Employee morale in organizations across the globe continues to erode.

A recent study by the World At Work organization found that employee engagement levels for all workers at the companies surveyed have dropped by nearly 10 percent since 2008-2009, and by 23 percent for top performers. Their study also shows that, compared with 2008-2009 data, top-performing employees are 26 percent less likely to be satisfied with advancement opportunities at their company, and are also 14 percent less likely to want to remain with their company versus take a job elsewhere. According to a new white paper from the Ken Blanchard Companies, these issues cost organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and poor service.

Proactive management of the workplace environment is critically important to the short- and long-term success of both the company and the leader.

Who is “In Charge” of Your Organization’s Workplace Environment?

Let’s not beat around the bush: a leader’s primary responsibility is to create a workplace environment that is safe for all members.

Whether you are a senior executive, mid-level manager, or front-line supervisor, you are responsible for the work environment that exists across your sphere of influence.

By the term “safe,” I mean beyond physical safety. Physical safety is an absolute requirement of all workplaces. A psychologically safe work environment enables all employees to:

  1. Bring Their Skills & Interests – a workplace that lets every employee leverage their unique skills and interests out-performs a workplace that does not. Every day.
  2. Bring Their “Best Selves” – a work environment that allows every employee to do what they do best in service to team and company goals generates authentic enthusiasm for tasks and customers.
  3. Bring Their Brains – a workplace that is safe for employee’s to think and share ideas about how to get work done more efficiently generates improvements in the work flow every day.

Create a Safe, Inspiring Work Environment

Any leader can create a genuinely safe work environment by implementing these steps:

  1. Standards – first, make expectations crystal clear. Be bold; ensure that every employee has a written “contribution” plan that outlines performance & values expectations. Be specific with values standards, outlining the behaviors expected to ensure all employees are great corporate citizens – with each other and with customers.
  2. Monitor & Measure – Once standards are defined and communicated, leaders must get into the flow of their work environment to observe how those standards are being embraced. Great bosses spend time observing interactions every day; they connect, praise, and coach to reiterate the equal importance of goals & values. Data must be gathered to assess employee perceptions of the workplace environment; results are promptly shared with the entire organization so everyone is “in the loop.”
  3. Reward & Redirect – Based on data and observation, leaders must regularly praise progress and celebrate benchmark performance & citizenship. For those employees who miss standards (goals or values expectations), leaders promptly engage those employees (or leaders) to learn what is getting in the way. Redirection typically will enable those employees to get back on track. If, after coaching, employees are unable to meet standards, they are “lovingly set free,” released from employment. Goals & values are that important.

These steps require constant attention. If leaders set expectations but never follow up, the “not so subtle” message is that the standards really aren’t important. Standards are critically important, and great bosses invest time every day monitoring demonstrated behavior to ensure alignment.

What is your experience with workplace environments? Join in the conversation by using the comments section below.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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