If you want to present well to your consumers, your business has to run seamlessly behind the curtain. This doesn’t only apply in technical terms; your company’s culture needs to foster an employee-friendly, professional environment. HR laws vary wildly from state to state, but any business worth its salt holds itself accountable and works to create the fairest, non-discriminatory workplace. If the fact that it’s the right thing to do isn’t a big enough incentive, a more considerate company culture also boosts employee loyalty and productivity.
One of the most vital components of a strong company culture is employee comfort and confidence, but plenty of companies fall short in creating a safe environment for all of its workers. A recent Entrepreneur article highlighted a particularly egregious case of workplace sexual harassment, in which a female employee at Scotty’s Brewhouse, an Indiana franchise, was presented with a “Best Butt” trophy while her coworkers received “Best Bartender” awards and the like. Adding insult to injury, she was then told to display her derriere so the rest of the staff could photograph it. Humiliated and grossly objectified, the woman admitted to feeling demeaned and undervalued, and while the incident resulted in the termination of the offending managerial staff, the underlying problem was not necessarily solved.This incident should never have proceeded to the point in which an award was made and presented at a staff event. It was clearly a premeditated gesture and far more damaging than a (still completely unacceptable) casual comment or joke. Businesses need to be clear and firm on their sexual harassment policies, no matter what sort of enterprise they’re running. A casual venture does not mean one permissive about molestation of its employees, and slacking on managerial training and hiring is a very poor reflection on a business.
Also receiving plenty of attention is the issue of paid parental leave. The United States is far behind the competition in this game compared to other developed countries, with only 12% of its employees having access to paid leave. Our unpaid leave/vacation time is also lacking, clocking in at 10-15 days a year as compared to Finland, Denmark and Norway’s 35-40. These Nordic nations dominate the upper levels on the World Happiness Report fairly consistently, with Danish mothers receiving 18 weeks of paid parental leave. Paid parental leave has the benefit of allowing women to continue to work after having children, resulting in increased economic stability and productivity, and 79% of mothers in Denmark return to the same or similar positions in the workplace after giving birth. There’s no denying the Danish workforce is formidably productive and happy, far outpacing our own, and it’s obvious the country’s treatment of parents is a factor in this success. Even so, plenty of U.S. companies and politicians are biting back against implementing nation-wide paid parental leave, wanting to keep the government’s hand out of business operations. Paid leave may not be mandatory for some time yet, but given its obvious benefits, it is recommended that businesses individually provide plans for both the mothers and fathers within their numbers. A company that is understanding and considerate earns the loyalty of its employees, who will want to resume their jobs and contribute to the business with a renewed vigor. Acting proactively and working together with employees, construct an atmosphere in which people can organize their working conditions and plan for inevitable time off.
Encouraging collaboration has also proven to be a continuing obstacle for many companies. The ability to cooperate is essential to a functioning company, yet in a recent survey of professionals, 71.6% admitted to struggling with communication and trust in the workplace. Facilitating proper cooperation is a managerial responsibility. Roles and tasks need to be clearly defined, and this in turn requires efficient, effective leadership. The best boss is not always the coolest and friendliest, but one who is able to take people to task and get things done. Consideration and comfort can take place in the same environment in which employees are held accountable and given firm directions and deadlines. A strong guiding hand can make all the difference, as evidenced by the tale of Mike Abrashoff. Posted on a naval vessel infamous for its low morale and ineffectiveness, Abrashoff had the crew and boat ship-shape in just one year, #1 performers. Accrediting this change to “[creating] an environment where [the crew] felt safe, empowered and supported,” Abrashoff is a prime example of what a leader can and should be, the keystone of an enterprise that reinforces and cares for its employees while setting strong expectations for each of them.