Becoming a “Best Place to Work”: Dimensions #6 and #7

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Continuing our monthly discussion of “best place to work” environments, let’s explore two more dimensions of successful workplaces, as identified by the Gallup Organization. (For information on the first five dimensions, see my earlier posts on this subject.)

#6: There is someone at work who encourages my development.
I frequently write about the topic of employee growth and development in small practices. The obvious challenge for small businesses is that there’s no “corporate ladder” to climb. Advisers are sometimes apologetic to employees about that fact. But let’s consider a different perspective: because there is no ladder, staff members work with the CEO of the organization from the get-go—a situation that employees in large organizations crave. Furthermore, when there is an opportunity to formally change positions, the odds for a qualified and motivated employee to evolve into a more sophisticated role are far more favorable than in corporate America, where job ads are placed internally and externally to find potential candidates for open positions.

The bottom line is, in a small business environment, there needs to be a conversation between the manager (the adviser) and the employee about what “development” means to each of them. Learning a new software application may be what one employee has in mind, while transitioning to an adviser role is another’s goal. If you avoid talking to staff members about their definition of career development, you’re missing a great opportunity.

The easiest, most efficient way to make sure this discussion happens is to ask a question about career development as part of the employee’s performance review. Of course, this means you need to conduct formal, written reviews regularly, preferably twice per year.

(Editor’s note: Look for a great article by Joni in the forthcoming May/June issue of FPA’s Practice Management Solutions magazine on how to achieve career development in a small practice.)

#7: At work, my opinions seem to count.
Do you practice participative management? I like’s definition: “Type of management in which employees at all levels are encouraged to contribute ideas toward identifying and setting organizational goals, problem-solving and other decisions that may directly affect them.”

A key component of the definition is the phrase “that may directly affect them.” Sometimes, advisers underuse or overuse participative management. On one hand, you may make poor decisions if employees who are intimately involved with daily work aren’t involved in influencing daily processes. On the other hand, involving employees in every decision isn’t appropriate. For some decisions, the business owner neither wants nor needs employee input.

The best practice is to invite participation when you need it and will listen to input. This motivates employees and tells them that their opinions do count in the organization.

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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