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Employee commitment in 2014

Five steps to a happy working environment

Step 1: Open communication engenders trust

Foster a culture of open and honest communication. Expectations of other team members in particular should always be expressed openly in order to avoid uncertainty and misunderstanding and create the basis for trust. Recognition of their successes, and how these are measured by management, encourages employee engagement. In addition, clear, trust-based relationships are at the heart of an exceptional workplace culture. An example of this is the Great Places To Work Institute and its rating of the Best Workplaces in Switzerland, using a Trust Index. So if you had to choose one thing about your workplace that you could change for the better, choose trust. This is how to create the maximum leverage. An idea advocated long ago by management expert Peter F. Drucker, who once wrote: “Enterprises nowadays are no longer built on coercion, but on trust.”

Step 2: Be a model of integrity

This sounds like advice that applies only to managers, but it actually concerns everyone in an enterprise, from part-time temps to the CEO. People are social animals and are therefore very aware of the behaviour of those around them. When someone acts in an exemplary way with integrity, they will have (sometimes unconsciously) a positive effect on their working environment. Founders and managers should be aware of this dynamic, as their values, work philosophy and standards of behaviour will have a lasting effect on the culture of their enterprise. It is therefore of great importance that they always lead by example and practise what they preach. Those who act consistently remain credible and are able to count on the support of their team in difficult times.

Step 3: Foster a constructive culture of feedback

Businesses thrive when employees work continuously on their personal and professional development. Regular, constructive and objective feedback can be an additional motivation, because everyone needs to know if their performance and behaviour is appropriate and correct, if it needs changing, or if they possess untapped potential. An outside perspective can often help workers recognise more clearly their strengths and the development opportunities arising from these.

To allow feedback to be exchanged in the most open way possible, the management or founders should foster an open working environment. An example of this is when a manager explains their behaviour (“I am doing this because...”), can admit mistakes (“I know this process is not running as smoothly as it could be...”) and lets others in on their own learning process (“I had to learn this first too...”). This sincere, understanding approach engenders trust and creates the basis for feedback from employees.

Step 4: Create space for innovation

How do ideas come about in your enterprise? In the structured, hierarchical and process-oriented day-to-day life of a company, it is sometimes hard for creative ideas to develop organically. The most important first step to achieving this is listening. When was the last time a worker came to you with a new idea without being asked to do so? More than 60,000 thoughts whizz through the human brain every day, so the challenge is one of creating a working environment where ideas can be spoken aloud and discussed in the team, before being presented to the appropriate decision makers. The busy pace of a normal business day often prevents the necessary space and time, so room for innovation has to be actively created to share ideas and develop the best ones into something more. An example could be an informal weekly or monthly get-together over coffee and cake for a team, a department or, depending on its size, the whole company.

To introduce this kind of format, it is worth finding out about participatory methods of innovation, one of which is the Design Thinking method that is growing in popularity and is taught at the University of Lucerneand the University of St. Gallen in cooperation with partners in industry. 

Step 5: Celebrate all successes, small and great

A large part of our working day is usually spent solving problems and working towards milestones or performance objectives. At their best, challenges can be enlivening and encourage outstanding performance, but at their worst they can overtax workers and cause high levels of stress, pressure and dissatisfaction. This is why it is so important to properly celebrate a team’s success. Much pleasure can be conveyed through a sincere compliment, a gift voucher or heartfelt thanks, particularly in response to small or unexpected successes. Because a ‘thanks’ doesn’t just mean you appreciate a piece of work, a plan or efforts made, it also acknowledges the person or team behind it. It also fosters politeness within the team and motivates the recipient to continue doing their best.

“Enterprises nowadays are no longer built on coercion, but on trust.”

Peter F. DruckerManagement-Experte