Gain an Understanding of the Work Environment

One of the top three purposes of any business operation is to provide security to employees. This consists of financial reward, generating self-worth and creating an environment of maximum productivity. Every industry is hampered by outside forces that places restrictions or dampens the spirit of the employees. Before developing a policies and procedures manual, gain an understanding of the work environment. Learn about those outside forces and what squelches the human spirit to produce. As the human resources manager once you understand the work environment, you can better address policies and the procedures to allow those policies to maximize production.

I’ll site an example of outside forces dampening the human spirit in the workplace. One of my clients is a veterinarian. She told me the hardest part of her job is death. It isn’t the staff, it isn’t the facilities; it’s the animals that she treats that ultimately die. She explained to me that the life span of most dogs is around 14 – 17 years. She gets to know these animals over time, their likes, dislikes, the family members and the trust that forms as a bond between her, the family and the pet. She endures two to three deaths per week. Usually one of those she has treated many times over several years. It is emotionally devastating to her and to the staff.

As an owner of a small business, you need to fully understand your culture in the work place. To do this, follow these three steps:

Step One – Identify the Industry

You would think this is simple but it does get tricky. As an example, if you are in the medical industry, which part of this vast industry do you serve? Is it dental? Geriatric care? Medical rehabilitation? Each is different because the needs of the patient are different. The culture for mental health is vastly different than that of pediatrics or surgery. Although you can attach to an industry, break it down into the sub-components and place yourself in the correct section.

Step Two – List the Customer, Employee, and Vendor Types

By identifying the characteristics of the customer, employees, and vendors you will begin to see common threads that will bind this group. If your business is providing pre-school care, then the customer is the parents of the kids you will serve. But the work environment is the culture you build for kids. Preschool children want a positive safe environment where they can play and express themselves to adults that provide positive reinforcement for good behavior. These employees use proper methods to discipline and communicate with the parents of the children. The outside vendors coming into your workplace should have background checks done on them and they should demonstrate a professional demeanor while interacting with the children.

Step Three – Characterize the Environment

Now that you have identified the industry and listed the customer, employee and vendor types, you can characterize the environment. Select the best characteristics that will work well for your business. If the above dictates a professional well educated presentation, than your characteristics should include: high end facilities with a clean sanitary office and modern furniture, well dressed staff, respectful and excellent communication skills, a quiet and comfortable workplace. If you go out to the customer to render services in the home, then hire staff that work well alone. They should be able to work efficiently and quickly (if you charge by the hour, any form of idleness will be recognized by the customer). If in the construction industry, safety should be at the forefront of the characteristics of your environment. Recognize that in this industry, the sunshine and weather play a critical role in the work environment. Other characteristics to consider include:

  • Pace of Work
  • Complexity of the Product/Service
  • Educational background of the staff
  • Mixing of staff from different educational and cultural backgrounds
  • Danger of the products that you sell or the service rendered
  • Risks associated with errors made and the quality of the product delivered

There are many more, but the goal is to write the answers down on paper. Spend 20 to 30 hard minutes on this to really identify the characteristics of the work environment.

Now that you have identified the work environment, you can gain an understanding of the entire work place and its correlating outside forces. Spend another 30 minutes and document what you feel is the best overall work environment to succeed in your business. Include thoughts about humor, when is it and is it appropriate? What about dealing with emotions from the workers? If you hire young staff due to physical or pace issues, remember what is going to happen here. They have hormones and they are very active when humans are in their twenties. This will come out in the workplace, so this is a part of your environment. Think about how this affects productivity etc. From here you will be able to develop a policies and procedures manual. This series continues with the actual policies and procedures manual format and the respective chapters. Act on Knowledge.

© 2013 – 2022, David J Hoare MSA. All rights reserved.

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