As a former director of Incentro, former number one of the Great Place to Work awards, I learned an important lesson. Stop copying inspiring success stories, but copy the way you get there. Start your own adventure to become the next success story.
Many times I’ve looked at the reports that came out of the GPTW Institute. With absurd interest, I checked the figures (scale of 0-10, with a decimal point). Where do I see the largest decline, where do the figures fall below the minimum set by us? Credibility, respect, honesty, pride, and camaraderie, all dimensions that determine the ranking according to the GPTW.
“I want to be number 1, so this is my holy grail!”
The old way of change
My old-fashioned, hierarchical director’s heart jumped when I saw the numbers shift to the positive side of the scale. The harder I was hit when the opposite was the case.
“Darn, why are people less proud of our company! They can’t be!”
Let’s have a conversation with the GPTW Institute. A consultancy meeting with all kinds of good advice and references to other companies that are higher on the ranking than ourselves.
Immediately I shoot into the action bias and start thinking of (or copying) all kinds of solutions for problems I do not oversee. Of course, a year and a few change projects later, I got the lid on my nose.
“Damn, the numbers are down again. But on another subject, it did go up a few tenths on the holy GPTW scale. How is that possible?”
“Eureka, we need to engage more in dialogue with the employees to get those numbers up, that is the solution of course. Since they know best what the problems and challenges are!”
So said, so done. All kinds of interviews and conversations later and a mountain of information further, straight back into the sandbox with that action bias. Roll up your sleeves and solve it! But 9 out of 10 times employees don’t even know what the problem is or worse (and more obvious), I don’t understand it.
How can I become the number 1 Great Place to Work?
“This doesn’t work. But then what does? How do I create the road to the number 1 position?”
You can’t. Just stop with building that road and start all kinds of good initiatives. Let go. I only really started to make a difference when I found out that I didn’t see the problems and couldn’t come up with the solutions. To become a Great Place to Work, the trick is to give your employees the tools to organize and execute the change themselves.
I started by gradually becoming more transparent, letting go of control, and giving confidence. In doing so, I didn’t pave the road, but I removed the fog from the path. Giving shoes to walk it. Giving employees the opportunity to take on the adventure and solve their own problems.
And what happens after my first experiment?
There is no end. As indicated above, changing is not a project, it is a process. The methodology creates a rhythm of change, a change mindset. Employees anchor this way of changing in their daily way of working so that they can make a real impact.
This also means that your employees will need more freedom of regulation to make their own work even more enjoyable. So as a leader, you need to learn to let go: stop controlling and start trusting. But not all at ones, but step by step! Use the methodology to find your own way to more trust and ultimately change capacity for your employees. On to an even happier workplace!
My top 4 to experiment your way to number 1 GPTW
But this doesn’t happen by itself either. Four things I have learned:
1. Stop copying!
The well-intentioned advice from GPTW and the cases of other companies don’t get you where you want to go. It’s good to get inspired, but don’t start copying. Merely copying a case will not get you any further. Your company is different. They are different individuals working together on a different goal. Find your own unique way towards happiness!
2. Give your problem the attention it deserves
Usually, you don’t even know how to articulate your own problem. As Einstein said: “When I had an hour to solve a problem, I spent 55 minutes understanding the problem.”
Find the context, ask good questions, and test it with your surroundings. After that, reframe your problem to a manageable and clear problem that you really want to solve. This can be a bit scary!
3. Experiment and validate
What do I like to solve things! Probably you do too. But stop it. Give trust and autonomy to your employees to create their own solutions. And when they are working on this prototype, give them enough time to test the solution. Make sure it can have a radical impact on a nonradical scale. Experiment, validate, and learn!
4. Respect the rhythm
One experiment doesn’t mean your experimenting. If you really want to become or stay a Great Place to Work, accept that this is not a one-time action for your employees. They will have the opportunity to make their work better each day. Start an evolution, walk that path step by step to the next stop. It is not a project, but a journey. A journey you don’t know the end of yet, but it will be great. The change becomes a rhythm. A change in the way you are going to change from now on. Use the 80-20 rule for this. 80 percent work IN your organization, 20 percent work ON your organization.
Start small, but much more important: start! Start your own adventure and change in your own unique way. Copy the method, not the success stories. Use the methodology of Prototyping.Work and become the number 1 Great Place to Work!