A customer once said: “I don’t really care what kind of workplace you have, whether it’s fun or not – I’m only interested in good, cost-efficient service.”
He was right; isn’t the customer always? The commitment to the constant delivery of great value to the customers is what keeps successful companies alive.
Great customer value is, however, an outcome of a complex set of drivers. It is not created by simple commands or one-way, conveyor-belt –type of mechanisms. First and foremost, it starts with multiple people willingly cooperating towards the same objectives, bringing into the solution their myriad knowledge and competences.
The word willingly is the key here. What makes people willing to provide great input and eventually great customer value?
There is a global movement of companies, big and small, who – some already for many years – have been implementing various “non-traditional” work practices. Whether it is office Grannies, masseuses, free breakfasts/lunches/snacks, flexible and mobile work, flat or no hierarchies, casual dress code, social activities – these companies usually make it to the news media when various awards on great workplaces are given, or when there is a discussion on what the millennial and future generations expect of working life.
Those “non-traditional” practices may seem nonsensical and superficial. Right, anyone can set up a candy bowl and invite massage therapists in, and decorate the office in mind-blowing colors. However, within these practices some serious messages can be found, for example:
Work and private life do not have to be two radically different worlds
You are respected as a competent individual and can manage your own way of doing things
You don’t have to conform to norms not related to your life and work
You don’t have to compete with your colleagues
It’s cool to ask for and give help to others
These messages have to do with the values of any successful organization. Practically all (long-term) high-performing organizations are built on a strong culture that fosters those kinds of values. It’s because strong shared values directly guide people’s everyday behavior; without anyone directing you, you inherently know what kind of conduct is considered positive or negative. An underlying component in the healthy company value system is accountability – you, I and we all together are here to do something meaningful, something that contributes towards common goals. Accountability is a powerful positive force when it exists together with physical and mental well-being and the freedom to manage oneself.
Organization’s values can often be most clearly perceived by newcomers who can contrast them to other situations. I fondly recall a colleague’s message to all of us, after this person had been with Fondia for a couple of months: “My first months at Fondia have been filled with many 'firsts' and this one made me so grateful I wanted to share it with all of you. Yesterday I asked for help from more experienced colleagues with an urgent matter and inno time at all I had received phone calls, e-mails and texts from half a dozen of you :). It's truly a joy to get to experience the Fondia culture first hand and to each day get to work with such amazing people!”
When the organization’s culture fosters low barriers and supports knowledge sharing, and people have unhindered possibility to fulfill their potential, the customer is the biggest beneficiary. The way the supplier operates and the way their people conduct themselves in their daily activities affects directly the quality, efficiency and speed of the value delivered.
There is a strong case to be made that, actually, it really does matter whether the workplace is fun or not.