We’re always interested in how we can create healthy, wealthy and happy lives. And, given most people spend a large amount of time at work we were interested in how someone can make sure they choose the right workplace. So, we asked Paul Greening, an executive search and recruitment specialist to share his thoughts on what someone could do to choose a workplace that would make them happy.
It’s really important to find a workplace that makes you happy
It’s really important to find a workplace that makes you happy. However, ‘happy’ is a relative term. I think it starts with the way you approach your search for a role. Often people can get into a process that is almost a competition to simply get ahead of the other candidates.
So, the first thing to do is to change your mindset. When looking for a role, there are two important questions to ask.
“Am I going to be a good fit for the organisation?” and “Is the company or the role good for me personally?”
I suggest looking for companies that share the same values as you do. I once conducted an interview with someone who had worked in the tobacco industry for 15 years. As we moved through the interview it was painfully obvious that he was unhappy and to make it worse he had stayed in that role for 15 years. He wasn’t happy with the organisation’s values and culture because he believed their products killed people. Yet, he remained there, unhappy. Just think of it this way, when you go to a barbecue and someone asks you who you work for, you shouldn’t have to cringe when you give your response. If you do, then you’ve got some serious thinking to do!
Identify the values that are important to you
I give credit to the younger generation in this aspect. I see many lawyers who start out with great qualifications and are really focused on working with the big legal firms. They want to apply their skills to do good work, pro bono and UN work. They live their values, unlike a number of the older generation that I have met.
When you look at values, you have to keep them reasonable, measurable and relevant. People close to you may question you about whether you’re really living up to your values, or whether the work you do suggests quite the opposite. Parents are a great sounding board. They tell it as it is and will encourage you to rediscover the values you may have lost along the way.
Look for companies that translate values into practice
Look for companies that translate values into behaviours. Do your research and find out how they operate before you go through the interview process. Get in touch with people within the organisation to understand the work culture. Does the company have a set of values that sit on the wall, or do they really live and breathe them.
Use Glassdoor to scope out your prospective organisation
A glassdoor is a tool that is becoming popular in Australia. It’s a website where current and former employees are free to share comments about that organisation. It’s similar to TripAdvisor where you can select a hotel and read the reviews. You can do the same with different companies on Glassdoor. It gives you an insight into the culture of the organisation, though some reviews could be biased and some authentic, so use your judgement.
If you’re already at the interview stage, you could apply the reverse of a ‘hiring manager’s interview’. Ask them the same question in three different ways, to see if you get consistent answers. See if the answers live up to the values the company advocates.
Companies ‘walking the talk’ is pretty rare. Almost always, the values have been formulated by the HR team and though the company would like to propagate these ideas, often they don’t practically follow through with them. So, you really need to look at outside opinions to make an independent assessment. With the help of Glassdoor and by networking with current and previous employees, you could get a clearer picture of what the actual work culture is like.
Your immediate manager can make or break your happiness
The person you report to and your relationship with that person is front and centre when it comes to your workplace happiness.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person, so during the interview, it’s important to gain clarity on the role and how you’re going to be judged by them especially during the first 100 or 200 days.
One of the things that leads to bad hiring and also misunderstandings with new employees is the fact that the job description has often been built by the HR team. Sometimes they’re not looking at the problem the role is there to solve.
Ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the role and with the way your boss is going to assess it. Are you going to be encouraged to take risks or will you be constrained, are you going to be micromanaged? Again, if you can talk to those who would potentially be your peers in the organisation it will help.
Do you like the core business of the company?
Are you comfortable working in the alcohol industry or the gaming industry? Surprisingly, a lot of people are. Or, what about the service industry, are you comfortable with the behaviours of certain financial institutions. Where they invest, how they treat their people, how they treat their clients. These are all pertinent aspects that display values.
If you’re looking for a position in a financial firm, here are a few questions you could ask yourself.
Does the firm have a holistic approach to life?
Does it think about the lifestyle of the client, the social repercussions of their situation, or is it just about getting the best return on the money?
What’s the point of ending up wealthy, if you’re unhealthy, unhappy and stressed out?
Try and picture yourself working there
The analogy I work with is similar to buying property. When you drive into the suburb, does it feel right? When you walk into the house, do you feel you can live there? Sometimes it’s like investing in art. Do I like this painting? Does it make sense to me?
When it comes to your workplace, consider how reception treats you on arrival. Don’t get sucked in because it’s the trendiest, or it’s in a perfect location and it looks great. Take a look at the people, do they have a smile on their face, do they look happy. Do you see yourself working there?
You should be able to walk away thinking, I want to be the candidate that is selected, I don’t just want it because I want to cross the finish line ahead of the others.
It also comes down to being confident about yourself, understanding your values, being with an organisation you want to be a part of and a boss you want to work for. If you get all that, you’re very lucky. If not, you may need to weigh up the pros and cons and see where you’re willing to compromise.
If you’ve got a good recruiter or good headhunter working with you, they will naturally be the bridge to avoid misunderstandings between the hiring manager and the candidate. After you come on board, make sure you stay in touch because they can be an excellent intermediary to resolve your issues.