Ten days before my youngest child’s 6th birthday, I’m scrambling to come up with a birthday celebration. Amidst reading the fabulous Pintrest ideas for Knights, Princess and Ninja parties and imagining myself pulling off the ultimate Martha Stewart feat of concocting a homemade castle creation, I receive the all-call email announcing it’s time to nominate Atlanta’s Best Places to Work. This email actually reminded me of the common link between birthday cakes and Best Places to Work—giving me insight for both my own party planning and for my clients seeking to improve employee engagement and their Best Place to Work culture.
Using the image of cake, literally for the Birthday Party and figuratively, for the Best Place to Work, each type of cake has to have essential foundation layers and the icing varieties can be tailored to the needs of the moment. While the “Best Place to Work cake” has several foundation layers, all of the ingredients must lead to an overall “cake flavor” of commitment and trust. Typically, the foundation layers show up in the recipe of the “C’s”:
1) CEO and C-level Commitment to people
2) Communication and Credibility—with employees and senior management
3) Culture--in perceived uniqueness
4) Connectivity—employee to employee and management to employee
5) Core—vision, values and beliefs
6) Code—policies and practices aligning with vision and supporting trust
The icing on the cake is what often gets all of the attention. In the days of the dot coms, these perks were alluring and attractive, from personal services to subsidized meals and drinks and even massages. Since the Great Recession, many of these “icings” have been reduced with austerity measures. Interestingly, the recent Gallup report on Engagement finds engagement of US workers has actually stabilized throughout the recession, with only 30% of workers engaged. While this can be seen as positive, it also shows that companies really need to focus on the core ingredients of the foundation layers.
My advice to clients who are daunted by where to start with a Best Place to Work initiative, is to:
1) Pick 2 of the above “C ingredients” to focus on
2) Recognize the notion of continuously striving—becoming a Best Place to Work isn’t something that ends
3) Cast the net over 5 years
My two favorite and significantly impactful “C ingredients” are—Communication with credibility and Connectivity.
Communication in terms of transparency, leaders “walking the talk” and visibility; and
Connectivity in terms of camaraderie, employee to employee and the manager to employee relationship, one that is inspiring and supportive, a crucial element for engagement. Finally, Best Places to Work engender Connectivity with a sense of team, family and “one company.”
So, how does all of the Best Place to Work Cake come full circle with the real Birthday Cake—it really goes back to remembering to focus on the core ingredients. As evidenced by my photos, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the icing layer and the toppings, so much of that can cause the cake to even fall. Fortunately with good foundation layers (and even a secret family ingredient, cinnamon), the end result can still be a success. In our case, the Castle Cake still tasted great and it came with a clever story of an impressive battle, a besieged castle in ruins and a heroic Knight still standing! Read more about improving employee engagement.