Human resources is often viewed as a punitive department – as in, “Be careful what you do, or we’ll have to send you to HR.” HR professionals get to do all the firings, continuing education, labor disputes, benefits conversations, and (if they’re lucky!) the occasional court case.
It’s easy to think that the HR department is comprised entirely of boring and/or negative things.
But HR professionals also get to set the tone of a company. More than any other department, they’re responsible for creating the culture, which is one of the most important elements of any company. Who you choose to hire, how you compensate people, what benefits you offer, how work is structured – all of it factors into whether or not we enjoy where we work.
Enjoy your power, HR pros!
There’s just one tiny problem – creating a good culture is enormously difficult. Or at least it’s often presented that way. Companies are made up of dozens of moving parts, and those parts sometimes wake up in a crappy mood or get divorced or decide they want to work somewhere else. Structuring everything in a way that makes almost everyone happy is definitely a challenge.
Fortunately, it’s a challenge that can be boiled down into exactly four questions.
1. Am I making work convenient for the people who work here?
Are you offering flexible working schedules or the ability to work from home occasionally? Do people have to use a sick day to take their children to the doctor? How easily can people further their education, and will your company help them pay for it? Are you providing parents with enough maternity/paternity leave to convince them that they can keep their jobs without sacrificing too much time with their newborns?
Each of these might look like a separate issue, but it all boils down to convenience. The more convenient you make work for your employees, the more effectively they’ll be able to do their jobs.
2. How can I make my company feel like a family?
The world is officially too large for us to process anymore, and we’re all looking for ways to shrink it back down to a manageable size – craft breweries, walkable downtowns, tiny houses… I could go on.
So don’t forget to think inward. Fitness challenges, happy hours, all-staff meetings, holiday parties, and any number of other initiatives can help employees feel like they work with people they like and know, rather than people who happen to work in the same company.
3. Am I telling people that this is a good place to work?
This one gets overlooked all the time – or rather, it gets mentioned a couple times a year, rather than on a regular basis.
In a tight labor market where highly-skilled people have a lot of job opportunities to choose from, reminding them that they’ve made a good decision is critical.
So highlight your competitive pay, your benefits, your fast-paced (or relaxed) environment, your opportunities for growth, your stable careers, the longevity of your upper management, your commitment to your community, and absolutely everything else that is worth mentioning.
Don’t assume people will figure it out for themselves!
4. Am I offering my employees something meaningful?
The best perks in the world can’t make up for a job that is pointless or immoral. If the jobs you’re hiring for aren’t meaningful in some way, then they honestly shouldn’t exist, which means you should absolutely be able to explain the value of each job to the people who do it, and then honor them somehow for bringing value to your organization.
There are a thousand right answers to each of these questions, but there honestly aren’t any other questions to ask. So the next time you’re beating your head against a wall trying to figure out how to improve morale, pick one of these questions and stare at it until you come up with an answer that works for you. Whatever you think of will be a step in the right direction.
Learn more about the factors that will help you answer these questions and create a more vibrant culture in this free infographic:
Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Jeffhavens.com.