How to use ‘planning days’ to improve your workplace

As a business owner or team leader, there are many ways you can make a great workplace for your employees.

You don’t need me to convince you that it’s important to be happy at work, because we all spend a lot of time there. Being happy at work is good for everyone’s general health and wellbeing. Plus, it helps you and your staff to achieve more if you are happy and reaching your goals.

What is vital is to communicate with your staff about the future. You might have a great vision, but does everyone else know about it?

Workplace planning days are a way to make to open such communication channels and make the workplace great.

So how do you run one?

Depending on the size of your team, aim to schedule annual strategy meetings as a group, whether it is a department, or the whole company. Make regular workplace planning days a genuine place to exchange and transmit information.

On the day

Start with an empty agenda and open it up for everyone’s input.

On the day, ask everyone to come up with ideas about, “How we could do better as a business”. Don’t flag this ahead of time. What you want to do is open this up. You want free thinking, so people feel free to say everything on their minds.

Give participants sticky notes to put down their ideas and make it fast and exciting: “Fix the lights!” “Business development” “Get me suchandsuch software program”. Nothing is too big, nothing too small.

As a group, gather together these sticky notes and group them into three areas: operational; technical; and aspirational

These thoughts will allow you as the boss or decision-maker to see what needs fixing. Often bosses don’t know what the problems in the workplace are, communication will help you find out.

“More face to face time with clients” “Schedule WIPs for 9.15am not 9am”

Head into the day with a few ideas of your own. Find out the vibe in the office about what I like to call “the birthday issue”. Is everyone expected to chip in? That sucks. What’s the rule and does everyone like it? How would you like it to work? It’s not a company responsibility. A good way to deal with it can be that the person whose birthday it is brings the cake. Get the team’s buy-in on what they want and institute that.

During the gathering of suggestions, someone needs to collect the data and ensure that these great ideas are captured on sheets of butchers’ paper and put up in the workplace.

Then each person can take responsibility for crossing off their own suggestions as these things start to be done in the office.

As a business owner or team leader, you need to prioritise what you can and can’t achieve in the business. During the planning day, make a list of action items and issues from the ideas raised which you can immediately address and get as many of them working as possible.

People may love their workplace, but hate that their computer doesn’t function properly. They may not like the person sitting next to them. They may resent always being the one who cleans the office fridge or tidies up after meetings.

Find out what people like and what they don’t. Even the simplest thing can be a fly in the ointment of a potentially great workplace.

This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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