Even though I left nearly 10 years ago, I still promote one of my former employers. For more than seven years, I had the privilege of working for Making It Count Programs, a division of Monster Worldwide (Monster.com). Any friend of mine will tell you that I was one of the biggest cheerleaders for Monster's Making It Count Programs because I had the best professional years of my life there. I wasn’t alone as my colleagues sported the same infectious energy. Having had that experience, I've come to realize that a powerful promotional tool for businesses is being a great place to work. This is not about appearing in Forbes', Fortune's, or on Glassdoor's "best place to work" list (at least not yet) but employee enthusiasm is priceless.
It is worth it for your business, non-profit, or institution to have such a goal? Well, do we Great Black Speakers like to run our mouths? Heeeeeeck yeah!
Take it from a man who has public relations, marketing, and job recruitment experience. A business with satisfied employees equals increased promotion which could equal more customer buy-in which would definitely equal more revenue or financial support. I have five thoughts on how your business can create employee enthusiasm.
Invest in leadership development. Businesses, non-profits, and institutions with effective leaders have the most solid of foundations to be places where folks want to work. One of the coolest progressions in leadership that I’ve read about is that of Clarence Otis, Jr., the former CEO of Darden Restaurants which made Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Having started with Darden in 1995 as the treasurer, Otis’ climb took only nine years. He told The New York Times that he learned leadership is “less and less about getting the work done and more and more about building the team” as Otis contributed his success to his predecessor and mentor.
I’ve worked for a micro manager and two extreme narcissists--no fun. While I don’t discourage people from supporting their organizations, I provide potential customers and employees with a warning label. Effective leadership can be taught if the leader is truly willing to honor the big picture and see the entire business benefit.
Encourage employee feedback. I don’t care if you run a small business with fewer than 10 people, find out what’s on your employees' minds and take their feedback into genuine consideration. According to BBVA Compass, “highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity.” What business doesn’t want above-average productivity?
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to say that everyone should be skipping along and happily licking lollipops while holding hands at work. But employees do feel a certain level of satisfaction and ownership when they are being heard.
Be open to adjusting your work culture. Time and time again, I’ve heard young, talented, intelligent, qualified black higher education job seekers say that they dream of working at HBCUs but they hear too many horror stories about the HBCU work culture. I am a vocal advocate for HBCUs but the reality is too many have a reputation for draconian work cultures and refusing to change. Like the howling dog sitting on the nail, we have HBCUs that don’t adjust their work cultures because their institutions aren't hurting enough.
Dr. Norman Francis, the former president of Xavier University of Louisiana, made his campus an exception to the rule. Years ago, I had the great honor of chatting with Dr. Francis for a few minutes so I asked him about his secret of leadership success. He simply said, “I find the right people to do the job and I leave them alone.” A native of New Orleans, I consistently heard XU employees say that they enjoyed the university’s work culture. Having watched Xavier grow, I don’t think Dr. Francis' leadership, the word on the street about the work culture, and the university’s success were a coincidence.
Be objective about honest public employee feedback. I once read online reviews from one of my former employers and I couldn’t help but notice something. One review spoke glowingly about the philosophy of the leader--even quoting his mantra--while other employees wrote nice superlatives about their experiences. Interestingly, a majority of the 30-plus employees had negative feedback at the time these wonderful reviews were written (not to mention there were pending law suits from former employees). So, where were the happy people???
Glowing employee reviews from good businesses tend to have balanced tones, and smart job seekers use this feedback to determine how they would fit into the work culture. One element of building a best place to work is allowing public employee feedback and addressing it thoughtfully. Readers aren't stupid; they can tell when positive feedback is coerced. Encourage authentic feedback and use the pros and cons to build a solid "best place to work" culture.
Promote professional development. Currently, I recruit for a major healthcare organization and over 50 percent of the candidates I interview say that one of their top priorities in searching for a new job is growth or some sort of development. One of the reasons I loved Monster’s Making It Count Programs so much is I had access to learning opportunities.
Providing professional development is an investment. The good news is today’s training doesn’t have to be classroom-based or a major expense to the business. There are free webinars all over the place. I love that my current employer uses social media to provide online development opportunities that we can access at our leisure. By the way, we're considered one of the best 100 companies to work for in our state.
The marketplace is highly competitive and part of winning is being a best place to work. The businesses that win are the ones that find ways to influence employees to be their evangelists.