As I travel around the country conducting leadership training, I get asked interesting questions. Allow me to share one of those questions with you.
“I recently took over as CEO for a manufacturing company. Their culture is very toxic. The former management group did not place any emphasis on balancing work and personal life. Employees frequently burn out and the company has a high turnover rate. I hope to reverse these issues and show my employees that I consider them to be an asset. As the ‘new’ leader, what can I do to show my employees that I respect their lives outside of work and that I encourage them to achieve a balance between work and family?”
Allow Employees Choices
My response was to offer specific actions this leader could to do to promote balance at their workplace. Each is a change to workplace culture practices.
- You must take a personal interest in your employees. Chat with them in passing and get to know them on a personal level.
- Allow your employees flexibility in their schedules. Let them adjust their schedules to allow for medical appointments, sick family members, and personal time off.
- Move to a more flexible time off policy and change the policy to get rid of differentiations such as sick days, funeral leave, and vacation time. When you institute a blanket leave plan, employees appreciate the privacy aspect and feel less stressed not having to justify why the leave is used.
- Allow employees to express their individuality in their work space by displaying pictures or mementos.
- Include family members in company activities by inviting them to company social events like the company picnic or backyard BBQs.
- Mail newsletters to the home address so that family members can read about the company and what it is involved in.
- Find out what sorts of volunteer organizations your employees are involved in and make contributions of resources, financial support, and employee time.
- Consider sponsoring a family member scholarship for employees who have children attending college.
- Consider offering grants for charitable activities that employees are involved in.
Most important of all, you must lead by example and prove that you do care.
- Make sure you are not being a workaholic and that you keep a balanced lifestyle.
- Attend your family’s important events.
- Keep personal pictures in your office.
- Talk about the things you do in your personal life when you converse with employees.
Creating a corporate culture where a balanced lifestyle is both allowed and promoted will really impact the success of your company; both the top and bottom line. It will also reduce everyone’s stress level.
“I Hate Working Here!”
A Seattle company had a culture where you had to be in your cubicle before the CEO showed up and you had to stay at work until AFTER the boss left. This CEO worked from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. When the CEO worked on weekends, so did employees. The employees had to work the same hours because he threatened that they wouldn’t have a job if they did not. What amazed me is that this overtime was not necessary from a business standpoint; only because the CEO was a workaholic (and tyrant).
As you would expect, the employees were not happy and they complained to anyone who would listen about the salt-mine type of hours. This damaged the reputation of the employer throughout the Puget Sound, which led to a high turnover, difficulty recruiting, and above-market starting salaries. The human resource group spent so much time recruiting and training that they had little time for their other job duties.
The CEO was sacked and a new management team took over. They were amazed to see how a culture that did not allow employees to have a personal life had practically destroyed the company. When I started working with the new leaders, we implemented many of the practices I share with you. It took a long time, but the company became an employer of choice.
Remember: It is never too late to change your culture! The personal lives of your employees matter.