Make It Work – A Great Workplace can be a reality, not a corporate fantasy.


This article appeared on The Straits Times, Singapore (6th March 2015)

These days, organizations are actively looking for ways to create a better workplace for their employees.

Scientific research over the years, including research on happiness at work and life, has shown that a great workplace culture impacts an organization’s bottom line positively.

That means organizations need to look beyond just work performance in order to do well – which brings us to the importance of building a great place to work. Personally, I do not believe in a great place to work, but an awesome place to work. After all, why be great when you can be awesome?

While organizations can get creative implementing multiple programmes and generating excitement in order to engage employees, such initiatives often leave employees with raised eyebrows. So how should companies go about building an awesome place to work?

It is worth noting that this goal should be centered on human behavior rather than just initiatives or programmes. At the end of the day, if leaders and staff do not take action, then this aim becomes just a theory. For the theory to turn into action, we need to understand what motivates people to move forward.


Motivator 01: People Need Simple Instruction


Most initiatives are not sustainable because they give employees the impression that they are time-consuming and resource-intensive. When people do not have a clear idea of why they are doing what they are doing, they tend to procrastinate.

This is especially so when leaders spearheading the effort are bombarded with information on just “how” to build a great place to work. The task becomes more daunting, and usually results in leaders waiting for someone else to take action.

However, when instructions are clear, and the goal is easily comprehensible, it becomes much simpler to reinforce the message in programmes and initiatives. Therefore it is vital that organizations pin down their objectives – simply and clearly – right from the start.


Motivator 02: It must be easy to take action


One of the most challenging tasks for an organization to embrace an awesome place to work (APTW) culture comes from leaders who have been with the company for years, and are used to doing certain things the same old ways. An APTW cultures requires leaders to take the lead. This can be problematic when said leaders have a “why teach an old dog new tricks?” mindset, as this will greatly diminish the success of any initiative.

Hence facilitators must make it easy for leaders to take action right after the workshop. One of the simplest actions I encourage leaders to take is to treat one of person in their team to their favorite beverage unexpectedly. All I need is for them to treat one person to one drink for a start. This easy task is within their ability to do. Once they get the momentum going, a ripple effect follows.

However there will always be a resistant minority. One senior manager shared with me that in her past 15 years in the same company, she had never treated anyone to a drink. The reason why she resisted the idea was because she did not want to appear “fake”.

So I shared another perspective with her. I said: This means you have never done something for your people, isn’t it a good time now to show that you appreciate them for what they have done?” Her face lit up, and I knew then she had just experienced a moment of truth.


Motivator 03: One step at a time


Building an APTW requires time, and time is our only resource.

Looking beyond the peripherals. Companies that offer great amenities do not necessarily have the most motivated employees, while no-frills, small companies can sometimes have the happiest staff.

If you think about it, having the biggest pantry, coolest playground and longest slides in the workplace is inconsequential if the employees do not think that the company is an awesome place to work in.

In fact, I knew of small companies where staff are motivated to come to work each day because they know they have an awesome place to work in – because of the team members they have, the leaders they trust, and a job they have pride in.

In summary, as I always said this in my APTW keynote,

“People leave because of people,
but people stay because of their leader.”
Are you that leader?

Be awesome today and transform your workplace.