Q I recently took up a new role as a mid-level manager at a small advertising agency. I'm very excited to put my stamp on the place, especially when it comes to working relationships as I have noticed that many employees are generally unhappy in their job and I want to fix this. I've approached the CEO about a team-bonding activity, but he says it is not in the budget. What other ways can I improve the general atmosphere in the company environment?
A In the current job market, employees and candidates expect more than just a pay cheque. Compensation and benefits now often include a more holistic approach, encompassing employee well-being and corporate social responsibility.
Attracting and retaining the best employees for your organisation is an ongoing challenge and, according to research, "unhappy" or disengaged employees are less productive, less reliable and less flexible.
Here are some ways to begin establishing a more positive work environment.
1 Measure: While a perception that "most employees are generally unhappy" is a concern, taking a clear measure or barometer of sentiment creates a much clearer snapshot of the level of engagement and motivation in the organisation. This measure can then be viewed in conjunction with performance or sales data, for example, in order to establish an overall "state" of the organisation.
This should help to build your business case for change and also provide a baseline to measure the impact of your intervention at a later date.
2 Involve others: Any intervention developed should involve the input of others on the team. Pushing ahead with an event or a plan, without asking others for their ideas and feedback, is a recipe for failure. Once approval has been secured from management, ensure that everyone is aware of your intentions and the motivation behind your actions. Frame the initiative or activity in a positive way, emphasising that ideas or personal touches are welcome.
3 Structure: While a once-off event can have a short-term positive impact, an ongoing structure of smaller events or activities can have a larger and longer-lasting impact. Avoid making the exercise appear as a "jolly" by linking it into a wider theme or an ongoing series of smaller casual events. Some organisations tap into an already established event such as "Organ Donor Week" or "National Volunteering Week" by holding information events, fun activities and competitions, culminating in a larger main event at the end of the week or month.
As interest grows and the programme becomes more established, it may even be possible to put together a calendar of events at the start of the year.
4 Budget: Not all events or activities need to be big budget to be enjoyable and beneficial. For example, watching relevant "Ted" talks as a group, taking part in local volunteering events such as "Tidy Towns" or implementing a weekly "Walk at Lunch" day are free of monetary cost, although there is a time cost which should be recorded. If budget allows, there are several organisations which provide corporate team-bonding events both on and off-site.
5 Establish a sports and social club: Depending upon interest and the success of any initial events, it may be of interest to establish an internal club. Here employees contribute a small amount of money directly from their payslip to a central fund, with activities and outings on a regular basis. This can reduce the burden of cost on the business and empower the employees to take responsibility for the activities personally. However, any committees established should be closely monitored in order to ensure fairness, unity and consistency with the values of the organisation.
6 Measure again: Following a fixed time period of three, six or 12 months for example, repeat your previous measure to gauge the impact that the intervention has had on the organisation.
This includes analysing available sales and performance data, as well as engagement and employee sentiment. Should the intervention have been without impact, perhaps a different approach can be taken in future.
If it has been successful and an improvement is seen, this improves the business case for any future interventions.
Caroline Ward is HR services manager at Collins McNicholas Recruitment and HR Services Group, which has offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick.
Sunday Indo Business