Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being, Al Lopus with Cory Hartman. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022.
Summary: Based on the study of hundreds of organizations, identifies eight factors that contribute to healthy organizational cultures and high employee engagement.
Workplaces are in the midst of a radical sea change. The pandemic has upended patterns of work and what workers value. Technology is changing how we work. And a generational shift is leading to changed expectations as boomers retire, millenials move into leadership, and Gen-Z workers enter the workplace. Al Lopus believes this is a critical time to be paying close attention to workplace culture, which may quickly turn from flourishing to troubled to toxic, or the other way around. He should know. He has spent over twenty years in human resource consulting before taking what he learned to assist Christian ministries to apply what he learned as CEO of Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Out of studies of hundreds of organizations, he has identified eight key practices that distinguish flourishing workplaces, whether Christian or not. The practices are not peculiar to Christian organizations but it is his passion to see Christian organizations embrace with excellence the practices that define the best workplaces in the marketplace, secular or religious. In fact he uses the acronym FLOURISH to summarize these practices. They are, along with some of my takeaways:
Fantastic Teams. They are cohesive and communicate well and their work output is more than just the sum of the individuals.
Life-Giving Work. People have a sense that their work is meaningful and significant and each person in the organization clearly understands the part they play and how they may use their gifts and skills toward the organization’s purpose.
Outstanding Talent. Organizations not only recruit highly competent people, through well-crafted role descriptions that clearly define the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for success, they also reward, retain, and promote that talent, thinking in terms of lattices instead of ladders.
Uplifting Growth. Employee development occurs through stretching assignments on the job, feedback and modeling from leaders working near them and taking them with them, as well as through off the job structured education opportunities.
Rewarding Compensation. The key here is “rewarding.” Increasing compensation without addressing other aspects of healthy organizational culture will not lead to organizational health–it may lead to complacency. Likewise, organizations otherwise healthy but with inadequate compensation, or inadequately communicated compensation policies will struggle to keep engaged employees. Good organizations effectively communicate their total compensation package to all employees and recruits.
Inspirational Leadership. Both character and competence matter. Inspirational leaders pursue and embrace truth, even when it is bad news. They listen to their people and act on what they hear. They establish core values and invest in the leaders around them.
Sustainable Strategy. They have a “deliberate, effective plan to serve their constituents.” Lopus recommends these five steps: Investigate reality, Inquire of God, Invent a plan, Implement priorities, and Inspect results. He also cites Doug Mazza’s four questions for new ideas: Does this idea directly serve the vision and mission? How does it work? Is it cost-effective? and, Can you multiply it by a thousand? (a very good question!).
Healthy Communication. Perhaps the key takeaway here is that good communication centers around listening to your employees and then communicating what has been learned and acting on it.
What struck me about this book is that, far from making one miserable at how short one falls of achieving the leadership Lopus describes, he offers hope, telling story after story of how organizations scoring low in one or more areas, when they took on board the truth and acted on what they learned, were able to turn around employee engagement. Likewise, the book discourages complacency, particularly if organizations score well. Organizational performance, and what is worse, employee engagement can slip. Continuous assessment is vital because of how much is changing in the workplace.
Each chapter also offers reflection questions, resources from the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, and other resources. He also offers in an appendix a workplace culture pulse survey that offers a good basic assessment of workplace health, if those who do the survey are honest in their responses. I can’t think of situation in a Christian organization where reading of this kind of assessment as well as study of the eight keys to flourishing would not be helpful. The practices it encourages are clear and concrete, the stories in each chapter offer encouragement for the transforming of organizational culture, and throughout is a vision of engaged people working together with great passion and joy toward purposes that are deeply shared and consequential. Isn’t that what we all long for in our workplaces?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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