The Secret Sauce of Maintaining a Great Place to Work

I have been in Labor Consulting for many years and through those many years, I have worked with dozens of companies. I am often asked, “What can we do to keep our employees happy and to prevent union organizing?” Clients often think their efforts will be time intensive, expensive, and will require a ton of resources. The truth is quite the opposite! The “recipe” for keeping your employees happy is quite simple and often inexpensive.

Most employees see their employer through the prism of their direct supervision. After all, their direct supervisor controls their time off, their volume of work and determines if their work is of quality which ultimately determines their raises and advancement opportunities. With the heavy impact of supervision, it is imperative that companies make their biggest investment toward developing great supervisors. Great supervisors will understand their impact on employees and the need for them to interact regularly and consistently with employees. Great supervisors will partner with their employees. Supervisors will be your greatest advocate in maintaining a great place to work. Your Supervisors are your “Secret Sauce”!

So, what is required to maintain a great place to work? Employers need 5 ingredients to create that optimal work environment:

  • Have employees believe that their employer takes them into account when making decisions concerning things that will affect them;
  • Create an avenue for employees to participate in making decisions on matters that will affect their work;
  • Train your supervisors to see their role as facilitators in helping employees navigate roadblocks, rather than creating roadblocks. Rather than managing employee behavior, they should foster an atmosphere of teamwork;
  • Create pay and benefits that are competitive with experience and education; and provide substantiated proof of their competitiveness; and
  • Educate employees about the state of the business and the industry, so that employees feel they are contributing as part of a greater team.

You are probably wondering: how does a business incorporate these 5 ingredients into daily work-life? First, whenever possible, communicate with employees and educate them about needed changes. Involve your employees, when possible, in designing the change. A Supervisor should never be put in the position to announce a change without having first known of the change in advance. In fact, whenever possible a supervisor should involve employees in the development of that change. I so often find uninformed employees initially angry about a change, but after we encourage management to educate their employees on the need for change, employees’ anger dissipates. If employees do not know the reasons, they often fabricate reasons that are usually the worst-case scenario, often with no relationship to the truth. Simple education and communication can prevent major problems. Taking the time to educate and communicate with your supervisors and employees may increase the time it takes to implement change, but it drastically improves the outcomes from those changes. Employees are more likely to work harder for the success of something they buy into.

Second, equity in the workforce needs to be maintained.  I cannot tell you how many times the trigger for an unhappy workforce was that their pay for their job function was not commensurate to their time on the job or the functions they performed. There will be employee unrest when new hires make near, or even more, than tenured employees or when people in complex jobs are paid the same or less than employees in simpler jobs. These discrepancies usually happen when employers raise the new hire rate to attract better workers without considering how close the new hire rate is to more tenured employees. This narrows the pay between new and experienced employees. As the gap narrows, the anger from experienced employees increases significantly.

Third, employees often believe that the grass is greener at another employer. They often fall victim to false rumors and coworkers who inflate what they made at other employers. It is a best practice to help your employees understand that while there may be other companies that have higher wages, your company excels in creating competitive wages in a positive work environment. Left to their own designs, employees will exclusively focus on the better paying employers. Educating your employees on the process you take to ensure that their wages and benefits are competitive is imperative. Employees need to know how you determine fair wages. They need you to not only develop a process, but also to educate them on what you have found and how the process impacts their wages and benefits. It may not always be what they want to hear but knowing how you are evaluating their wages and benefits regularly, will significantly increase trust and ease unrest.

Finally, your supervisors are your secret sauce. Employees should enjoy working with their supervisors as part of a team. Supervisors should focus daily on how to increase the productivity of their employees. Employees should be glad to see a supervisor. Employees and supervisors should be talking daily about what can be done to make employees jobs easier and more efficient. Supervisors should not be seen by their subordinates as someone who polices them, but rather as the catalyst that drives the team. When employees see supervision as a partner in getting their job done job satisfaction increases significantly.

In conclusion, when employees feel included and believe their ideas and concerns are important, their job satisfaction increases significantly. These are the ingredients that create the “secret sauce” that makes your company union proof. It makes it impossible for a union to convince them they need an outside party to speak for them to get management to address their concerns. With great supervisors, communication, and education, management is already addressing those concerns. When employees feel invested in your company and shown that their opinions are valued, you have the secret sauce. The payout will be tremendous and well worth the investment of time and energy.