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What Makes Work — Work Well?

February 15

I have been fortunate to have a long and diverse career. Although I really wanted to be a fashion designer and had a brief moment of wanting to be a nun in the sixth grade (loved the long black flowing uniforms) I am lucky to have found the right path for me. As a result, I have worked in a variety of jobs for terrific companies with great people. Whether I was a Registered Nurse, a Hospital Administrator, a Human Resource leader or most recently as an advertising executive, there are several common threads that I have experienced regarding what makes work - work well, what makes it enjoyable, what really engaged me in my position no matter what the industry, the job title or where I was in my career trajectory. Since there is increased discussion these days regarding the emerging economy and 2011 workforce planning needs and workforce engagement is the new (old) buzzword, I thought it might be timely to share some thoughts regarding what makes work - work well according to industry experts. Perhaps these opinions will provide food for thought for you and your company in the coming months.

  1. Talk to Me. No matter what the industry or the job title, employees are hungry for information. According to Susan Rink at Rink Communications, the most successful companies make a real commitment to communicating with their employees. Not one-way communication but rather opportunities for exchange from all directions — up, down, across departments and on a functional level. The communication delivery model is not one way or one dimensional but rather offers a range of communication methods. Another perspective regarding the essence of employee communication is offered by the Harvard Business Review. Ultimately, what is key is that the method of communication is framed for the audience, your employees who are the recipients of the communication. This takes me to my next point.
  2. Who's at the Top? When I was an HR Director in a large healthcare system, employees consistently wanted organizational updates directly from the top. The information may have required additional discussion on a departmental level but it was essential to put the President up front and accessible to employees. Weber Shandwick recently published an interesting study, Socializing Your CEO: from (Un) Social to Social that offers insight regarding the opportunity for top leadership to embrace social media as a business and human resource strategy. As we know healthcare has made some inroads in this regard through Ed Bennett's tracking and there are already several healthcare executives that have successful blogs such as http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/. In fact, there is a growing interest among many Chief Nursing Officers to create their own facility based Facebook page. Utilization of Facebook successfully fulfills the need for a multi-dimensional communication exchange to a multi-generational workforce.
  3. Be the Best Boss There is no doubt that most employees want to make a contribution and to work effectively as part of a team but the most important element in fulfilling that need is having a boss that they respect and who watches their back. Steve Tabock at BNET recently articulated what I see as the most basic ingredients of what makes a good boss. Other factors for management to consider, particularly in the female dominated healthcare profession is a recently published book The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson. Among many insightful observations the authors discuss that women lose motivation when they feel their work is not "authentic" and confirm that woman place a higher value on the current work they are engaged in rather than the next potential opportunity.

I hope these observations have provoked ideas regarding how you can enhance your current work environment. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. Onto 2011!

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