MOST CHANNEL PROS would like to believe that their organizations are great places to work, perhaps because on top of great pay they offer perks like flexibility, career development, and the potential to make a difference––all benefits that today’s employees are looking for. But these items alone don’t always equate with job satisfaction. When it comes to creating a wonderful workplace, your culture may be a key ingredient in the secret sauce.
There is no silver bullet for achieving the right recipe, acknowledges Richard Anderson, CEO and chief culture officer at Imagine IT, a managed services provider in Minneapolis. But his company may be onto something. Last year, Imagine IT made Minnesota Business magazine’s list of the Top 100 Best Companies to Work For, and the American Psychological Association awarded the firm one of its Psychologically Healthy Workplace honors.
What makes Anderson’s company such a great place to work? He thinks it could be that everyone wants it to be so. “I don’t think that culture is an accident––at least good culture isn’t,” he explains, “and so the most important thing is to decide that you actually want to have a great culture.” Hence, in part, his choice to lengthen his CEO title.
Anderson says everyone on his 41-person staff contributes to the firm’s work culture. From the day someone is hired, that individual is expected to protect the company’s culture and contribute ideas on how to improve it. This has resulted in a number of initiatives, such as an inclusive parental leave policy (which applies to dads as well as those adopting children); paid time off for military veterans fulfilling their annual two-week service; and a Leadership Academy that invites not only leaders and would-be leaders to benefit from training, but those who are simply interested in the subject as well.
Treating employees respectfully is also key to a great workplace culture, and giving them the autonomy to do their jobs is one way tech solutions provider Nashville Computer shows respect. Nashville Computer trusts and empowers its employees to make decisions on their own. “They know what decisions they need to be making without coming and asking management,” explains Charles Henson, managing partner at the Brentwood, Tenn.-based firm.
Employees are the top priority at Nashville Computer, he adds. “Our philosophy here is our people come first, our clients come second.” By taking good care of employees, Henson says they, in turn, “will naturally take care of our clients.” That includes shielding staff from abusive customers. When a client disrespects an employee, he says, it’s time to fire them––“them” being the client.
Team members also play the starring role in deciding what products and services Nashville Computer will offer. “When we’re looking at a new set of products or deliverables for our clients, we have the team look into what solutions there are, and then they decide together––they work through the pros and cons of those different software packages or solutions, and they bring that to the table,” Henson says. This creates buy-in and ownership, he adds. “It’s not me dictating; it is what they determine, as a team, [that] the best solution is all around.”
The company takes a similarly nondictatorial approach when an employee messes up, according to Henson. “We don’t talk at them, we talk to them, and we ask them what could have been done better,” he says, adding that he avoids disciplinary action too. “It’s going to sit in their mind that they made that mistake and they don’t need to be reprimanded even further,” Henson stresses. Instead, the error can serve as training for both the employee and the entire team. “We have the conversation with them: How can we teach other people within our organization not to make this mistake?”