Best practices Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2009

An efficient and cohesive workplace is all about building the morale and productivity of employees, while minimizing complaints, disruptions and distractions so everyone can focus on the work at hand.

However, this is easier said than done. Today’s workplace faces several challenges, including a large number of baby boomers that are contemplating traditional retirement, combined with a shortage of young people entering the work force. Not only are there less people entering the work force, many of those who do enter the work force are lacking the experience to replace those retiring baby boomers.

Also, we’re seeing a shift in demographics with more women in the workplace than ever before (nearly three-quarters of mothers with children under age 18 are working), combined with increasing customer demands and global competition.

“Implementing best practices strategies to achieve a workplace that improves the employer’s bottom line and the employee’s quality of life is a difficult task,” says Amy Broadbent, the vice president of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “Given the diverse nature of today’s work force, finding solutions that create a win-win for both the employer and employee is challenging because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Broadbent about best practice strategies, how to implement them, and how they can lead to a more efficient and productive work environment.

What can be done to make a workplace more productive?

While the implementation of best practices varies by employer, there are commonalities that will lead to a productive work environment. Proper induction of new employees, a formal employee appraisal system, staff development and training, ongoing communication, and a competitive ‘family-friendly’ employee benefits package all help build and maintain a positive work environment that is free from discrimination and disruption.

How should new employees be properly brought into the fold?

Induction aims to provide new employees with information about the organization that will help them to be effective in their jobs. When possible, it is beneficial for new employees to have a mentor who can provide additional information and ‘hands on’ coaching. It is also important to ensure new employees know where to go for help or with a complaint on any issue.

How should an employee review and appraisal process work?

A formal employee review and appraisal process allows for ongoing feedback that encourages people and directs change when necessary. The purpose of the review process is to provide constructive feedback relative to the requirements of the job and job performance. It is important to ensure all employees fully understand the appraisal process. Include positive feedback about what an employee does well. Performance assessments should be specific and include ongoing strategies that will enable employees to increase their skills. Avoiding performance issues ultimately decreases morale, credibility of management and the organization’s overall effectiveness.

How do training and communication factor into a productive work environment?

Staff development and training should be available and ongoing for employees at all levels. Business is constantly changing, so if you’re not constantly training and educating your employees, your company will lose ground to its competitors. Continuous training is essential to keeping employees competent in what they’re doing today and competent in what they’ll be doing in the future.

Communication, as we all know, is vital to everything. Communication between employees and management is a critical component to any organization’s success. An ‘open-door’ management policy encourages communication and reminds employees it is OK to ask questions. Communicating with employees is a continual process. It takes on a variety of different forms and accomplishes a variety of objectives. It serves to educate, advise and instruct.

What kind of ‘family-friendly’ benefits can employers offer?

Many employers find value in offering ‘family-friendly’ benefits that help employees find balance between their work and home lives. These benefits include such things as wellness programs, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), flexible or cafeteria-style benefits plans, and volunteer release time. ‘Family-friendly’ includes a range of benefits and practices that contribute to employee well-being, resulting in reduced stress and increased comfort and security.

Bottom line, why should employers implement best practices strategies?

Increased job satisfaction can lead to better performance and studies show that employees who are satisfied with their jobs tend to be more loyal, remain with the organization longer, provide better customer service and feel less stress. Ultimately, satisfied employees have a positive impact to the employer’s bottom line.

Amy Broadbent is the vice president of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7250 or amy.broadbent@jrgadvisors.net.