The impact of culture on productivity

In the first part of this series, I mentioned a newspaper where I served as city editor. That culture was oppressive.

In the first part of this series, I mentioned a newspaper where I served as city editor. That culture was oppressive.

A reporter's only goal was to write his or her story and get out, spending as little time at work as possible. There was no desire to do enterprise nor to go out and “get the story.” Even when we hired our first online editor, there was no enthusiasm.

The pyramid created by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs puts physiological needs as the foundation. One layer up is security - income, health, property, and related things. The top of the pyramid is self-actualization, where the needs of creativity, problem solving, and the like rest.

According to Abraham Maslow, this top rung is where “people can be what they were born to be.” Can your agency adopt a culture in which an employee is allowed to be just that?

It's also about giving employees what they want in exchange for results and positioning them to be working when they are most productive.

A 2011 study by the University of Minnesota showed that Best Buy's Results Only Work Environment cut turnover at the company's headquarters by 45% while increasing productivity. The big change? Flex time. Unfortunately, the program ended last year.

However, it wasn't for everyone, and the study reported that some employees chose to continue going to the office and clocking essentially a 9-to-5 day.

There's an old saying that a happy employee is a productive employee, but anyone who has managed a group for any length of time knows that isn't always the case.

Part of why the Best Buy program seemed so successful is the results side of the equation. There can't just be a “work when you want” approach, as that would cause chaos. One of the key lynchpins of the program was that employees knew what the goals and expectations were.

They weren't punching a clock; they were working to meet specific company goals.

That unlimited time off I mentioned in the first post? It's the real deal, but there are caveats. Each employee is given very specific goals, and those must be met to take full advantage of the flex time and the unlimited paid time off. However, these perks align with our company vision and are designed to keep employees fresh and well rested.

And it ensures employees are working at times during which they can give us their best, most productive, work.

In my next post, we'll look at the impact of culture on client service.

Clay Morgan is VP of operations at Arment Dietrich.

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