Joanna Swash explains why these two departments are the key to developing a strong company culture and thriving organisation.
The departments in charge of all employees, as well as employee-related operations, oversee any organisation’s most valuable asset – its people. They are the foundation and cornerstone of any company. I would describe them as being the life breath of the organisation.
Why then, do some companies treat HR and Operations departments as standalone, perfunctory divisions of a business? HR and Operations ensure that employees have a safe environment in which to flourish, both practically and emotionally. They are responsible for recognising current and future recruitment requirements, while supporting career progression and employee engagement.
They determine the company’s culture. Done well, they combine to create a positive company culture and a thriving, successful business. They elevate engagement, job satisfaction, retention, loyalty, trust, customer service and satisfaction, which all help to boost company performance.
Therefore, if people truly are an organisation’s most valuable asset, these departments should be at the heart of everything the company does. They should be the responsibility, not of one department but at the core of an organisation’s culture and values. They are an integral function for business sustainability and success.
Finding the perfect balance
In surrounding ourselves with talented people, it is easy to pick the most qualified and most educated. However, this is not necessarily the best practice, should the chosen few fail to abide with company values. The wrong person can have a negative impact on your business. You can create the most inspiring company in the world, but if your team does not share those same values, this ethos will soon disappear.
Instead of focusing merely on ‘aptitude’, turn your attention to ‘attitude’. What attributes are most important to you? Define your culture? Answer these two questions and you can shape your company culture from the start.
An ideal culture
Great people do remarkable things, but they need the right culture and environment in which to do it. As a leader, it is your role to create a safe working environment for your people. This applies practically, physically and mentally. The first is an element that every organisation should simply do as a matter of course – it’s referred to as ‘health & safety’.
The second is about creating a physical space where people want to work. To maximise performance, a company must first optimise human well-being. This means it is your responsibility, as a business owner or chief executive, to create a safe environment for your people to work and live in.
Show that you value your people. Encourage them to take advantage of the wellness and social activities on offer. Celebrate important occasions, foster flexibility, cultivate compassion and recreate those all-important watercooler moments, wherever your teams are based.
Good mental health is essential for leaders to lead, and will conjure up an atmosphere in which employees flourish and tap-in to the company culture. At most, and it’s most effective, it is holistic in all that you do.
The leader’s pocket handbook
One of the most important skills in a great leader’s competency kit is the ability to understand, listen and hear. This applies to all stakeholders, customers, partners, people and the marketplace. It provides clarity, encourages openness and develops trust.
When people are not afraid to have a voice, or an idea, and feel comfortable sharing it with other members of their team, then creativity and problem-solving will thrive. This, in turn, will drive productivity and long-term success. When leaders ask for opinions, and communicate openly, this will instil trust in their people. It is also empowering for both parties.
Being successful at this comes down to respect, while ensuring that every team member understands everyone else’s values. They learn how to communicate with those who may have a different mind-set to themselves.
Nice guys can finish first
Kindness is a universal human requirement. I have written articles on this topic previously but it is always worth revisiting. Good leaders understand the benefits of focusing on softer skills. No one is perfect. When leaders discuss moments when they have learned career lessons, this does not highlight their vulnerability but demonstrates their authenticity.
It helps us to connect and influence the behaviour of others. Smile, engage, help, make time, congratulate, appreciate and slow down. Kindness boosts your own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of others. Most of all, it does not cost a penny. A safe and comfortable environment allows your people to be more inventive, more pioneering and more motivated. It’s good for them and great for business.
The most successful organisations are built around people, their transparency and trust. These companies connect people and teams together. As I’ve said many times: Great people can do remarkable things when given the right culture and environment in which to shine. They can become your competitive advantage and should be at the heart of everything you do.