If anything can be said with accuracy and certainty about the corporation in this relatively young year, it is that the job of leading a company in 2013 is more demanding than it was in 2012. Decision makers every year are faced with an ever growing flow of information and increasing complexities in their markets but also within their organizations.
Technology has been the great enabler in creating the global village. Its speed of advancement and innovation has corporate leaders and managers aching and we all know how vital it is to keep up with tech. The financial bottom line is our quarterly and annual checkpoint to see how well companies respond to market needs. But when thinking about a company’s assets and liabilities, how much value is created by its people – and how much importance do decision makers place on their people?
If we pause to think about this for a minute, we realize that companies all over the world are pressed for talent. As we see skill levels of employees expanding relentlessly, competition for the best and most promising young graduates drives more and more employers into intensive hiring campaigns. Is it then prudent for corporate leaders to view employees as a source of expense (payroll, benefits, etc.) or as a revenue-generating profit center? This is an important question for every company because the answer will ultimately define the organization’s corporate culture.
Our 30 years of workplace research across the globe by the Great Place to Work (GPTW) Institute shows that investing in workplace culture and engaging employees as valuable profit centers yields definitive and tangible benefits. The geographic location, regional culture, size, or industry of the company does not matter. To be a great workplace requires a deep commitment to employees, a desire for continuous improvement and practice. In return for this investment, great workplaces experience lower voluntary staff turnover, higher-caliber job candidates and higher revenues and profit margins. GPTW case studies of top companies demonstrate further benefits such as lower inventory loss and an ability to move through periods of change more efficiently.
To answer the question of why great workplaces yield these types of benefits, a business leader needs only look at his or her personal relationships. Hopefully, most of us have at least one personal relationship or friendship that is based on a high degree of trust. These relationships stand out from others because there is a history of consistent behavior, a deep understanding of the other person and a willingness to support and protect the relationship. These types of relationships tend to be mutually beneficial, balanced and a source of comfort and confidence.
In great workplaces, these types of relationships are quite common. The relationship between employees and the organization is built on a high degree of trust from day one. A great workplace seeks to understand its employees, to provide an environment of support, to accept employees for who they are, to consistently inspire employees and to genuinely appreciate the value they bring. In turn, employees seek to understand the company and its mission, engage in activities that emotionally bond them to their contribution, are more likely to give the organization the benefit of the doubt, are fierce advocates for the organization and universally perform at a higher level. Simply put, in organizations in which employees are inspired, encouraged to be themselves, given permission to be creative and are supported when taking risks, those employees dream bigger, work smarter and consistently deliver at a higher level.
The essence of a great workplace can be summed up by the words of an employee at one of the UAE’s top companies. At a recent visit to the location where she works, I had a chance to sit down with her to talk about her workplace experience. “This is my family. I can be myself here and I see advancement opportunities for me. They (the company) believe in me so that makes me confident. I’m excited about my future.”
David Robert is Chief Executive of the Great Place to Work Institute Middle East