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Healthy Work Environment: Alicia Howard's Insights on Jenga Culture

Building and sustaining a healthy work environment is akin to playing a game of Jenga. Just as each piece carefully placed in the tower affects its stability, every decision, interaction, and element within a company shapes its culture. In this episode of Qonversations, Alicia Howard, founder of the People Scale, explores the complexities of nurturing a healthy work environment and the profound impact it has on an organization's success.


Understanding the People Scale: Scaling for a Healthy Work Culture

Alicia emphasizes the importance of scaling people as the secret to creating a healthy work environment. Just as Jenga involves stacking wooden blocks to build a tower, organizations must focus on growing their people—developing their abilities and leadership skills and fostering a culture that enables their best work in a healthy atmosphere.

The Jenga Analogy: Cultures in Motion Toward Health

Organizational cultures evolve. In the early stages, cultures are dynamic and fast-moving, similar to the lively game of Jenga. However, as time progresses, cultures can become more precarious, necessitating careful consideration of each move to prevent collapse while maintaining a healthy work environment.

“Just like in Jenga, if you move the wrong piece, everything can come collapsing down. You move the right piece, and you keep building.”



The Culture-First Approach to Leadership in a Healthy Work Environment

AS culture-first approach involves respecting individual differences, valuing contributions, and creating an environment that aligns with a company's vision and values, ultimately contributing to a healthier work environment.


Hiring for a Healthy Work Environment and Culture Fit

Creating an all-welcoming work environment starts as early as the hiring process stage at a business. Companies should clearly define their vision and mission, ensuring that prospective hires can see the environment they'll be joining and understand the meaningful impact they'll have on creating a healthy work environment.

“Think about what we want to do with our company. What are we focused on? What are our goals, what is our vision, and make sure that that's clearly defined.”


Frontline Workers: The Culture Ambassadors in Any Work Environment

Frontline employees are often the face of a company, interacting directly with customers. Ensuring that these employees have the means to provide valuable feedback based on their interactions with customers is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment. These are the individuals who are going to display to the public whatever is happening in the background. This may either help your business or really hurt it, depending on how the work environment is approached. Additionally, people on the front lines have some of the most valuable insights because they're listening to the pain points, the challenges, the complaints, and the compliments from the customer.


Internal Experience (IEX): Shaping Customer Experience Through Happy Employees

By focusing on creating a positive internal experience for employees within a healthy work environment, businesses can enhance the customer experience. Fostering a culture of respect, purpose, and growth within the organization leads to employees who are passionate and motivated to provide exceptional service. A happy employee will lead to a happy and loyal customer, further emphasizing the need for a healthy work environment.

“Create a really strong team that feels valued. It is truly valued. They will take care of the customers and ensure the customers are having the best possible experience.”


Staying in Place: The Path to Growth in a Healthy Work Environment

Encouraging growth in place and recognizing contributions can lead to a stronger, more fulfilled workforce and contribute to a healthier work environment. Alicia points out that achieving the right balance within a team is crucial. A team comprises both individual contributors and leaders, and maintaining this equilibrium ensures that everyone can play to their strengths. In fact, you might need 10 or even 15 people who are exceptional individual contributors for every leader or two. Therefore, fostering an environment where ongoing conversations are the norm, especially through regular reviews, is essential. These discussions allow you to understand where each team member stands and what they aspire to achieve. Whether it's a desire to level up or a hunger for additional training and certifications to excel, these conversations ensure that employees remain in roles where they can truly shine and deliver their best work in a healthy work environment.


Just as a Jenga tower requires careful placement of each piece to reach greater heights, businesses must be deliberate in shaping their culture and maintaining a healthy work environment. Nurturing employees, fostering respect, and prioritizing internal experience is key to creating a culture that stands the test of time and supports long-term success in a healthy work environment. In the end, it's the people who make all the difference in building a thriving organization and maintaining a healthy work environment.

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