Managers need to see the company from the perspective of their employees. They need to make it easy and comfortable for employees to share ideas and express themselves. That might mean putting the company’s well being ahead of ego. But, the reward is greater profits, better employee wellness, and a more satisfying management experience.
How well do you really know what your employees need to be happy?
All managers have in common the challenge of meeting the needs of their business, while keeping employees happy. Often lost in that mix is an understanding that not everyone is motivated by the same goals. Our parents and grandparents might have been content with a healthy paycheck, but that may no longer be enough, especially for passionate Gen-Xers and purposeful Millennials.
A few recent studies suggest big changes in how employees these days relate to their jobs and management. “Today’s workplace is an interesting assortment of multi generational values, approaches to technology, leadership styles, and workplace preferences,” says Henrik Bresman, Associate Professor of Organisational Behavior at the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre. That’s putting it mildly.
Getting to know this diverse assortment of employees will help, but more important, are your employees willing and able to tell you what they really think?
Purpose Matters More than you Think
While a competitive paycheck is a great starting point, employee motivation can only be maintained with a sense of purpose. Indeed, when Korn Ferry, the LA-based Executive Search firm, asked Gen-Xers, those born between 1964 and 1984, what’s most important to them at work, 39% cited “the ability to make a difference in the organization.”
For Millennials, individuals born between 1982 and 2004, it’s finding a job that fulfils a sense of purpose. That’s just one reason why “Millennials change jobs more often than other generation,” according to a recent study from Gallup.
Your Millennial employee is more than likely asking “Does this organization value my strengths and my contributions?” How you respond will affect both productivity and employee retention.
Live to Work or Work to Live?
Most people spend more hours at work than they do with family or friends. That’s a problem. Recent studies have shown that having a life beyond work is one of the top priorities for Millennials. It’s also not good business; long hours at work doesn’t necessarily mean more productivity. In fact, it turns out that employees who have good work-life balance are more likely to remain motivated at work.
There are myriad ways to promote a positive work/life balance for your employees. Employers can let staff know that family is important by recognizing every single employee’s birthday, and sending gifts for anniversaries and births, for example. But, keeping in mind that different employees have different needs, your best bet is to offer them options.
Allowing flexibility in scheduling, for instance, will be very helpful for employees with families, who sometimes need to get a child to the dentist, or attend a school meeting. Some businesses are also permitting employees to work four 10-hour shifts so they can have long weekends each week instead of the normal two-day weekend. You might also consider providing services so that employees can spend more off-time with their families and friends instead of scrambling to run errands, like a pickup/dropoff deal with a local dry-cleaning service, for example, or free gift-wrapping during the holidays.
Remember that your employees might not be able to tell you that a poor work/life balance is affecting their happiness at work and home. Lacking confidence and experience, their first response might simply be to bolt. You’ve wasted the time and expense to train an employee, and lost a valuable asset. Improving your staff’s quality of life will certainly pay off with better productivity. It’s also the right thing to do.
Workplace Culture, Work Space Culture
Your company’s workspace should reflect the workplace culture you want to convey. If you want to encourage teamwork, create a communal space within the office where employees will be able to discuss their work. If you want transparent and accessible communications, eliminate cubicle-style desks and introduce instead an open floor plan. It goes without saying, it’s difficult for employees to feel hopeful and motivated in an office space that is dark, cramped or too noisy.
And cultivate a great workplace culture. It starts at the top. As a manager, try your best to be approachable; make employee recognition a priority; and facilitate personal and professional employee development. Then motivate your team to put into play the values that your office layout encourages, such as inter-team discussions and unambiguous communications between departments.
How important is workplace culture? According to a new PWC study about millennials in the workplace, the opportunity for development and company reputation were the top two factors influencing their decision to choose and stay with a particular job.
Being Stuck in the Same Role is Demoralizing
While employers complain that loyal employees are difficult to find these days, consider the other side of the equation: no one wants to stagnate in the same unhappy job for years. To to reduce employee turnover, play an active role in helping your employees progress in their jobs and develop personally. Indeed, in a study by Intelligence Group, 79% of Millennials would actually prefer their boss to be more of a coach or mentor than overseer.
In his 2015 book, The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, Victor Lipman explains the importance of growth opportunities to boost employee engagement. Lipman cites research in the Harvard Business Review which suggests that employee development planning should be a key function of your organization. For starters, “People care if you take an interest in their future,” writes Lipman. “It builds loyalty, and loyalty increases productivity…capable young, employees want training, mentoring, and coaching. They want to acquire new skills. They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization.” And he warns, if your company doesn’t provide this support, “enterprising employees will look elsewhere for it.”
Taking the time to find what will drive all your employees to reach their potential may seem like a daunting task. But, it’s time well spent. If these recent studies are correct, businesses that encourage employees to voice their opinions – good and bad – will enjoy better financial results than their counterparts.
One way to find out could be the implementation of an employee engagement platform, such as Peakon, which automatically collects employee feedback, analyses it, and then delivers back insights in real-time. “Ensuring your staff feel like they make a difference in work in turn encourages them to be more productive, more driven and therefore more engaged in their role,” says Peakon’s co-founder Dan Rogers.
In the meantime, start by getting to know the people who work for you and looking at the company and their jobs from their perspective. They might see things very differently than you. And that might be a very good thing for your company.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
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