What matters most to your employees?
That was the question we posed last year in this blog post based on The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report. We were shocked to learn that topping the list of factors contributing to job satisfaction were (1) communication between employees and senior management, and (2) relationships with immediate supervisors.
Better relationships and communication with leadership are right up there with benefits and compensation!? Yep! Today’s employees want some very basic things – to be treated like people and acknowledged as valuable members of the organization. And according to this year’s SHRM Report, the results are even more astounding.
The New Workplace
SHRM’s study of 600 US employees conducted in November 2014, found these 10 factors topped the list of those that influence overall employee satisfaction and engagement in the workplace:
1) Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
2) Trust between employees and senior management
3) Benefits overall
4) Compensation/pay overall
5) Job security
6) Relationship with immediate supervisor
7) Opportunities to use skills and abilities in your work
8) Immediate supervisor’s respect for employee ideas
9) Organization’s financial stability
10) Management’s recognition of employee job performance
Compensation, benefits, job security, and financial stability come as no surprise. What is surprising is that respectful, trusting relationships are even more highly valued than paychecks and dental plans.
Let’s unpack several of these factors which, taken together, indicate a shift in the American Workplace. Managers need to start asking themselves (if they aren’t already), How can I create more respectful, trusting relationships and recognize employees for the great work they do?
It’s not just for Aretha Franklin.
The word is based on Latin and means to look back upon. In other words employees want to be seen and recognized, not just be treated like a cog in the machine or worse.
In the dying command and control paradigm, employees are viewed as assets and are intentionally or subconsciously seen as less than whole. Managers demand performance or information so that they can make decisions that influence business growth. But how often do they thank those individuals for their contributions, or empower them to make the decisions themselves?
The wording and weight of this factor is significant – 72 percent of respondents value respect for “all employees at all levels”. Employees expect to be treated with respect and demand to see leaders treat everyone at the organization that way.
The impact of poorly treating any employee, is felt by all. These types of behaviors create toxic environments where nobody feels safe. It’s like going out with someone for the first time who is extremely nice to you but rude to the waiter. This behavior sets off red flags about who the person really is and begs the question, How long will it be before I am treated poorly?
Some managers may think that compensation and benefits rank high enough on the list that employees will put up with disrespect and distrust as long as they have their basic needs met. Take note that job security is sitting at #5, way below “trust” and “respect”. A company’s best and brightest could be willing to leave if they are disrespected or if the work environment is unhealthy.
The Speed of Trust
According to the SHRM study, organizations that lack trust between their employees and upper management often develop adverse working conditions. If management does not support its workers, suspicion may arise, resulting in a less than productive workforce. Apprehensive employees may feel the need to withhold information or use other tactics to gain leverage.
People who participate in relationships which lack trust are always on edge. Communication is stifled and bottlenecks can form. Managers are unable to gather information on what is really going on. Before long a stressful environment is created that drains employee energy, and is a leading factor in decisions to leave the company.
Conversely, trusting relationships are a boon for everyone. Stephen M. R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, that the speed at which people grow their business is directly proportionate to the time that they invest in creating trusting relationships: High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster & cost goes down. It’s that predictable.
Leaders set the example by always being open and honest and infusing transparency into all aspects and all levels of the business. They can even share their own goals, progress, and failures to create a culture of open communication. Then employees feel emboldened to take risks, knowing that those risks will either pay-off or result in respectful and constructive criticism.
HR has its place in terms of handling paperwork and benefits, or providing guidance to managers in the areas of people and performance management. Ultimately it is the immediate supervisors themselves who need to own these relationships. Two of the top ten factors on the list involve supervisors directly – employees want solid relationship with managers and want to be respected for their creative and innovative thinking.
When employees feel these strong bonds of trust, they will share issues openly instead of sweeping them under the rug. And when leaders create safe environments, employees will be far more likely to generate innovative ideas more often.
A proven method is for managers to have regular constructive discussions where they solicit employees to share their challenges, achievements, and ideas. Managers who have regular conversations with employees can more easily provide feedback on performance. Over time, a communication rhythm will develop where employees know they can turn to their managers for anything. When employees feel these strong bonds of trust, they will share issues openly instead of sweeping them under the rug.
And when leaders create safe environments, employees will be far more likely to generate innovative ideas more often. According to SHRM, appreciation for employees’ ideas is also significant to workers’ sense of belonging. Furthermore, those directly working on the day-today challenges of the job may generate the most effective ideas.
SHRM collaborated with the National Center for the Middle Market, to investigate HR professionals’ opinions of their organizations’ performance management systems. In comparison with other business issues, the majority of HR professionals reported performance management was a top priority. Yet only two percent of HR professionals deemed their organization’s performance management system worthy of an A rating!
15Five’s Guide To Creating High Performing Teams responds to this deficit in performance management:
People are driven by extrinsic motivators like recognition and compensation, or the intrinsic achievement of mastery. Managers who openly acknowledge employees for who they are becoming, empower them to do their best work and encourage them to step into expertise or leadership roles.
When managers highlight the strengths of people at a company, those people are far more engaged, productive and creative. There are clear and measurable positive impacts to the bottom line.
Yet the highest level of personal fulfillment is attained when people become something better. That’s when your employees’ focused work has led to a position of mastery, and you’re telling your employee that, beyond having performed well on a task or having increased revenue, you see this transformation in him or her.
The bottom line here is that the world of work has changed. Employees are no longer putting on their work persona while working 9 to 5 for their paychecks. They won’t continue to deal with troubled workplaces while griping about the fat-cats up in the C-suite.
People spend the majority of their lives at work. They don’t want to survive, they want to thrive in healthy environments. They want to be treated with respect and contribute the skills and abilities in which they take pride. They want to bring their whole selves to work every day and develop meaningful relationships with other whole human beings. This is not the reality that we are living into, it is the reality that has already arrived.
This post first appeared on 15five.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.
Read next: The better way to use stock photography