This is an article we wrote for the The Huffington Post last week.
On our travels to the world’s most inspiring workplaces, we come across radically successful organizations that greatly outperform their competitors. They do this by leveraging the full potential of their employees through the creation of great work cultures.
During our research we visited over 50 workplace pioneers across the world; from well-known companies such as Google, Spotify, Zappos and Patagonia to hidden pearls like FAVI’s factory workers, Zingerman’s food specialists, Morning Star’s tomato processors, BvdV’s lawyers, and Hollands Kroon’s civil servants.
All have created their own unique company culture that makes them excel in their business. But what lessons can be learned from them? And what are the overall trends that separate them from traditional organizations?
Here’s 11 things you can learn from them to skyrocket your company’s success.
1. Craft A Purpose
A common purpose is a powerful tool to unleash the full potential of any organization. It motivates employees, breaks down silos, and creates a strong sense of belonging.
And when we talk about purpose we’re not talking about those boring mission statements that no-one in a company can recite. We are talking about a crisp and clear cause that unites and activates people within an organization.
2. Forget The Rules, Welcome Failure
“We aim to make mistakes faster than anyone else.” – Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek
If you don’t fail, you don’t try hard enough. Therefore, make sure you continuously experiment within your organization. Experiment with your way of working, experiment with the way you communicate with customers, and experiment with new products and services.
An important note: make sure you openly discuss failure. Because if you don’t learn from your mistakes, failure is useless. Organize Fuck-Up Nights or make sure you discuss mistakes in your regular team meetings.
3. Destroy The Ivory Tower
Get rid of any privileges and status symbols. Whether it’s the parking spots reserved for the board or the VP’s fancy corner office, make sure you eliminate them. It creates distance and blocks communication within an organization.
The most inspiring leaders we meet are the ones that support their employees in any way possible. Not the ones that hide away on the top floor and push decisions down the org chart.
4. Focus on talents, not job descriptions
Forget about what’s in people’s job description and don’t assign tasks based on whose profile it fits. Even better, don’t assign tasks at all! Let teams themselves decide who picks up what tasks.
It promotes initiative and responsibility while boosting motivation. At the same time, it utilizes the wide variety of talents within a team to the fullest.
5. Trust And Learn To Let Go
Trust your team members to do the right thing and you will be amazed by the results. The command-and-control approach is outdated in a world that is constantly and rapidly changing.Trust your team members to do the right thing and you will be amazed by the results. Click To Tweet
Instead, give people the freedom and autonomy to do their job in the way they see fit. It highly improves productivity and engagement.
6. Create A Network Of Teams
We don’t often come across hierarchical pyramids anymore. Instead, the organizations are often flat, decentralized, and built up by a collective of small, autonomous teams. It’s like an ecosystem of start-ups, all working together in pursuit of a common purpose.It's like an ecosystem of start-ups, all working together in pursuit of a common purpose.Click To Tweet
So break down those silos and replace them with multidisciplinary teams of no larger than 15 members and make them fully responsible for a particular client, feature or service. Teams take care of their own recruiting, hiring, performance evaluation, and on boarding.
A network of teams promotes entrepreneurship, commitment and agility.
7. Leverage The Power Of Technology
To create alignment and improve communication, make sure you leverage the power of technology.
Whether it’s through online weekly ‘town hall meetings’, internal social-media-like applications or through software such as Slack or Workplace, make sure employees can connect and align easily.
8. Be Radically Transparent
If you want to unleash the full potential of everyone in the organization, it’s important for everyone to have access to the right information. Grant company-wide access to documents, financial records, and maybe even salaries.
It not only helps to build trust, it also provides employees with the right information to make high-quality decisions.
9. Let Employees Design Their Own Workspace
There’s no need for a fancy office design company to redesign your entire workplace. When it comes to motivation, innovation and productivity, it’s more important for employees to be able to design their own workplace.
So put down your work for a day, get your hands on some used furniture and design your own ideal workplace.
10. Set Your Workers Free
Create radical freedom. Let people decide when they work, where they work, and how they work. When given the freedom to act in the company’s best interest, employees will thrive and productivity will skyrocket.Create radical freedom. Let people decide when they work, where they work, and how they work. Click To Tweet
Many people are looking for the magical formula for the happiest and most inspiring workplaces. After having visited many of them, we have learned that this magical formula simply doesn’t exist. Organizations are too different and the environment is too complex for a one-size-fits-all model. It more often becomes a one-size-fits-none…
Instead, listen to your employees and team members, gather inspiration from various sources (just like above), and find your own unique path towards ultimate employee engagement. It might sound a lot harder than just copy-pasting an existing model, but if you truly want to make a positive and successful change, it’s well worth the effort.
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