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Building a Better Workplace

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Dr. Jennifer Robin and her co-author,
Dr. Michael Burchell, interviewed leaders
at 10 workplaces considered among the best nationally and internationally for their book No Excuses: How You Can Turn Any Workplace into a Great One.

An outstanding benefits package may attract employees, but the most integral building blocks toward keeping them are trust, pride and camaraderie, said Dr. Jennifer Robin, assistant professor of management and leadership at Bradley.

Dr. Robin and co-author Dr. Michael Burchell interviewed CEOs, human resources directors, and managers at 10 workplaces for their latest book, No Excuses: How You Can Turn Any Workplace into a Great One.

The authors chose a variety of outstanding workplaces to show that no matter what size a company is or its mission, “everything is scalable,” Robin explained. 

All 10 companies have appeared on national or international lists of great workplaces and represent an array of sizes and interests. Multinational Coca-Cola, nonprofit Teach for America, online shoe and clothing company Zappos, Alston & Bird law firm, Balfour Beatty construction company, Devon Energy, healthcare leader Mayo Clinic, Whole Foods Market, consulting firm Accenture, and computer storage and data management company NetApp round out the list of employers featured in the book. 

A “can-do” guide for employers, the book was written in response to the authors’ first book, The Great Workplace: How to Build It, How to Keep It, and Why It Matters. “When we made presentations after our first book, managers would say it sounds good, but they can’t do it because they are too big, they are in the wrong industry, or they don’t have the money or time. Our No Excuses book shows there is much every manager can do. Coca-Cola is huge, so we wanted information from them. Teach for America is a nonprofit, so we wanted to know what you can do when you have limited resources. Balfour Beatty is not necessarily a company you think of as being warm and fuzzy, and Accenture — talk about not having time,” Robin said.

“We found the biggest difference between great workplace managers and not-so-great ones is that effective managers saw the challenge and decided to do it anyway. They didn’t let what they can’t do stop them from doing what they can do,” Robin noted. “We talk about the importance of that attitude. The remaining chapters take every one of the excuses we heard and knock them down.”

Robin uses some of the examples in her book when talking about organizational culture in undergraduate courses. However, the book applies most directly to Bradley’s Executive MBA program: “Many of our students are faced with the challenges in the book. Either they make excuses themselves or are surrounded by people who make excuses. We started with a few naysayers, but by the end, most were eager to try the strategies in their own organizations.”  

By Nancy Ridgeway
Photography by Daryl Wilson