Running a business is hard enough without running around in circles but that is precisely what you risk doing if you don’t clarify your business direction. Companies that start failing often lack clarity of purpose, so it pays to get your business’ purpose sorted out now.
1. Think about your business’ progress in recent months and the past year
Is there a sense of direction or not? Is the current vision outdated and off point? Even if you had a vision for your business, revision is always something worth considering. Ask yourself simple questions: “What am I trying to do in my position?” and “What do I think the business is trying to achieve?”.
2. Sit down with your key managers or partners and explain to them that it’s time to map out a vision/a renewed vision
If you are met with any disagreement, ask that person to fully explain why they feel things are going in a good direction. Use their explanation to show why you feel that things are otherwise and to expound the virtues of having a vision. It will also help to explain that this isn’t meant to be a complicated process – it is simply about having clarity as what the business is doing now, in three years’ time, in five years’ time, etc.
Avoid being the sole ideas person
You probably have a vision and many hopes for the business, especially if it’s one that you started from scratch or salvaged. Nevertheless, your trust in your team is paramount. Bring all levels of employees into the conversation about the direction of the business. Take the time to sit down with them and have them explain to you what they think that the business does. This will give you a lot of useful feedback and will enable you to see where there needs to be a realigning of common purpose and a shoring up of the general understanding of the business’ purpose.
Make the most of the ideas that come out of your consultations with management and employees
Incorporate as much of their ideas as possible to achieve buy-in. Come up with a simple vision that inspires and directs clearly. And keep asking yourself every day “What am I trying to do here?” and encourage your employees to ask the same question.
Provide a suggestions box outside your office
Let all employees know it’s always open and regularly checked. They can leave suggestions anonymously or identifiably. Encourage employees to identify themselves for the sake of furthering dialog by awarding those who come up with new ways to keep to the business direction with tangible gifts but don’t oblige anyone.
If you are a motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian on a journey, directions are significant. Reaching the destination can become difficult without instructions — north or west? left or straight? – mapped out for you.
Similarly, for employees, a crucial factor influencing how much they appreciate their company is direction.
Is your employer headed in the right direction?
Do you maintain confidence in its leadership?
Does it function in accordance with strong values and ethics?
Participants in Workplace Dynamics’ survey to determine the foremost workplaces in metro Atlanta were presented 19 statements designed to help them judge their company. They were asked to gauge, on a 7-point scale, the degree to which each statement was important in evaluating their place of work. The higher the percentage, the more important the component is to employees.
The statements were divided into six groups, one of which was “direction.” It emerged — barely — as the category that carried the most importance, with 75 percent of respondents saying it mattered.
The single statement that had the highest correlation to workplace satisfaction was simply: I believe this company is going in the right direction. Seventy percent indicated a connection to it and how their organization was graded.
The other statements related to “direction” — confidence in the leader, operating ethically — scored 66 and 63 percent, respectively.
Results from the survey, conducted last year, do not represent a change in direction, as it were. “Direction” also received the highest priority among partakers of the previous questionnaire.
Another category – “connection” – held nearly the same weight, also at a collective 75 percent, a fraction below the leading group. It assessed the extent to which employees believe they have a stake in the outcome.
Specifically, the statements related to “connection” dealt with employees feeling appreciated by the company, their confidence in its future and the job making them feel part of something meaningful.
In fact, of the 19 statements, the one regarding a sense of appreciation drew the second-highest response at 69 percent, just 1 point behind a business going in the proper direction.
Clearly, workers want to be wanted.
The statement on confidence in an employer’s future struck a chord with participants, registering 65 percent, while the one that spoke to a meaningful sense on the job was at 60 percent.
The next highest classification was “execution,” at an aggregate 70 percent. It consisted of four statements that touched on how a company goes about achieving its goals.
Tying for the biggest score (60 percent) in this bunch was a company doing things efficiently and well, along with senior managers understanding what is going on. Those were followed by new ideas being encouraged (56 percent) and employees feeling informed about important decisions (53 percent).
Next in line among the statement groupings was “my work,” which reflected how employees assess companies based on their own situations. Its combined score was 68 percent.
Holding the greatest sway with “my work” was if the job has met or exceeded the original expectations (58 percent). There was a big drop-off to the other statements: whether formal training for one’s career is available (50 percent), flexibility to balance work and personal life (50 percent) and not a lot of frustration while on duty (48 percent).
The two remaining groups did not resonate with employees nearly as much as the others.
One was “my manager,” with a composite 58 percent. The importance placed on its three statements was relatively mild: whether the manager cares about employees’ concerns (56 percent), makes it easier to perform their job well (54 percent) and if he or she helps them learn and grow (52 percent).
Bringing up the rear was “my pay and benefits,” which consisted of just two related statements. Only 47 percent linked employer evaluation to whether pay is fair for the work done, and a mere 35 percent to how the benefits package compares to others in the same industry.
To Adam Blitzer, co-founder of Pardot at Exact Target – the automation software provider that was voted best of the small companies division – generous salaries should not serve as a tranquilizer to make unbearable work more bearable.
“When employees are satisfied with their work, the company culture, the management team and the direction the company is headed, they don’t need the incentives of more money and better benefits to keep doing what they love,” he said. “While pay is certainly an important factor, we believe that happiness and work satisfaction will trump it every time.”
Lease Plan CEO Mike Pitcher, whose vehicle provider took first prize in the mid-sized company segment for the second time, believes pay and benefits are consequential to employees.
“If you ask 100 people at any company, 99 will tell you they want more money,” Pitcher said. “And the 100th person didn’t understand the question.”
That does not mean, he emphasized, that pay and benefits outweigh other variables in how companies are perceived.
“It is becoming a well-known fact that they are not primary factors when it comes to employee engagement satisfaction,” Pitcher said.
More significant, he added, are “the importance of seeing a positive future and having employees see themselves as part of that future.”
While Virtual Properties Realty co-owner Steve Wagner said pay and benefits are emphasized at the real estate firm that took honors in the large-firm group, he preferred to focus on how time and energy are invested in positioning the company to take advantage of emerging trends. The approach reflects an awareness among the premier workplaces that employees’ gratitude about direction can help firms take the correct course toward success.
The survey involved 49,775 employees at 183 metro Atlanta workplaces. All workers at those businesses were invited to participate, and just under 60 percent did so.
Minimum response rates were required for companies to be counted in the results. The standard minimum was 35 percent. Those with a workforce of 85 or fewer needed at least 30 responders.
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