What Makes a Great Performing Workplace?

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Building a top performing workplace

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series.

Research has demonstrated that to achieve a sustained level of workplace performance among employees it is beneficial to create a workplace where employees feel valued including for their contributions.

While in the short term an organization can find success if employees are unhappy and feel devalued over time organizations that sustain success generally take steps to create a workplace where their employees want to contribute by performing well.

Three key factors to consider:

  1. When you think about a great place to work what comes to your mind?
  2. Do you think about factors such as fair compensation, a comfortable, clean workspace, safe working conditions, reasonable hours, and great benefits?
  3. What about intangible qualities such as camaraderie, creative freedom, great leadership, openness, What Makes a Great Performing Workplace?and transparency?

These are all factors that are part of the puzzle but individually none of these alone holds the key.

The best workplaces do not need to offer 9-5 hours, cushy workspaces, or even the highest compensation. Workplaces that include physically demanding or dangerous work can be great places to work while cushy office places with good salaries can be unpleasant places to work.

Failed Opportunities – A Small Business Case Study

Not that long ago I worked with an organization that was building a new satellite operation.

From the outside the new operation looked like a fine place to work. The employees worked in a professional and sunny office building with personal workstations and were provided fair compensation.

At the outset the organization took steps to create a workplace that would support employees to achieve high performance standards.

The hiring process was fair and balanced, and the orientation and onboarding were fun and engaging. As this was a new operation, employees were informed there would likely be change and some chaos in the first few months of employment as the organization refined their operations and processes.

Regular meetings were held, and communications shared, and ongoing training provided. During those first few months I observed that most of these new employees were productive, happy and by all accounts performing well.

Unfortunately, a few months into the first year of operation the organization faced challenges at the parent operation and slowly the atmosphere in the new operation began to erode.

As problems arose communications to the new operation slowed, performance expectations changed, and feedback became critical. Correspondingly employees became scared and stressed.

Employees who had met regularly to share ideas and help one another retreated to their own workspaces and spent more time trying to achieve new performance standards that could only be met by a few employees. Under new pressures only some employees were able to meet the new performance standards while many other employees struggled, some employees left and most began looking for new jobs.

Recently I learned that the organization was considering scaling back the new operation or shutting it down to save costs, citing performance and staffing challenges among other factors.

From my observation the reality was that any performance and staffing issues were self-inflicted wounds that will likely end up costing the organization unnecessary financial.  An operation that started out with promise had become an example of how inhibit positive performance.

What Does Make a Great Workplace?

When asked the question “what makes a great workplace’ many people respond that a great workplace is created by hiring great people and having a great leader and creating a great ‘company culture”.

Google is a busy business and to stay on top of their game they seek to hire, retain, and support the best talent they can find.

Back in 2013 we heard from Google’s then VP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock that Google was dropping their famed hiring practices including abandoning their practice of only recruiting graduates from specific schools and their brainteaser questions, both of which they found irrelevant to employee performance success.

From their research Google learned the value of expanding their hiring practices. If you are interested in reading more about Google’s hiring process you can check out this 2016 article in the Business Insider Google’s HR boss explains the company’s 4 rules for hiring the best employees

Google has also been busy researching what contributes to supporting a high performing team. In a project tilted Project Aristotle – a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (as the Google researchers believed employees can do more working together than alone) – the goal was to answer the question:

“What makes a team effective at Google?” In a post entitled Understanding Team Effectiveness Google’s famous analytics were used pinpoint some elements that made a Google team effective.

In Part two I’ll cover the 5 Traits of High Performing Teams and Measuring Psychological Safety

Related content:

7 Steps to Improving Safety and Productivity in Your Workplace

Workplace Culture Is Important for Many Reasons

The Culture of Positive Thinking at the Workplace


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