We called them the Mailers, and they were an interesting bunch.
They were one of the organized labor groups at one of my former newspapers, and their name hardly described what they did. They routed papers coming off the press through machines that inserted coupons and other preprinted materials, and then they bundled and loaded the copies into delivery trucks.
Theirs was back-breaking labor but work in which they took pride—and work they performed with aplomb. Though their contribution to what we called the “daily miracle” of the daily newspaper was not the most glamorous part, we considered the Mailers the best union at our paper. They worked hard, loved their jobs, policed themselves and felt a commitment to what our company did every day.
You might say this little work group was a healthy workplace. Indeed, they were, and they succeeded because of it. Among all of the unions at the newspaper, the Mailers were the best at flexing, bending and working with other unions as well as the management team. They started and finished negotiations on their labor contracts first and showed the most insight into a changing industry. They were compensated well because they did such a great job and because they helped the organization solve problems.
When we talk in business about Organizational Health and what it takes to be a Top Workplace, it’s easy to think of big companies. And some big companies have created amazing cultures within multinational organizations. But the concept of what it takes to be a healthy workplace ultimately comes down to what this small group of Mailers had and what they did—and what all of us can learn from them.
The union demonstrated all of the fundamentals of what WorkplaceDynamics calls Organizational Health:
- Direction. The team knew where they were going and what they had to do every day. Critically, they also understood direction in a larger context, including their role in a changing newspaper environment, where fewer copies were printed and more complexity had been added to each of their jobs.
- Execution. There was no room for slackers here. The Mailers took pride in their work and wouldn’t stand for new hires who didn’t get with the program quickly. The management team never worried about productivity among the Mailers.
- Connection. They were the workhorses, not the show horses, but the Mailers understood their role and responsibility in producing the paper every day. One winter when a blizzard threatened to keep us from producing and delivering an edition, a full team of Mailers reported to work despite the snow. One Mailer even plowed out the alley with his pickup so the delivery truck could reach the loading dock.
Organizational Health doesn’t require an antiseptically clean modern building with the latest ergonomic furniture. It can and does develop as well in scruffy newspaper mail rooms and on busy factory floors. Organizational Health and a Top Workplace can reside anywhere people feel in harmony with their company and their colleagues and work hard because of it.
Is your workplace like that of the Mailers? Maybe it’s time to contact WorkplaceDynamics to find out.