to feel they can raise difficult issues with managers and colleagues.

4. Take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment

Work with managers to ensure they make a meaningful commitment to monitoring company culture and taking responsibility for maintaining an inclusive atmosphere. All managers should receive training in equality and diversity issues at work, including how to handle workplace harassment and discrimination.

5. Evaluate your onboarding process

Your onboarding process will leave a lasting impression, so make sure new employees feel welcome from the very beginning. Do all new employees have the same opportunities to ask questions, learn about policies and procedures, and socialise with their new colleagues? Put in place a set of standardised processes and checklists to ensure they are never left to just figure things out for themselves.

6. Lead by example

Respect should be the norm at all levels, from entry-level staff to the boardroom. Model the values you want to see at work. Make sure managers encourage a sense of shared purpose and are explicit in promoting company values.

7. Let your employees have fun

Having fun boosts morale. Let employees customise their workspaces, play games, and celebrate their wins. Schedule regular meetups and activities to give employees a chance to bond. Be sensitive to everyone’s needs when planning events. For instance, if some members of your team avoid alcohol, going for drinks at a bar may not be the most inclusive choice.

8. Hire for culture fit

Make sure your interview questions and assessments check for cultural fit alongside a candidate’s technical skills. At the same time, make sure your hiring processes are fair. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring people who happen to resemble your interview panel.

Transparency

Employees who feel they can’t trust their managers become disengaged and cynical. Workers who understand where the company is headed as a whole and what everyone around them is doing are more productive and happier.4 Here are some ways to improve and uphold transparency at work:

1. Communicate frequently, and encourage colleagues to share ideas and information

To really connect with your employees and make them feel valued and respected, you need to foster a culture of open and honest communication. Instead of asking “Why should I share this?”, ask yourself “Why shouldn’t I tell everyone else?” Make revenue reports, investor updates, and general business performance updates available to all.

2. Check in with your employees regularly and act on their feedback

Regular anonymous surveys are a good way to keep track of company morale and identify problems early. When you have collected feedback, share your findings and explain what you will do to address employee concerns.

3. When you need to make major changes to your business, keep everyone updated

The cornerstone of trust is honesty. Employees want to know where they stand and what’s happening around them. Don’t withhold bad news. It’s better to be honest about problems and ask everyone to work together to solve them. Strive to be a credible, authentic leader.

4. Give your employees autonomy

Remember, not all your employees will be willing ‘sharers’. Forcing individuals to voice their thoughts and concerns could have a negative effect. Instead, give employees the autonomy to be transparent so it’s something they choose to do because they understand the benefits.

5. Hold yourself accountable

Employees don’t trust hypocritical managers who attempt to shift responsibility for their own mistakes onto other people. Apologise if you make a mistake. Employees want credible authentic leadership — and humility is important when building trust.

Employee Engagement

An engaged employee feels committed to their organisation’s goals. They understand where they fit into the business and they are willing to put in the work required to excel in their roles. Here are a few ideas for boosting employee engagement:

1. Create a mission statement

A mission statement unites everyone by establishing a clear set of expectations. It reminds employees that their work is important. A good mission statement should be short enough that your employees can remember it, explain it easily, and — most importantly — connect to it to give their work meaning.

2. Show your appreciation

Feeling recognised is not all about getting a salary increase. Taking the time to personally thank employees for a job well done may be the most cost-effective way to boost employee motivation and productivity, which can have a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. A handwritten note of thanks, a small gift, a celebratory lunch, or public acknowledgement can all improve employee satisfaction.

3. Prove that you care about your employees’ physical and psychological well-being

Implement a health and wellness programme that is designed to support employees as they adopt activities that improve their quality of life. Consider offering discounted gym memberships, stress management classes, lunchtime yoga sessions, healthy canteen options, and other health-based initiatives.

4. Promote a healthy work-life balance

When it comes to sustaining personal and professional success, work-life balance is critical. Consider offering flexible working hours, unlimited paid time off, and the option to work from home. The right work-life balance allows you to feel challenged and satisfied by your work, while also leaving enough time to live your life outside of it.

5. Offer training and a structured career path

Give your employees a sense of ownership over their career as a whole. If you don’t offer them opportunities, they will look elsewhere. Explore a mix of training tactics — external courses, seminars, as well as on the job training — and work with line managers to identify and develop the members of their team with highest upskill potential.

6. Give regular feedback

It’s no secret that feedback is hugely important in the workplace. It impacts individual growth and allows people to work on self-improvement, while also pushing people towards organisational goals. Employees who know what’s expected of them, how their work benefits the organisation, and how they can improve are more likely to be enthusiastic about their work.

Conclusion

To attract and retain the best talent in your industry, you need to offer candidates an inspiring, engaging workplace. Fortunately, transforming your company culture, adopting more transparent policies, and engaging your employees doesn’t require a huge budget. With careful planning, you can implement measures that will allow your workers and business to thrive.

Citations

1 - Trading Economics. (2019). United Kingdom Unemployment Rate. tradingeconomics.com
2 - Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., & Cheng, J. Y. (2018). The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture.
3 - Hirsch, A.S. (2018). Harnessing the Potential of Workplace Friendships. shrm.org
4 - Twaronite, K. (2016). A Global Survey on the Ambiguous State of Employee Trust. hbr.org