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.


Disengaged? Bringing Employees Back On-Side

It would be fair, in my opinion at least, to assume that everyone has experienced customer service from both ends of the continuum. I sometimes wonder why the probability of encountering bad customer service far outweighs the chances of having a positive experience -a truth which I find quite ironic.

One would expect, especially in the light of the numerous options available, that service delivery would be impeccable -creating a possible indecision in the minds of customers on how to distribute patronage across favourites. Alas, the reverse seems to be predominant. Sales reps still prefer to opt for the more laid-back, impolite and very damaging front.

In like manner, a quick scan of the workplace reveals an ever-widening gap between employees who are ready to go the extra mile, promote the brand and sometimes take-on tasks outside their regular contracts and those who wouldn’t. Those who would voluntarily assist colleagues in resolving a work-related problem while ensuring at all times that they remain on the fine lines of compliance are also at the risk of extinction (see Podsakoff et al., 2000).

Nowadays, what you’ll find commonplace are individuals taking up employment for the sole purpose of meeting their respective needs with little thought given to the possibility of contributing fully to organizational growth or sustainability.

Photo: courtesy of

Photo: courtesy of

Perhaps the average Nigerian is having a hard time coping effectively with the myriad of pressures coming at them from different directions. Perhaps, the consequences of these poorly managed pressures tend to be brought to bear at the workplace in the form of poor work attitudes. Perhaps, these employees are unable to see themselves as being integral to the success of the whole.

With the preceding arguments in mind, I prefer to diagnose the existence of more disengaged employees in the system than is required for optimum performance. The absence of a positive connection between the employee and the organization, I believe, is at the heart of poor customer service delivery and a detached work attitude.

Disengaged employees are those who lack the necessary zeal to contribute beyond the basic responsibilities detailed in their respective individual contracts. They come to work largely to make up the numbers. They usually will not speak well of their employers or invest more effort than is necessary to ensure targets are met. In extreme cases, these employees are responsible for stalling the contributions of other employees. Organizations risk their goodwill, their profit margin and their continued existence to this challenge if left unresolved.

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

The remedy for the incidences that plague service delivery and customer loyalty aren’t far-fetched. Rather than a quick fix, a more sustainable approach should apply.

For the employer:
There’s a need to consciously inspire positive emotions towards work in the minds of employees. Although tasking, it would certainly be a more tenable alternative.

It will require deliberate efforts aimed at creating fresh experiences for employees or improving existing systems/policies that have helped to shape previous experiences. Fully engaging employees would be a great place to start.

In addition to the above, employers may design surveys specifically to measure engagement levels within the organization. The surveys should be built to solicit information ranging from the reasons for discontentment as well as factors or tools that could help minimize the occurrence of  such emotions. Questionnaires may also include confidentiality and anonymity options to boost employee response levels.

For the employee:
A paradigm shift is required. That is, the ability to see beyond one’s immediate needs towards achieving a mutually beneficial objective.

Sooner rather than later, employees who keep at making a meaningful contribution will realize that the joy found in the fulfilment of one’s work and the recognition gained from being synonymous with efficiency will certainly make any job worth the while.


Podsakoff, P. et al (2000) Organizational Citenzenship Behaviours: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Emperical Literature and Suggestions for Future research. Journal of Management. (26) 3. p.513-565.