The classic holiday story A Christmas Carol can teach a thing or two about exceptional workplaces. Really.
When the young Ebenezer Scrooge was an apprentice in A Christmas Carol, his master was Mr. Fezziwig, the proprietor of a warehouse business. Mr. Fezziwig was a cheerful man who mentors Scrooge with kindness and generosity, and shows great affection towards his employees.
Years later when Scrooge is master himself, he revisits Fezziwig as the ghost of Christmas Past. Now, the old miser, Scrooge, is haunted by the stark contrast between his own management style and that of his mentor. Scrooge notices Fezziwig could have made his life difficult during his apprenticeship, but instead, made it fun. Scrooge is reminded of how much he once appreciated Fezziwig and is filled with gratitude. "Was there ever such an employer?" he cries to his younger self. Since Fezziwig is the elder Scrooge's opposite in many ways, Scrooge sees the difference between his own management style and Fezziwig's. The realization becomes a life changing event. By the end of the story, Scrooge is transformed into a benevolent and kind man much to the delight of his own staff.
What did Mr. Fezziwig do to create an exceptional workplace? Research has shown that there are three key traits that all exceptional workplaces share. Employees of companies recognized as the Top 100 Best Companies (according to the Great Places to Work Institute) list trust as the primary reason for their greater cooperation and strong commitment to their company. In A Christmas Carol, Mr. Fezziwig trusted his employees to work diligently and rewarded them with time off for the holiday.
Another common denominator with exceptional workplaces is the strong sense of pride that employees have toward their employers. An employee will work harder if he or she has this pride, and you can't foster it if you don't treat employees with dignity and respect. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge feels the pain of his behavior through his employee's lack of pride.
A third key trait of exceptional workplaces is the value they place on the internal customer. Honoring and respecting employees through open, transparent, and two-way communication goes a long way. As he watches Fezziwig interact with people, the light dawns on Scrooge.
NANCY MOBLEY is founder and CEO of Insight Performance, a human resource consulting firm focused on emerging and mid-market companies. Clients include biotech, medical device, manufacturing, banks and technology companies. @InsightPerf