All Work and No Play (2): Think Win-Win

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

From last week’s post we found that an organization may have the happiest of staff and still not bring in the numbers. Clearly, there’s more to achieving a right balance than just healthy work relationships.

There are several elements that make organizations successful. The ability of an organization to leverage on its strengths and the efficiency in the use of its talent, systems and unique strategies has the ability to set it apart.

Google’s impeccable policies towards ensuring an enabling and balanced environment for work is an outstanding example. Likewise, NetApp for the 12th year has continued to feature on the ‘great place to work‘ list while consistently improving its bottom line.

Balanced organizations share a common theme. In this post, I have put together some useful tips on how Q2 – Q4 organizations can transition into Q1 organizations.

  1. A Clear and Focused Mission targeted at achieving ‘specific’ and ‘measurable‘ goals .
  2. Employee Buy-in: A sense of shared responsibility. Employees’ understanding of roles and how it fits into the overall corporate objective.
  3. An environment that encourages mutual respect: Zero tolerance for morale damaging behaviour, bullying or intimidation.
  4. A culture that supports fairness: Credible processes and meritocracy.
  5. A system that rewards outstanding performance, individual-based as well as team-based.
  6. Investment in employees’ personal and professional development.
  7. Priority placed on the health and safety of employees: Having adequate systems in place to cater to employee health including stress management.
  8. Promoting an environment that encourages innovation.
  9. Accountability: Performance review sessions/meetings which provide an avenue for team bonding, target setting, brainstorming, feedback and recognition.
  10. Predominantly objective rather than subjective performance measures.
  11. Lean model of operation: weeding out waste and inefficiencies in the system.
  12. Q1 organizations drive performance and do not hesitate to stretch employees’ capabilities. ‘Going over and beyond’ is often the mantra.
  13. Job design/re-design with sufficient attention placed on valuable and challenging work. People naturally flourish in their areas of strength. Employee engagement is often higher when tasks are valued by the staff -a feature that often accompanies work which challenges employees’ mental development. In essence, get employees interested, get them to enjoy what they do and you have a winner on your hands!
  14. Open and honest communication: Reducing the power distance by encouraging a free flow of information. Employees, especially subordinates/associates, must feel free to air their thoughts,share ideas and suggest solutions.
  15. Management’s unrelenting commitment to the business, its superordinate goals as well as the value it places on employee contribution, employee welfare and advancement is vital.
  16. Promoting  work-life balance: The idea isn’t to break the bank in order to attain a similar level of commitment like the Googlers. Employing ‘Human Analytics’ is useful for generating data to determine such things as what matters most to employees and which policies would be most appreciated.

The key is to attain a fit to context. Hence, there is the need to understand your business, know your people and in so doing, design systems, processes and the organization’s structure to support a healthy work environment and at the same time, optimizing value.


What’s In a Name? You’d be Surprised


There are lots of policies that get ‘adopted’ by firms which never get to see the light of day in terms of actual implementation.

From my experiences and what I’ve heard from so many, I have come to the conclusion that some policies aren’t passed to be adopted; They serve instead as a ‘corporate green card’ needed by an organization to be accorded the sort of audience more sophisticated/refined organizations seem to enjoy.

One of such policies is the ‘first name basis’ policy.

The use of it has become more of a fad. The concept as well as all accompanying benefits are both valued and acknowledged, but, often from a safe distance. Although seen as desirable, fashionable and modern, organizations who value seniority and appreciate more traditional forms of respect have found it difficult to embrace.

Personally, I do agree that it does break some communication barriers and eases up the gap that strains open work relationships. But does it really have any correlation with actual performance? That’s debatable. However, it can be argued that if it promotes a healthy work environment and eases the work-flow, it is bound to have some carry-on effect on overall organizational performance.

I have heard several tales about employees taking offence to being called solely by their first names. Usually, these employees reprimand colleagues (often impolitely) for omitting the decoratives that precede their names.  Similarly, I have seen first-hand, the damage these encounters do to the morale of the ‘corrected’ and the quality of interpersonal relationships that ensue afterwards.

I value integrity, which after all is doing exactly what you said you would, and I also appreciate the countless number of organizations who have successfully enforced and imbibed the culture/policy.

Essentially, for any human related policy to be successful, it is paramount for policy makers to acquire a thorough understanding of the organizational culture. Policies formulated should be done in consideration of the people, the company’s ideology and culture. It is worth throwing some issues to the opinion polls or conducting a survey around certain subjects before running them.

Alternatively; if an organization insists on making such transitions, it is pertinent that such initiatives are completely supported by top management and same are seen to be actively engaged in acting out the newly adopted behaviours.

In conclusion, to be seen as credible and be taken seriously as an organization, to avoid the animosity that may arise from un-receptive staff, to maintain subsequent levels of motivation, commitment and engagement, (organizations should carefully consider the likelihood of success in implementing such a policy by taking into consideration the attitude to culture change as well as the possible impact on organizational harmony & performance).

Do you have experiences of your own to share on the subject? …and is there really any correlation between a first name basis policy and subsequent performance? I would love to read your thoughts. Do feel free to share…