Most people’s answer to the question, “What is the most important thing to you?” would be “family.” Almost everyone takes pride in their families and friends above all else, with their career trailing not too far behind.
Ultimately, a happy family is a happy home, which is why it comes as a surprise when business owners fail to replicate that model to their own workplace. If you treat your workers like family and instill a family-like work culture, you’re likely to be rewarded with a pleasant work environment, which is essentially your brand’s home.
As CEO and Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller, a leading acquisition company in engineering consulting and capital equipment fields, Bob Chapman is renowned for his management philosophy—to encourage a “familial” workplace.
It can be difficult to argue Chapman’s endorsement of creating such work environment considering he’s successfully transformed his company into a $1.8 billion success story, with 70 company acquisitions extended among 10 subsidiaries all over the world. Chapman has also seen a consistent 15 percent compound growth in both share value and revenue since 1987.
If you want to enjoy similar success, you should take inspiration from Chapman’s ideas about how a workforce should be treated and implement the same principles to your own team. Take note of the following points and see how you can create your very own Chapman-esque empire:
Talk to Your Team
In an interview with Forbes, Chapman revealed how they actively teach their workers about their work culture through organized sessions. In 2002, Barry-Wehmiller created a cultural vision statement which was the company’s Guiding Principals of Leadership (GPL).
A short while after, the company’s CPO, Rhonda Spencer observed that companies like Enron merely expressed their culture through posters and plaques hung all around the office walls—and it was not enough.
Chapman said they decided to take their GPL off the wall and “put it into people’s heads and hearts” instead. With Chapman’s leadership, the company started what it called the “GPL sessions” where they sit down with employees to talk about their beliefs, and exchange thoughts on business issues and how they can better understand the company’s principles.
Consider holding your own version of GPL sessions where you can actively tell your employees about how you see one another as a collective group and will “always look out for each other like family.”
In the same interview with Forbes, Chapman states that they didn’t create a family experience forcefully, but rather, he and the board felt a shared responsibility to provide people with meaningful work that allowed them to feel fulfilled. They did this by listening to their staff and caring for their practical needs, too.
Show Trust to Your Employees
Trust is one of the most important components of a successful relationship, and it applies to family ties, too. We tend to share a bond with our loved ones because we have unquestioned and unconditional trust with them; it doesn’t have to be asked for. It’s a given. Once you have that in your workplace, the relationships between workers and individual departments will soon grow stronger.
Notably, a sense of mutual trust was created when they let employees “have the freedom to improve their roles, making them realize what they do and who they are matter,” said Chapman.
You can show your employees that you trust them by offering rewards, delegating responsibilities and communicating openly. You’ll soon learn that this sense of trust rapidly echoes through the office corridors, motivating your team to produce results to reciprocate that very trust.
Chapman supports this claim by saying, “What we didn’t anticipate was how contagious it would be. People who feel cared for and valued extend that to those in their circles. That’s what created the family atmosphere.”
Create a Great Workplace
Now that you understand and are inspired by the way Chapman approached management, you can do the following tips to create a comfortable and family-oriented workplace.
1. Clean Your House
Your office is your “house.” One of the obvious reasons why people dread to go to work is because they’re leaving their comfortable abodes to spend 8 hours in an inhospitable, concrete edifice that does little to encourage motivation.
Redesign your office into a place that is comfortable, bright and cozy. One which will make employees literally feel “at home.” Structure cubicles in a way that allows for creative interaction and makes the team feel like they’re working together for the “bigger picture” rather than working in isolation for “individual pay checks.”
2. Organize a Support Network
Families tend to come together during hardships and, often, there’s an ever-understanding aunt or go-to-sibling in each family to whom you can ask help from. Recreate these relationships at work to help your workers feel at ease.
Consider organizing mentor programs for new employees or for those who are not hitting targets, rather than bellowing unconstructive criticism. As a leader, you can hold weekly informal discussions with your team members that are not necessarily organized in a strict structure.
For example, you could randomly call John to your office on a Wednesday morning for “a chat” and then subtly talk about targets. Make sure it’s conversational and daunting hierarchal boundaries are not too obvious.
3. Hold Creative Interviews
First impressions are crucial when it comes to setting the tone of your work environment. Therefore, you must make it a point to exude your brand’s “family culture” to a prospective employee from day one.
You should consider holding interviews in pleasant office grounds under the sunshine rather than behind closed doors which can be quite intimidating. Additionally, this quirky approach to interviewing will reflect your brand well to ideal candidates.
If your office isn’t surrounded by scenic lawns, hold interviews in the canteen over coffee. This breaks unnecessary formality and displays the family environment, which they can easily relate to.
4. Offer Rewarding Incentives
Offering incentives to your workers shows that you are willing to reward their hard work. Instead of providing discounted gym membership only to your employees, you can stress the importance of family by extending the offer to their families, too.
For example, U.S. based IT company Groupware Technology provides free gym membership to employees and family members. The company was even part of a winning list of “companies that take care of their workers,” as reported by Inc.
When offering incentives, take note of Inc.’s judging criteria and know what you can offer your employees for a healthy family-focused work scheme.
One of the major concerns for many workers are the child-friendly arrangements. To fulfill this, arrange for childcare options by including a crèche where parents can pick up their children from school and bring them back to work during their shift. You may even witness an increase in productivity when you allow for one telecommuting day a week. Soon enough, your employees will find little difference between their home and office—all thanks to your “Chapman approach.”
If you doubt that you can implement such a strategy to your own business, think again. Not only will you witness extraordinary results, you’ll become a much-admired business by caring for your employees and their welfare.
As Chapman said, “Could it work everywhere? Absolutely. Name a place where it couldn’t work. It’s a natural response to feeling cared for.”