A Safe, Inspiring Culture or Not So Much?

Closeup of a business man climbing rope and business people tryiThis week 247WallSt.com released it’s newest rankings of the worst companies to work for in America. 24/7 Wall St. examined employee reviews of companies at glassdoor.com.

To be considered, companies had to have at least 300 reviews posted. 202 companies made this list. At GlassDoor, employees rate their organization on a 1-5 scale (5 being best). The 11 worst companies to work for in America scored 2.7 or worse on that five point scale.

The lowest scoring company on the list was Denver, CO-based Dish Network. In an article in the Denver Post, Dish CEO Joe Clayton is quoted as saying, “I’ve worked in lots of worse places – this isn’t one of them.”

“This Place Isn’t Nearly As Bad To Work In As . . . “

I don’t believe Mr. Clayton thought through the core message of his comment. When the Denver Post reporter asked about the “worst company” ranking, Clayton had a huge opportunity to say, “We’ve got work to do to make this a more safe, inspiring work culture.” Instead, he qualified Dish as not-nearly-as-bad-as-some-companies, by saying, “I’ve worked in lots of worse places.”

In other words, “No, it’s not a good place to work, but it’s not the worst.” That’s not a resounding validation of their corporate culture.

To management’s credit, Dish is conducting a first-ever employee survey of the company’s 30,000 team members. Clayton says the survey will serve as a benchmark moving forward. The management team will analyze the results of that survey to “see where they can improve.”

That’s a really good step to take. In our experience and research, “best practice” senior leaders continually assess employees’ perceptions of their work culture. If it’s safe, inspiring, even fun, productivity goes up, employee satisfaction goes up, and customer experiences are rated higher.

In order to generate valid, reliable data from employee surveys, it is vital to have the standards you desire formally defined first. Asking broad questions like, “How is our team working?” typically results in broad answers. Boldly state what your culture standards are – in behavioral terms. Then, survey questions are derived from the observable, tangible, measurable behaviors you’ve defined. Questions like these provide much clearer indications of employee perceptions – and the answers are actionable, highlighting gaps that must be addressed. Use questions like:

  • My boss keeps his/her commitments; s/he does what s/he says s/he will do, every time.
  • My boss “catches me doing things right” – praising & encouraging – as often as s/he “catches me doing things wrong.”
  • My boss does not tolerate team members being rude or aggressive with peers, staff, or customers.

Answers to these specific questions will also identify the leaders in your organization who demonstrate desired values AND inspire top productivity from team members. Those folks need to be celebrated regularly.

To be credible, survey results must be published promptly, noting action steps leaders will take to address gaps. Surveys should be done regularly, every six months or so.

Don’t aim for the “middle of the pack” of lousy places to work. Aim for a safe, inspiring work culture.

Join in the conversation! How safe, inspiring, and fun is your work culture? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

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9 Responses to A Safe, Inspiring Culture or Not So Much?

  1. Brian Pauley August 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Nice article, Chris. The CEO of Dish isn’t alone. Too many leaders try to make excuses and get defensive when employees expose an organization’s cultural black eye. Although not 100%, most employees are reasonable people. And behind their disengagement and frustration usually lies a leader who wouldn’t listen to them, show appreciation, give feedback, etc.

    • S. Chris Edmonds August 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts, Brian – you’re right on with your assessment of many CEOs’ reactions to poor employee satisfaction scores!
      The good news is that a “servant leadership” mentality can align senior leaders’ heads and hearts to their primary purpose: creating an inspiring work environment for their most important constituency: employees.
      Cheers!

      C.

  2. letsgrowleaders September 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    nice post. Thank you. found you on the leadership carnival.

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