There are plenty of CEOs who are trusted, admired and widely effective. Unfortunately, even the good ones make mistakes. When their missteps are the type that turns their employees against them, they need to recover their reputation and find success. That’s where I come in.
I firmly believe that no one wants to be a bad boss. But studies show that there is plenty of unhappiness in the workplace. In fact, three out of four employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their jobs.
There are many reasons for this. Sometimes leaders get so hyper-focused on business goals that they forget that they’re humans working with other humans. Other times, leaders just don’t have the right managerial training to bring out the best in their employees. And yes, sometimes those bad bosses are just in over their heads.
Five Questions to Find Out If You’re a Good Boss
1. Do you think demanding action will increase productivity?
One mistake that many well-intentioned CEOs make is acting like a drill sergeant. Nothing creates conflict with employees faster than a leader barking orders. In reality,
these actions often have the opposite effect. People can be bullied into performing tasks, but only employees who feel respected and connected can help you outperform your competition.
2. Do you provide incentives?
Employees who benefit from a company’s success are much more likely to put forth maximum effort. But be careful not to focus only on revenue or customer satisfaction. Employee productivity is better influenced by W.I.F.M. (What’s In It For Me?). In addition to bonuses, offer perks such as additional time off, job flexibility, or executive coaching! Some companies even offer tickets to sporting events or vacations at a company timeshare.
3. Do you give people a voice?
No one knows the troubles brewing in your organization better than your frontline employees. Good CEOs regularly ask individual contributors for feedback on the company’s direction, products, and services. The fact that you asked their opinion provides a sense of partnership, which encourages job satisfaction and helps reduce workplace conflict. Plus, if done right, you’ll get more candid feedback!
4. Do you show your personal side?
Employees need to feel that they work for a CEO who respects and cares about them. Take the time to get to know your employees. A gesture as simple as asking, “How are you doing?” goes a long way in creating goodwill.
5. Do you encourage work-life balance?
In a recent employee satisfaction survey, respondents placed high importance on family and community. You can boost employee job satisfaction by encouraging – and modeling – a balanced life. Consider enacting policies that give employees flextime to attend school functions or volunteer in their communities. Then actively ensure they are taking advantage of these policies.
How to Improve Workplace Culture
Even natural-born leaders need help to bring out the best in people. The best CEOs recruit consultants to help build a positive workplace. These experts act as cultural ambassadors and can assist in developing strategies to continually improve the office environment.
A. Employee Satisfaction Surveys
If you’re concerned about culture, and every CEO should be because a negative culture impacts productivity, then start with a short, open-ended employee satisfaction survey. Give your employees a chance to tell you what is working, and isn’t working without defining the answers! Using a Likert scale (options from 1-5) forces your employees to select a number that may not truly represent their thoughts and feelings.
Questions to Ask on an Employee Satisfaction Survey
- What do you like most about working at ABC Company?
- What do you like least about working at ABC Company?
- What recommendations for improvement do you have for CEO NAME?
Once you have the results, it’s important not to generalize or fixate on one or two triggering comments. CEOs are prone to this and often kick an entire fix-it campaign into gear without confirming that it was a widespread concern.
To prevent this, you must organize the information and perform a content analysis to get the full picture of your results.
B. Post Open-Ended Survey – Content Analysis & Organizing Responses
Content analysis is a process for coding open-ended items into a format that allows the responses to be analyzed. It generally consists of two tasks: creating categories and content coding.
Step 1: Categorization of Survey Results
A simple approach to the categorization of attitudinal data is to divide comments on a specific topic into positive, negative, and mixed categories and to determine the frequency with which the comments occur in each of these categories.
- For example, after categorizing employees’ open-ended answers about a new benefits program, you might state that 60% of the comments were favorable, 30% were unfavorable, and 10% were mixed.
A more complex and typically more useful approach attempts to develop mutually exclusive and exhaustive content categories based on the open-ended answers. To develop content categories for a question’s answer use the steps below:
- Read a sample set of the survey responses and write down themes that occur fairly often. For example, the theme of working in silos. These recurring themes serve as the bases for the content categories. Be sure to read responses at least twice to develop the initial content categories.
- Once you have the tentative set of categories, use the system on 50 or more randomly selected answers (excluding the answers you used to derive the initial categories). The new answers may require you to add categories.
- Responses that do not fit into the response categories can be put into a “Miscellaneous” or “Other” category.
Tips for Success
- Every response category should be mutually exclusive, you must decide if responses that contain multiple ideas will be placed in the one, best-fitting category or split into different subcategories.
- If possible, have at least one knowledgeable person critique the initial categories.
- Each category should contain at least 10% of the total responses, and the content categories should not exceed 10.
- If there are too many categories, consider combining categories or redefining the categories more broadly. However, categories should be as specific as possible to yield more valuable results.
Step 2: Content Coding for Open-Ended Survey Results
Content coding is referred to as the process of assigning numbers (codes) to the categories to make the information easier to digest and analyze! Follow the steps below to implement content-coding:
- After you have developed the final set of categories, every answer should be coded into one of the categories. This can be done by assigning a number to each category and writing the number next to the response.
- Next, each coder should independently code the same set of answers, so you can compare the two sets of codes and discuss discrepancies with the coders. Once you feel confident that the coders understand the procedure, they can begin coding (this is known as an intercoder agreement, that is, the degree to which the coders assign responses to the same category. Ideally, you want to see at least an 80% intercoder agreement before allowing coders to rate responses independently—i.e., splitting up the remaining answers for coding).
