Work Environment Does Make A Positive Difference

July 29, 2015 | Communication, Employee Recognition, Trust

Photo by tifotter on Flickr

When employees do not have the correct tools to do a job, they find “work arounds” to keep things moving.  I have heard stories about nurse’s using coffee makers to generate hot water to bathe patients because their facilities did not generate enough. I have seen workers shovel large amounts of gravel by hand for multiple days because the company’s one payloader was broke down. Employees also clean their own work areas and empty their own trash because custodial services do not complete their tasks and management does not address the issue. I have seen crazy things done to a copier to to get it to print a job without jamming.

All of these items waste company time by working less efficiently but more important, they wear on employees. They are distractions from the worthwhile work that they perform on a daily basis which should have some connection with the mission of the organization. Yes, we all need to do what it takes to get the job done, and each day throws new challenges at us. However, encountering these distractions day in and day out will wear on employee satisfaction which can increase turnover.

In 2011, our company was no different. We expected our employees to perform at high levels of excellence, but when they asked for the correct tools to help them accomplish their tasks, we often times blamed the budget for the reason that they didn’t have the equipment they needed. However, I have a confession. It was not always the budget. That was just an excuse. Sometimes, I just did not think the request needed to be fulfilled. I thought what the employees had was enough. I did not listen.

In the summer of 2011, we performed our first employee opinion survey and the fact I did not listen stared me right in the face. On a 1-5 scale with 5 being excellent, our company received a 3.8 for “work environment” which addressed cleanliness, equipment maintenance, having the proper equipment to do their work, and physical conditions (light, climate, and appearance). Since I was directly responsible for all of these items, it sent me a message that I was not adequately giving our employees the environment needed to achieve excellence. To address the low score in work environment, we instituted a help desk ticket system that tracked every work environment issue from beginning to end. We improved our preventative maintenance program at all of our locations to decrease the likelihood of equipment breakdowns. We also empowered clinic managers to take care of small items ($1000 and under). They were still required to log a ticket in the help desk to create an open line of communication on what was being done at each facility. Our leadership also began to round on our employees frequently and formally once every quarter. Rounding included asking them questions like “What’s working well?”, “What’s not working well?”, and most important to work environment, “Do you have the tools you need to do your job?” These requests were examined and the ones that we were not able to fulfill also came with an explanation of why we could not fulfill them. The requests able to be fulfilled were logged as help desk tickets and tracked to completion.

In 2012, we performed another survey and the “work environment” section with the same questions as the previous survey scored a 4.2. While we still needed more improvement, we were pleased with this small victory. We believe that most of this was due to the employee rounding. We played offense instead of defense. We were proactive instead of reactive. We also delivered on what we said we would do and offered an explanation for the items we could not fulfill.

I remember reading a story about an employee who decided not to resign because a copy machine was fixed within a couple of days of making her request. The resignation letter was signed and sealed but not delivered. Sorry, Mr. Wonder. Work environment can affect employee satisfaction and can be one of many reasons for leaving a company. However, if we remove the barrier of lack of satisfaction with work environment, we can help our employees focus on the worthwhile work they do each day to carry out the company’s mission.

What are other ways we can improve work environment and the process centered around creating one?

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