With the continual increase of handheld technology, it’s only natural to assume that there would be a similar increase in the ability to communicate with others.
Time and again, however, we’re reminded that even with an influx of input, that’s not always the case. Tools that were built to improve our capacity to communicate have seemingly decreased our tendency toward authentic human connection.
While more and more everyday processes are being automated, the biggest detriment to your bottom line is most likely the engagement and retention of your people. This additionally affects workplace safety. In fact, lack of focus and engagement increases the likelihood of safety incidents by 48%. This same deficiency will also add to quality incidents and absenteeism. When considering how to best invest in your employees, there’s a direct relationship between their engagement and leadership capability. Increasing productivity doesn’t have to be a chore, though. By building relationships, you can turn your employees into your biggest asset.
Death of the psychological contract
In the past, many companies have taken advantage of having the upper hand. There was, in a sense, a psychological contract between employee and company. It wasn’t uncommon for employees to feel a certain loyalty to the business where they worked and in return, there was an implied security and standard of work-life balance. With the current unemployment rate so low, there are more jobs than candidates. This has shifted the norm and, essentially, ended the psychological contract. If an employee perceives a decrease in standards, the impetus to stay is no longer there. The motivation to stay with a company through its ups and downs for modest raises and an eventual retirement has been traded for a more migratory pattern to the employee’s benefit. The onus now lies on the company to cater to motivate employees and meet their needs in order to boost retention.
In order to best serve your employees, you need to know their motivation. Incentives will vary from one person to another, but a person’s motivation is not always what you think. Money does play a role in keeping employees, but it is not typically the biggest influence to stay at a particular company. The motivating factors to retain employees have been referred to by Kim Seeling-Smith, a longtime industry professional, as the Currencies of Choice. While she outlines eight, we’ll focus on five impactful points she makes on how to better the work environment and retain employees. These Currencies are ways to connect with employees and create a welcoming work environment that’s more amenable to everyone. By using these Currencies of Choice, employees are able to do what they do best every day. It is essential for direct managers to have open conversations with their employees to build lasting relationships. By engaging them, you can increase productivity, reduce safety incidents, and help retain valued members of your organization. There are many ways to fortify these relationships, including the following:
1. Use Spot-on Job Descriptions
Let’s start in the very beginning, before you even hire a candidate with the job description. Job descriptions in many places are vague and, oftentimes, don’t adequately describe the expectations of the position. Spot-on job descriptions outline the company purpose and values to encourage application by individuals who have similar purpose and values. Additionally, the best job descriptions will be compelling to candidates who have the appropriate background. They outline the tasks to be performed as well as desired strengths in the ideal candidate. While they may not be as lengthy as previously, spot-on job descriptions will list measurable outcomes in straightforward language. This sets expectations from the outset rather than having to discover expectations as the job progresses. Beginning with tangible descriptors in mind will show candidates exactly what you value in an employee and permit them to speak to the strengths that they embody.
2. Increase Communication
An increase in communication with existing employees lowers the intimidation factor between them and the manager. Conversations might not come naturally at the beginning if they have not been normal previously. To start this habit, though, you can use formulaic conversations initially, then develop a more natural cadence. One key point to open communication is delineating how an employee can be effective. Giving clear outlines of how success is measured as well as how to further succeed will provide the employee with set expectations and typically prompt him or her to perform thusly. Secondly, express appreciation for a job well done. Informal exchanges, even if they are brief, when an employee exceeds expectations will forge a more collegial relationship and encourage the employee to continue to challenge him or herself. The Gallup Organization determined that people are 300% more likely to leave within the following year if they do not feel appreciated in their role. To this point, encourage an environment where employees feel their ideas are valid and that they are confident in sharing them. An open interchange between employee and manager strengthens bonds and builds trust in the relationship.
3. Set Individual Goals
After moving away from more formulaic conversation, you can begin to converse openly and identify the strengths and passions of each individual on your team. Using this new knowledge, set goals for each person that speak to their particular interests. By identifying these interests, you can set target objectives based on what each person does best. This also permits more naturally defined outcomes that are more aligned with their gifts. Speaking to the employee’s strengths to define his or her goals fosters additional confidence and ownership in the role itself. When you outline these goals, ensure that you give each one a greater purpose. The goal itself may be a measurable outcome, but the “why” is often deeper. By further explaining the significance of the goal, you heighten the worth of the individual within the team.
4. Delineate a Clear Pattern for Growth
Most people are motivated by an innate drive to improve themselves. In recent surveys, Right Management reported that up to 37% of employees have not had career conversations with their manager. In studies by the Gallup Organization, only about 48% of employees understand what they’re required to achieve even within their current role. With no clear direction, it’s easy to see how employees might remain stagnant. Create dialog with your employees that show them exactly how to progress within their role and even beyond. Make sure they understand the expectations for how to best perform their role at present and take steps to continue, either vertically or horizontally. If there is not a clear vertical path, show them how they can make steps toward furthering their career in the company.
5. Use Strength-Based Thinking
In most existing performance reviews, the focus is on areas for growth or improvement. The employees start off with reminders of their imperfection and are not praised for the areas where they are already succeeding. By stressing their deficiencies, employees’ performance tends to decrease year on year. When you change your approach and focus primarily on the employees’ strengths, you empower them and give confidence in their abilities. Behavioral psychologists show that we define these abilities at a young age, between ages three and 15. Using these strengths connects with a longstanding part of their conscious and creates a positive focus on who they are.
Improving long-term performance is a process that is achieved by taking daily steps to better the team morale. Treating employees as individuals who have valued input and original ideas that can contribute to the organization as a whole adds to the feeling of ownership and belonging in the company. To best motivate people who work for you, treat them as people. Investing financially and valuing diversity has tangible benefits for the business, as well as innumerable benefits to the people who work with you. Building a mutual respect with others helps show that by doing their role, they are valued, appreciated, and integral to your success as well as theirs.