Tips for Success
- You should train at least two other people to perform the coding.
- You should code several questionnaires with the coders to make sure they understand the system.
Step 3: Analyze Organized Survey Results
Once you have all the survey responses coded and categorized, it simply becomes a counting activity. How many times did the issue occur? The quantity of times a particular issue surfaces is what dictates the severity of the action.
If you have a healthy culture or are ready to progress beyond a short, qualitative survey, you can use or build a standard multiple-choice (or Likert scale) survey. However, it’s always a good idea to keep questions to a minimum. The longer your survey, the fewer respondents you’ll have.
C. Quantitative & Multiple Choice Surveys
Quantitative or multiple-choice questions give you an easy-to-calculate approval rating. Industry standards for employee surveys are based on one major factor… the extent that employees are engaged or not engaged. So, what does that mean? What is engagement?
Employee engagement is a workplace approach that results in the right conditions for all employees to:
- Give their best each day
- Be committed to company goals and values
- Be motivated to contribute to success
- Have an enhanced sense of well-being
Engagement is often gauged by these measurements:
- Perceived Organizational Support (the extent to which an employee believes the company they work for cares about them as a person)
- Job Satisfaction
Calculating Employee Engagement
Gallup 2020 indicates only 32% of employees are engaged. This may seem low, but this is after all work, not a Netflix binge session or a tropical vacation. The higher your approval ratings the better.
In all honesty, it would be suspect if any results were in the high 90s unless you’re a small, tight-knit company or a start-up. Organizations with upwards of hundreds or thousands of employees are held to a different standard. Larger companies should strive for at least a 70% approval rating and celebrate significantly when they reach 80 to 90 percent in any area!
The approval rating is calculated by adding the number of respondents who rated the question as a 4 (agree) or 5 (strongly agree) and dividing that number by the number of surveys completed.
When you exclude participants who rate the question as a 3 (uncertain), you get the most conservative approval rating possible, which encourages you to work harder to convert those who are uncertain about your communication or leadership skills into those who are certain.
If your approval scores are low, don’t panic. The goal is to take the data at face value and work to improve morale without repercussions. Put a plan in place, then survey again in six months, and expect to see results trending up. Keep in mind that results will likely increase slowly because employees need time to see that improvements will last!
Do’s / Don’ts to Employee Satisfaction Surveys
- Always use a third-party survey administrator who’s skilled in survey development, delivery and most importantly analyzing and addressing results. I’ve done this for my clients. Not only does it give them a solid plan forward, but it also protects them from hearing only what they want to hear.
- CEOs are often surrounded by ego-strokers who’ll agree with anything they say or do. An objective third-party administrator encourages the CEO to place a high value on honest feedback. They may not want to know what isn’t working, but they need to know it. And employees are much more likely to be candid with someone who doesn’t work at the company.
- Do not tie survey results to any kind of manager performance bonus. You will be setting yourself and your company up for huge consequences. Unhealthy managers will tell their employees they better not say one bad thing and accommodating managers will halt production trying to make employees like them. The survey must be completely objective and not tied to anyone’s individual performance.
- Keep your survey questions consistent year over year, adding or changing only one or two questions. Otherwise, you’re always starting over with a new baseline.
- If it’s the first time you’ve ever conducted a survey, some employees may not have felt like they had a voice and might share past issues as a result. DO NOT knee-jerk react and dive into resolving an already fixed problem.
Next Steps: How Leaders Can Improve Their Communication to Improve Office Culture
Let’s face it. Every office has communication challenges. Some employees may refuse to share information; others may gossip or constantly interrupt. You may even have someone who stretches the truth or refuses to acknowledge the contributions of others.
The truth is there will always be opportunities for improving communication in the workplace, but what can you do as a leader?
As a leader, you can build that healthy office culture – and boost office productivity and morale in the process – by following these best practices.
1. Have Clear Expectations
Let your staff know what you expect and regularly reinforce that message. Make sure your employees know that you expect reports updated weekly and meeting minutes published within a day. In addition to sending regular reminders, publicly acknowledge those who follow through.
2. Set a Good Example
Speaking favorably (or at least neutrally) about yourself and others may slow the office rumor mill.
3. Show Appreciation
Regularly acknowledge employees for their efforts. To make the most impact, avoid generic compliments. Be specific about how the individual’s contributions impact the bigger company picture.
4. Curtail the Big Talkers
If an employee tends to interrupt a lot, or is so long-winded that others have trouble getting a word in, take action. Be diplomatic and say, “Please add your comment once Tim has finished speaking.”
5. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Many offices have that person who struggles articulating their point of view, so they repeat someone else’s. When you hear this, don’t let it pass. Say this: “Thanks for affirming Jennifer’s position.”
6. Provide Communication Training
Help your employees handle everyday business issues and manage conflict by providing a workshop on healthy communication. This helps build a cohesive, confident and hard-working team. Click here to see some topics I’ve presented.
7. Acknowledge That Your Staff Is Human
The truth is, many people make simple mistakes about word choice, tone and voice every day. Training will minimize communication gaffes, but mistakes will still happen. Don’t overreact. Just use these as learning opportunities.
Take the next step to improve your company’s culture today!
Taking the first step to improving your company’s culture can seem overwhelming especially when you are not sure where to start. Reach out today and we can schedule a time to talk and put together a plan on how to help your business succeed!