Creating great places to work is essential today for businesses to thrive. While it has always made sense, it has become an absolute necessity now. Unfortunately, data from 2022 shows that UK employee engagement levels are at a dismal 9%, with a record high of 43% of managers reporting burnout. Additionally, around 75% of senior leaders are contemplating leaving their current organisation to find better support for their wellbeing. Most businesses are striving to create better cultures, but work is still considered a negative experience for most employees, from CEOs down to team members.
As someone who has been working with and studying companies of various sizes and industries, I’ve noticed that all businesses fit into one of four major categories regarding being a great place to work. Understanding these categories and the steps to move between them will help you make your business a great place to work more simply.
Here are the four categories:
1. The Transactional Co
This business primarily focuses on making money. The systems and processes are good, and output is decent. Potential issues here are slow innovation, a lack of enthusiasm for change, and higher than ideal employee turnover due to a lack of growth opportunities. Although there are no significant problems in this type of company, there's also little to no joy.
2. The Passion Problem Co
The majority of companies fall into this category. In these businesses, high levels of passion and motivation inadvertently create a negative work environment. The majority of employees start off motivated and passionate, but over time, they become drained. Highly motivated senior leaders and managers often work too hard and neglect personal development, team development, and strategy, creating high levels of stress and poor team cohesion. Lower-level employees start feeling disheartened, as they don’t feel listened to, connected to others, or the company vision.
The busyness, overcommitment, and subsequent lack of time for planning or teamwork at the senior level create low levels of engagement throughout all levels of the company. Therefore, most companies' low levels of engagement are not due to a lack of interest in work, but because they have the wrong approach to work. The Passion Problem Co feels like an uphill battle, where everyone is super committed to getting over that hill, but they're frustrated. It hampers business growth as the business is always dealing with employee turnover, poor health, and low productivity.
3. The Passion Power Co
This is where most businesses should be. You don’t need a huge budget, specialists, the best-paid wages in the industry, or sleeping pods to get your business into this bracket. If your organisation has a vision people can be passionate about and a way to make money, you have everything you need to sit in this category.
The high levels of passion throughout the workforce lead to it being a great place to work that consistently outperforms competitors. The organisation enjoys high levels of collaboration, productivity, and employee retention, with low levels of sickness. People not only enjoy working here, but they enjoy working hard. The Passion Power Co has a positive impact not only on the lives of its clients but its employees too. From the CEO to the team member, everyone cherishes the company as it's associated with meaningful work and relationships. Work is still challenging, with issues, disputes, and problems to solve. However, the approach to work is what makes it great. The Passion Problem Co felt like an uphill battle, while in the Passion Power Co, work feels more like a challenging journey taken on by a close-knit team.
4. The Unicorn Competitive Co
Although this category is statistically irrelevant for 99.9% of businesses, big and small, it’s important to include it in this post. The Unicorn Competitive Co is a fast-growing, venture-backed company that typically leads the way in a new industry. Think Facebook, Google, or Airbnb. These companies grow rapidly and have a ton of money to spend. Jobs in these companies are highly sought after, and due to the competitive nature of these businesses, it’s essential that employee productivity and retention are as high as possible. The Unicorn Competitive Co creates a unique situation due to three things:
Lots of capital
High need to attract and retain top talent
High need to keep top talent engaged and innovative
As a result, these companies are on the cutting edge of figuring out what drives a great culture and employee engagement. It’s similar to the difference between someone who wants to get in shape and someone who wants to be a competitive bodybuilder. The basic principles are the same, but the bodybuilder puts in 90% more effort to get an extra 5% improvement. Therefore, you regularly hear about new initiatives these companies put in place to drive employee engagement, including sleeping pods, on-site gyms, and yoga classes.
This is great for non-unicorn companies because you get access to expensive research for free. However, it's also a problem because you're exposed to what these companies are doing a lot. This leads to many companies being stuck in the Passion Problem Co stage, believing they can’t be a great place to work because they’re not big enough or don’t have enough budget. It's worth noting that often the reason engagement is high in these companies is that they have good systems to support engagement - hacking the human mind, essentially - not because they have genuine passion and loyalty to the company.
Understanding these different categories can help you guide your organisation to being a great place to work. If you’re like most organisations, you’re frustrated in the Passion Problem Co category and want to be in the Power Passion Co category. The good news is it’s so close you can almost touch it. The fact that you find your job or business challenging because you care about it is all the evidence you need to show that you can get into the Passion Power Co category. In my next post, I’ll share how the 5-step HELPS method can guide you to do just that. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
Mike Jones Better Happy Founder
Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.
He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'