Are you still confused why a promising employee left unexpectedly? The current job market can be puzzling – even for hiring managers. Hundreds of candidates fiercely compete for one mediocre role, while headhunters spend months trying to tempt one chosen specialist to consider their offer. While complaining about increased competition and reduced pay, outstanding professionals with a proven track record have higher expectations than ever before.
It isn’t all about the paycheck and perks. The affluent Western society has a rising expectation for the work to be meaningful, contribute to identity, and fulfill needs. ‘Usually, work is inherently meaningful when something other than money is gained’- wrote author Mike Martin. How can a manager become more alert to what employees lack and yearn for? The report by the Forum Corporation identified five key employees needs. According to the paper, an employee usually has one, dominant need.
Do you enjoy a DIY project or spending a sunny Saturday washing your car? For many, the appeal of such tasks lies in the ability to see an instant impact of your actions and the feeling of accomplishment. Unfortunately, complex projects rarely provide an instant gratification. Many employees find themselves frustrated with tasks that drag on without producing visible results. They also tend to detest systems and processes, hurrying to “just get things done”. If you notice an employee underperforming, dedicate some time to communicating his individual impact on the company’s success. Show how his activities link to overall strategy. Ongoing, real-time feedback can also make a world of difference.
What’s the difference between recognition and accomplishment? While the second describes the employee’s perception of their work and the impact they make, recognition is about feeling valued by others. Individuals who strongly crave recognition can flourish into exceptional professionals, given enough prize and reassurance. On the flip side, neglecting to acknowledge their hard work can leave them feeling discouraged, insecure or even resentful.
Ensure that you appreciate both the effort and results of recognition-seekers. Reward individual contribution, remembering to mix up the type of encouragement offered. Hearing “great job!” after closing a difficult deal can be rewarding, but recognition should also involve reaching into your pocket. Employee appreciation will wear out if the employee doesn’t feel that his accomplishments are truly valued in a quantifiable way – with a pay raise, bonus or even just shopping vouchers.
While “office party misfortunes” theme has been mercilessly exploited by sitcom writers, employees do need to have some fun at work. Mistakenly perceiving team activities and entertainment as unnecessary splashing out or an excuse for laziness, managers fail to notice their impact on productivity. Even workers in the 9-to-5 grind often can’t just put their feet up as many juggle multiple responsibilities: work, family, freelancing, volunteering. In the competitive job market, committed workers notoriously deprive themselves of well-deserved time to unwind. An occasional birthday, an annual retreat or an impromptu lunch will restore energy and make your team feel cared for. Noticing that the company is willing to go the extra mile will surely be appreciated and stimulate engagement and enthusiasm.
There is an increasing pressure on each individual worker to earn his keep and deliver value to the company. Employers demand efficiency, but does it mean acting mechanically? Considering the time spent weekly in a workplace, it’s impossible to avoid forming some emotional relationships. Friendships develop, expertise and ideas flow across the team and, in time, employees find themselves caring about co-workers.
The workers begin to develop a shared identity and consequently, identify themselves with the company that brought them together.Not surprisingly, increased productivity emerges naturally from the sense of belonging. There is a lot that a manager can do to promote the sense of belonging. Make sure that employees aren’t routinely excluded from important meetings. Strive to be fair – be open to ideas of everyone on your team. Moreover, even if their solutions are irrelevant, provide constructive real-time feedback and encouragement.
While not all the workers aspire to “climb the ladder”, most young professionals are hoping for fast job progression. Lack of career growth is known to be one of the most common reasons for jumping the ship. The web is booming with articles on “fast-tracking your career”. How to react? Some managers are stuck in believing that training the employees will lead to constant pay-rise demands or even losing the worker, who feels he has outgrown the company. But Thomas J. Watson would surely disagree: “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” In other words, investing in your employees is nearly always worth it.
Don’t delay an overdue one-to-one chat about individual’s career aspirations. Inspire growth by connecting employees with senior leaders and influencers who can help them clarify their career objectives. If all engagement needs are different, how can you tend to the needs of the particular members of the team as well as the team as a whole? The Forum Corporation suggests that the solution lies in developing leaders who will learn and recognize engagement needs of the individuals. They can achieve this through one-to-one conversations, individual goals, performance conversations, job assignments. Sound like a lot of work? The thing is, it does pay off.
An Aon Hewitt study produced impressive results, quantifying the impact of increases in engagement on the bottom line. At the studied enterprise, a 1 percent increase in engagement resulted in a $20 million saving, a 5 percent increase contributed $102 million, and a 10 percent increase resulted in a whopping $204 million of profit. These numbers are definitely worth managers’ attention. But in order to get there, they need to give their full attention to employees first.