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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Big “I” Workplace Lesson

For several years now, the Best Christian Workplaces Institute has published lists rating their top places to work based on the feedback of the employees. They’ve broken it down into categories including churches, parachurch and missions organizations, and schools and places of higher education. There are a few other categories as well. I believe the most recent list came out in August.

Willow Creek Association frequently gets very high marks. They made the 2016 list, as did Wheaton Academy, Kids Around the World (based in Rockford), Community Christian Church in Naperville, Christ Community Church in St. Charles, and Glen Ellyn Bible Church. Other Chicago area churches were listed as well. Olivet Nazarene was listed among the top schools of higher education.

The Best Christian Workplaces Institute started with one question being pursued by two people: “What makes an exceptional place to work?” Some of the descriptives listed for evaluation are “organizations where employees experience healthy, even flourishing workplace cultures.” Employees who give favorable ratings believe “the work they do to be so meaningful and transformational they are willing to go the extra mile.” And apparently they like each other, noting this criteria: “The rich day-to-day relationships and fellowship experienced are particularly meaningful.”

It is wonderful to hear of organizations where Christian values are demonstrated in such a way that the corporate culture creates an environment of fulfilling work. It is also worthy to note that there are likely several organizations that get frustrated by entering this “competition” only to discover their employees do not rate them so highly. And, of course, the BCWI is not about to publish the “Disgruntled Christian Workplace” list.

So much for faith centered employers. What makes for a meaningful and happy existence in a workplace NOT known for any Christian connection? This past week, I read an article from titled, “The Biggest Way Small Businesses Can Make Employees Happy.” There were a few surprises worth sharing.

The conclusions were derived from the 2016 ranking of The Best Small and Medium Workplaces. This list originates from the firm Great Place to Work in partnership with Fortune Magazine. Here’s the major finding: Employees at both small and mid-size firms “are 10 times more likely to call their workplace great when they say their leaders are honest and ethical.”

Logical conclusions follow. Integrity at the top leads to a more engaged workforce. And with confident employees, organizations are more competitive. Companies who “fit the bill” in moral leadership showed above average revenue growth!

To be fair, the happiness quotient isn’t solely based on this issue of integrity. Benefits also come into play. Some of the top companies turn out to be quite generous in profit sharing and paid time off. Smaller firms also seem to groom a “family feel of pride and ownership.” Well satisfied employees turn out to be great ambassadors for their employer, too. As you might expect, turnover is reduced in these “best workplaces.”

Here’s another important criteria. Competence. The survey summary states, “Employees we surveyed who describe their managers as consistently competent were seven times more likely to describe their workplaces as great.”

Add to this another important component: trust. Employees in high trust environments were 11 times more likely to pass along their pride in their company.

The final asset of a great workplace focused on what is termed “innovation-related behaviors.” This is where employees feel they have participation in decision making, cooperation with team members, and room to make mistakes. All marks of good workplace health.

I found this article to be striking for another reason—its timing as it relates to our current political season. The top two presidential candidates have enough testimony about their past behavior to call into question their standards for leadership. Based on the polling data on the lack of trustworthiness of these people, the issue of integrity is in serious doubt.

Beyond integrity, we also question how these candidates actually treat people. One of them appears to see people as play toys. The other has former Secret Service people complaining of boorish, rude, and belittling behavior. I’m afraid we lose in either case. No wonder millennials are distancing themselves from the traditional voting models!

It seems like the clarion call to a better America—and better workplaces—is the call for integrity. As noted earlier, a great workplace is one where “leaders are honest and ethical.” It takes effort and focus to retain that!

The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible. It yields appropriate modern day interpretation to the wisdom of Proverbs 4:25-27:

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.”

Great workplaces and great countries require that kind vigilant effort. Whether you are at the top or working your way up, keep in mind the sage advice found in Proverbs 4.

And while you’re at it, those lessons from companies that do it right are worth a second look.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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