This year four organizations caught our attention for our annual Top Workplaces Where Employees Thrive awards. Organizations eligible to win (only four were awarded in Canada this year) create environments where workers feel their input and effort is valued and respected. They also follow five criteria, originally developed by Dr. Sandy Cotton, who taught leadership at the Queen’s School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.: Trust, Collaborative Dialogue, Clear Outcomes, Tolerance and Teamwork. Engagement is also an important requirement for our winners.
“We have a group of like-minded individuals who are all really passionate about changing the world through travel,” says Phil Wylie, Global Talent Manager for Gap Adventures (www.gapadventures.com), one of this year’s winners. Other innovative companies and recipients of the Thrive award included Habañero, (www.habaneros.com), a leading Western Canadian IT consulting services firm known for business advice, original creative design, and technical expertise; OnX Enterprise Solutions (www.onx.com), a company that helps organizations optimize the use of technology and designs, builds and operates complex computing and data centre solutions; and HR Downloads (www.hrdownloads.com), an HR research & advisory firm.
“A big part of conveying trust is being transparent,” says HRdownloads founder Tony Boyle, President and CEO. Boyle prides himself on his “unorthodox” approach to managing staff. Employees work on a performance-based pay system. At the end of each month employees are given a report card and a clear snapshot as to where they have done well and how they can improve. “We’ve eliminated the lack of data to move up in the company,” he says. In other words, employees have no resentment over those who move up the ladder, because they know it’s well-earned.
A total of 237 companies were nominated this year. The awards were given by Your Workplace as part of the Great Place to Work® Institute’s gala awards dinner for The 100 Best Workplaces in Canada 2011 in Toronto, Ontario. Your Workplace is grateful to Great Place to Work® Institute for assisting with the selection process in reviewing hundreds of applications.
“Everyone who works in these organizations loves to be there,” says Vera Asanin, Your Workplace President and CEO. “In a thriving workplace employees are excited to be there because they are clear about their outcomes. People enjoy working together to achieve them.”
The Thrive Criteria
In the words of Dr. Sandy Cotton
When trust is present, we can relate to each other as confident and affirmed members of a workplace community. Trust is generated by ongoing honest communication, often modeled by leaders. Words and actions literally have integrity — the world becomes predictable.
In a healthy organization, people feel free to express themselves without fear. And they have the skills to do just that. They have learned to provide their colleagues — up, down, and sideways—with supportive feedback about performance and relationships. They know how to avoid triangles, and they know how to make appropriate requests for changes when necessary.
Each of us is a unique bundle of gifts and vulnerabilities. Some things come easily to us; others require a great deal of work and discipline. At times, we discover there are certain kinds of vulnerabilities that we simply have to learn to live with. This is one area in which leaders can really model the way: by sharing their own gifts and vulnerabilities non‐defensively, they also add another building block to the foundation of trust.
We are held accountable for meeting our formal goals — serving clients, producing widgets, and generating sales. We also need to see the quality of the work environment as a significant and enduring goal. Accurate, user‐friendly record keeping about the work we do and the outcomes we produce is important. Accurate documentation helps in accountability and performance reviews, as well as when budgets are reviewed. It is sometimes difficult to measure really important stuff. Be careful and discerning in the measures you chose to use, and remember to reward and recognize when outcomes are met, and exceeded.
Strong teams work well together, working through conflicts that arise; they laugh together and enjoy spending time with each other. Real authentic human laughter is an essential ingredient in reducing the stresses of the everyday workplace grind. We need to learn to laugh at gaffes, hang‐ups, and foibles. Likewise, we need to remember that people who enjoy eating together rarely engage in interpersonal cannibalism. When we regularly break bread together, we seem to be less inclined to break each other.