… and, even more, is it still relevant?

Everyone has had to manage their work in different ways these past few weeks – and new opinions are forming by the day. Just as organisations are noticing how their people have responded, employees have an opportunity to re-assess their relationship with their employers. Did it feel like a great place to work beforehand? How do they feel now?

The longer we remain away from work in the physical sense, is the concept of ‘a great place to work’ really going to be relevant? Instead, should we really be talking about a great way to work? Should we have been all along? After all, its actions that really count, regardless of where we are based.

While ‘work’ as we know it has fundamentally changed due to COVID-19, all the key ingredients that make up a great place to work haven’t gone away. What will differ is how employers deliver them – and that’s already starting to happen.

So, what makes an organisation a great place to work?

Every organisation likes to think it’s a great place to come and work, or they should at least aspire to being one. But the experience is a very individual thing and will vary person to person. However, there are some core characteristics that really have to be there.

Trust and transparency

The Great Place to Work website – who run the awards of the same name – base them on a combination of auditing trust and culture. Certainly without trust – which goes both ways – you can’t have a great workplace.

Employees must trust the people they work for while leadership and line managers need to trust their people. And, there’s nothing like a crisis to test levels of trust. Leaders need to be upfront and transparent about the challenges ahead. People need to feel they can be trusted to work on their own initiative to resolve problems and do the right thing. Like any relationship, without trust there’s very little to hold it together.

The organisations that can offer a workstyle that’s built on trust – which is even harder when teams aren’t physically present, will be delivering the most important aspect of a great place (or way) to work. And it needs to be felt at all levels. The more transparent you are, the more trust your employees will have in you.

A supportive culture

Mass remote working isn’t easy to manage. Being away from the usual place of work and colleagues can cause isolation, anxiety, mistrust and a loss of a feeling of purpose. It’s during difficult times that the true nature of an organisation’s culture is seen for what it is. We aren’t talking about free beers on a Friday, a funky sleeping pod and a pool table. None of that will matter if the culture of an organisation falls flat.

A new ‘new normal’ will emerge, there will be less physical presence in the traditional workplace but the culture still needs to offer mutual support, promote trust, recognise and reward effort and give meaning to work. In particular, some employees will have mental health issues arising from enforced changes, furloughing and possibly bereavement. A supportive culture will reassure them that it’s OK not to be OK.

A great culture needs to be adaptable when the going gets tough but stay true to the values people expect. Getting there requires a long-term view that puts people over short-term business results, delivered with a style of communication that is frequent and authentic.

Recognising a life outside of work

If there’s one thing that organisations surely appreciate more in the current climate – it’s that we all have lives outside of work and, due to home working, the lines are increasingly blurred. If organisations weren’t flexible before, and haven’t adapted, they are going to find creating a culture that’s considered ‘great’ an uphill task.

Today’s great place to work offers flexibility and benefits that help employees focus on family when it matters. Extended parental leave programmes for both mothers and fathers, unlimited holidays and flexible home working all recognise that in order to work productively and be engaged, life outside of work has to be respected.

We think that the past few weeks will give many more people a taste for home working and organisations should expect conversations about keeping that going to start soon. After all, if employees can demonstrate they they’ve been able to work just as effectively at home, it makes the argument to be present in the office hard to defend. Which brings us to…

A farewell to presenteeism?

It’s been a tough few weeks for micro-managers who thrive on seeing their people hard at work in their offices. The longer we are absent from the physical ‘place’ of work and maintain productivity – the less we actually need to be present. And that spells the end for presenteeism – which can’t come soon enough.

Organisations that want to be a great place to work will embrace the notion that it’s not where you work, it’s what you produce. So, farewell to long commutes that serve no purpose than satisfying outdated working practices and hello to flexibility, giving away control and really demonstrating trust.

In conclusion

Our last post, Protecting your employer brand, argued that how organisations treat their colleagues during this challenging time will define their employer brand for decades. It stands to reason that, in order to create an attractive employer brand, the organisation needs to be considered a great place to work. The two are inter-linked.

What it means to be a great place to work, measured by trust, transparency, a supportive culture and greater flexibility hasn’t changed – but the focus is now more about the way that’s delivered, more than where it tales place.

For some organisations, the foundation blocks have been in place from the beginning and they’ve adapted well. For others, recent events have accelerated the need to engage and develop their people in ways they might not have thought of even a few weeks ago. For them, creating a great place (or way) to work is also a great opportunity.

Need a little extra help?

We are That Little Agency, we help employers tell their story and we do this by developing award-winning employer brands and careers websites. All designed to help you deliver measurable results. If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around selecting your ATS, defining your employer value proposition, developing your employer brand or any aspect of your talent attraction strategy just drop us a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea and a biscuit.