A lot of changes in workforce management have occurred in the past decade as the economy, communication methods and technology have all done a fair amount of shifting. People no longer feel obligated to stay at the same company for decades; in fact, many workers change entire careers as their interests dictate. Yet the need for dedicated and skilled workers is as great as ever. So what are employers doing to build effective workforces? They're thinking out of the box and embracing progressive employee policies. If you're looking for new ways to improve the results you're getting from your employees consider some of the following ways other companies are shaking things up in their work places.
- Give them room to roam; it is a well recognized fact that everyone learns in their own way. Some are visual learners, others do better if they hear a lesson and there are also those who thrive in a tactile learning environment where they can work through problems with their own two hands. The same can be said for the way people work; everyone has a particular method to be most productive. If you're interested in getting the best results from your workforce's individual skill sets then give them some freedom to find their comfort zone. If they are morning people then encourage them to come in as early as they'd like, if they work better standing up then allow them to change their desk situation. Working within the parameters of your expectations of them do your best to enable them to achieve those expectations in their own way.
- Encourage creative thinking and allow employees to pursue their own ideas. Companies like Google and Azavea are getting a lot of recognition for allowing their employees to use 10% of their "work hours" to pursue individual projects. Their theory is that the more their employees work to build their own skill sets and interests the more they will benefit from the diversity of perspective and a staff capable of demonstrating initiative. Allowing workers to broaden their horizons can bring new ideas and opportunities to your company simply by extension of your employee's interests. This is particularly effective if you've hired people who are passionate about the work they do for your company as well as the company's overall ethos, then it is even more likely that their outside interests will dovetail with their internal projects.
- Embrace the untraditional; identify elements of your business that are unique and build them into your employee policy. If you're an eco-friendly company encourage and enable a green work environment (provide a bike helmet for everyone who bikes to work, allow composting in the cafeteria) if you're an arts centric company set aside three or four days for cultural events like going to a concert or festival. Incorporating the company's brand identity in your employee policy is a way to not only practice what you preach but also encourage your workforce to partake of the ethos themselves.
- Ask what you can do to make your employees' day easier. Offering small fringe benefits like dry cleaning pick up from the office, a monthly visit from a masseuse, arranging for a grocery shopping service to take orders and make a single delivery at the office are all small ways you can help reduce non-work related stress. The less they have to worry about all the things they have to get done after work the more they will focus on the tasks at hand while they're still at work.
- Make learning accessible. The practice of reimbursing employees for going back to school while working for you has been around for a while but usually relegated to larger companies. More recently small businesses have been taking their own approach to providing educational opportunities to their workers by hiring consultants to teach their workforce about the strategy and lager business theories that drive businesses. These courses go beyond specific job training and reenforcing company policies to encompass more general business theories. Providing the opportunity for employees to learn more about their industry or business in general -trends, strategies and best practices - can improve their ability to work within your company and to understand the larger context within which that company operates. If you can't afford to hire an outside firm to provide courses (webinars, lunch and learns and face to face training are all common approaches) consider giving each employee some money to purchase business books or building an in office library.
- Put yourself in their shoes. PortionPac, a cleaning chemical manufacturer in Chicago, sets aside one day every year to play a little musical chairs with the employees. The administrative workers go into the production center and spend the day in the shoes of the employees who actually produce their cleaning products. Shifting everyone's perspective of the company's workflow provides the opportunity to reconsider their methods. Doing someone else's work always changes the way you do your own, making this practice part of your company policy can help everyone get a better sense of their place in full workflow.
If your company is already using some innovative employee policies let us know. We're always interested in how businesses are evolving.