Who runs the world? According to Beyoncé, it's girls.
What makes the world go round? It's love, according to J.Lo and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I am of the belief that people, more specifically employees, run the world and make everything possible when it comes to business. Employees are the backbone of every organization. While there must be a leader, a visionary, someone to shoot for the moon, there must also be the army of people that support that leader, that see the vision and build the lasso to catch the moon, to achieve goal after goal.
One of the greatest assets a company has is its workforce, and like any living, breathing entity, it requires direction, encouragement, kindness, boundaries, and opportunities. Knowing how to talk to, educate, and strengthen your workforce is the difference between a good employer and a great employer. Below I have listed some ways you can go from good to great.
Play to People’s Strengths
Everyone is different and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Learning what an employee’s strengths are is important not only for the success of a project and ultimately the company, but also for the employee’s overall happiness. It’s natural for people to feel more comfortable and confident doing something they are good at, so use that to your advantage as a manager.
Here is an example that may resonate with you. Bob and Jim are on a team to present an idea to a valuable potential customer. You assigned Jim to be the lead presenter since he is your senior man, but Jim gets cold feet and sweats an unusual amount during public speaking. Bob, on the other hand, was captain of his college forensics team and is the volunteer announcer for his local community events. Which one would you want to make that pitch?
Don’t be afraid of changing your mind and assignments to better leverage your team’s assets. Bob would be a more confident presenter, thus, in turn, portraying your company in a better light.
Communicate (the good and the not-so-good)
We have all heard the saying “Communication is key,” and while it may seem like common sense and most likely you are thinking “Of course I communicate with my employees,” the truth is that lack of effective communication can cost you much more than unhappy employees. In a survey of both large and small companies, the lack of effective communication costs those companies $62.4 million and $420,000 per year respectively.
When communicating with your employees (or anyone really) try to remember the C’s of effective communication:
- Clear — what is the purpose of this communication?
- Concise — try to keep it brief, avoid “filler words” and repetition
- Concrete — make sure you include some details, just not too much; your audience should have a clear picture of what you are trying to say
- Correct — double-check for mistakes; sending out a written communication with spelling mistakes does not make you look professional
- Coherent — does it make sense? Is it logical — have you connected all the dots?
- Complete — make sure that your audience has all the information to take action. You can’t expect your employees to show up for a meeting if you don’t tell them when and where.
- Courteous — make sure you are using an open and friendly tone
Most people want feedback, good and not-so-good. Relaying not-so-good information can be tricky, but it’s needed. Just follow the C’s above and keep it professional.
Set Expectations (for both sides)
Making sure that everyone at your company is “on the same page” is vital to the success of your business. If half of your team doesn’t know what is expected, how will they achieve your goal? Setting and communicating realistic expectations will help ensure that all the oars are rowing the same direction. So how do you do this?
- Make your expectations clear — don’t muck them up with fancy language, make it clear, easy to understand, and concise. Make sure your managers know how to explain the goal and what is expected out of their team instantly. If your manager can’t do this, I highly doubt their team of employees can either.
- Set them up for success — explain the why behind the goal. An informed employee will emotionally invest more than an employee that is just told to do something.
- Give them a challenge — make sure to set expectations that are challenging, yet obtainable with hard work and determination. There is nothing more defeating than being given a goal that is totally unrealistic.
The flip side of this coin is to set and communicate the expectations for management and the company. Your employees want to know what they can expect out of you. Accountability across the board is the key.
Acknowledge and Reward Your Employees
As humans, we all crave the feeling of being valued, of belonging, and being integral to a larger group or purpose. One of the easiest ways to make your employees feel appreciated is to simply acknowledge them and provide praise when appropriate. Whether you have a large manufacturing company or a small bakery, acknowledging when an employee does an exceptional job can be as simple as a handwritten note. Taking the time to write a personalized thank you note to the employee for a job well done can repay you tenfold with the goodwill that it brings.
Investing in your employees by providing training and other learning opportunities shows them that you believe in them and want to help them achieve even greater success. While the training and learning opportunities should be relevant to their position or a position they are growing into, ideally you should allow the employee to have some input on what they are.
Now we come to the almighty dollar. Monetary incentives can play a role in your overall plan, but they should not be the only component. Grab a stack of $10-$25 gift cards the next time you are out to use for “on the spot” rewards. Let’s say one of your customer service representatives handled a particularly difficult call. They went above and beyond for your customer to get them the answers they needed. Allowing your managers to recognize and reward this effort at the moment (and quite often in front of their colleagues) will delight the employee and even act as an incentive for others.
On a grander scale, making sure that you are providing adequate salaries for your employees is critical. Now, I realize that there are budgetary constraints, and this may not always be feasible. Having underpaid employees that are good, engaged, and committed to your company is a recipe for disaster. Allowing for a certain amount of salary increase when you are budgeting for the next year is important, but make sure you aren’t just calculating a “standard cost of living” increase. Take the time to review your employees and see if their duties have expanded or if they have taken on more responsibility. If you had to hire someone for their position, could you get the same level of talent for what you are currently paying that employee? If yes, great; if no, you may want to consider an increase.
Attract and Retain High-Quality People
Moving from job to job every few years is more acceptable than it was 20 years ago. There are few places left that offer retirement pensions that used to incentivize employees to stay for 10+ years. So what do you do to attract and retain high-quality employees? Many employers are leveraging internal marketing to retain employees. Reputation plays a significant role when a potential employee is making the decision to accept a job offer. Just like having a good public reputation and being a company that your customers trust and feel good about, having an internal reputation is just as important, if not more so.
By investing in internal marketing, you will be able to establish a company culture, one where your employees are engaged and become some of your best advocates. Using employee testimonials in your public-facing media helps spread the word and cement the idea that your company is a good place to work.
Once you are able to attract high-quality employees, what do you do to keep them? Because employees are all unique and you have no control over outside influences, such as relocation of a spouse’s job, there is not a singular answer. However, you can put in place some measures that will increase your chances of retaining your top talent. Having an employee engagement program, an open-door management style, and implementing 360-degree reviews where employees can openly discuss their concerns and provide valuable feedback are just a few.
Employees are people. Treating them with respect, allowing them to grow, and rewarding them along the way will help you not only be a good person but a great employer. Great employers are the type that people talk about, that people want to work for. Take stock of what you currently do for and with your employees and see if there are any opportunities you can take advantage of. If you are one of the lucky ones that have already realized that employees are the lifeblood of your business, kudos to you — and your employees!
About The Author
Sue is a project manager at Illumine8. Her past work experience includes working for various trade associations in Washington, D.C., and serving as Business Operations Manager for a large limousine and bus company. Sue also has more than 10 years of experience working for financial planning firms.