As Chairman of MaxSys Staffing & Recruitment, one of Canada’s largest staffing and recruitment firms, I make a point of trying to visit as many offices as possible.
When I walked into the office, I don’t have to look at the financial statements to know if it is successful or not: all I have to do is look at the employees’ face. If the employees are happy, then I knew the office is a thriving. If the employees looked glum, the odds were usually fairly good that the office has work to do.
And what’s the number one reason why employees aren’t happy?
When you drill right down to the core, often it’s a sense of unfair treatment in the workplace. I’ve always maintained that unfairness in the workplace leads to unhappiness, which can be contagious. When you have disgruntled employees and unhappiness spreading through the workplace, there’s no way a business can offer a quality service at a competitive price.
Special favours, discrimination, double standards — if these are happening inside your business, they’re like cancers in the workplace, and once they spread, the damage is done and it’s hard to fix them.
MaxSys was founded almost 30 years ago in 1993. In 2001, as MaxSys began to grow, the management team wanted to come up with a system for ensuring fairness, based on merit, in the workplace. To do that, the management team created an Employee Corporate Policy manual. The policies guaranteed every MaxSys employee a number of fundamentals, including fair treatment based on merit, a safe and healthy workplace, competitive wages, and benefits. To enhance these policies, we engaged in a broad range of social activities, including ‘walk around management, office visits, national social event, MaxSys University, business competitions, the President’s Club awards and recognition programs. And because I had personally witnessed discrimination and unfairness as an employee, we made fair treatment and merit one of the key principles.
I also established a dedicated champion (the Snr VP for Corporate Services) and a process that employees could confidentially engage if they had a problem, or if they believed any fundamentals had been violated. For the past 20 years, every employee must become aware of these policies and sign off the Employee Corporate Policy manual as part of his/her onboarding.
To further reinforce the policies, we introduced an annual employee, candidate, and client opinion survey(s). It became one of our most important tools for ensuring fairness and for rooting out problems — the kind that lead to unhappiness and employee discontent. At the time my worry was all the new employees who had been hired during the expansion boom we were going through. This included some new managers who hadn’t been immersed in the MaxSys culture and didn’t come up through the ranks. What I discovered is that with time, training, coaching, mentoring and face to face socialization, we created a great company based in fairness and merit.
It’s hard to always be fair, because we live in a world that is imperfect, and people can sometimes act irresponsibly. I’m the first to admit that we weren’t always perfect. But through fair policies based in merit, active listening, and other employee programs, I believe we created a system that strives to uphold fairness and merit. When you boil it right down, it’s pretty simple: if employees aren’t happy, their hearts are not in their work, and they will only do what they have to do to keep their jobs. But if you’ve got a healthy and happy work environment — if employees feel that they’re part of something special, with a tangible stake in the outcome, and managers who recognize and reward individual contributions — they’ll become more involved in searching for ways to improve productivity and quality.