Hallowe’en comes around quicker and quicker don’t you think? We still have groups coming around each year dressed up in spooky outfits, with adorable made up faces and armed with little buckets ready to be filled with sweets and good things, and that is just the adults!
I recently saw a post on Facebook that really resonated with me, it said in response to Richard Branson’s post “Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow” that it “was a lesson a former employer once understood, then forgot.”
This led to many replies on how there was a lot of forgetting going on out there, and this is so true. How many of your employees do feel forgotten, feel like they do not matter, that no one actually notices or cares what they do, that even if they do something extra, it will be ignored and then that too will be forgotten. The resulting behaviour of these forgotten, yet highly talented people is that they react, they mistrust, they become scared; and why? Simple, because you the employer chose to behave in a way that fostered this, and don’t come back saying that corporate decisions sometimes have to upset people, I get that, but it is the way that it is done, the way that it is said, the considered actions that follow and the way that it leaves people feeling. You see ultimately that will affect your reputation, and when that goes down the pan, well, you’ll wish you could be forgotten then, the only problem is, that just when you think it has been forgotten, someone will be out there to remind you that it hasn’t.
Much is written about employers and the importance of caring for the staff that work for them. Richard Branson’s post again; “Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow”. It makes sense really. I work with lots of different types of business and many of them try very hard to really take the best care of their staff in the hope that they will want to remain working at that business due to the feeling that they get being there. These employers want their staff to have a high opinion of them, give lots of additional discretionary behaviour (take on more, stay a bit later, that type of thing) to be able to advocate working for them, and therefore attract people to come and be a part of the working family. This is known as employee engagement. Get it right and employees will make claims that the business is great, and that they feel part of something and that the business cares. The amount of effort this takes can be astronomical especially when measured over time, but the rewards speak for themselves. It starts with simply things that cost nothing.
Being Consistent – Senior Management need to communicate clearly and effectively in a way that is consistent and not misleading. Underestimating the intelligence or awareness of the employees can be catastrophic to a business when information is miscommunicated. It can lead to mistrust and an erosion of engagement. Remember the number one thing that businesses are critiqued for by employees is communication. Consistency makes a difference. Companies need to take any messages being communicated, sense check them with sample groups first e.g. a member of Human Resources, two middle managers, some representatives from the teams, just to see if the message is clear and to answer any questions. I always liked announcements that were sent out packaged with an FAQ. It gave me the sense that real thought and consideration had been put into the announcement and not just something scribbled together in haste by a CEO and the Comms Team.
Foster Ownership – Allow employees to challenge and get involved with changes, they are at the coal face of a business and are more in touch that Senior Managers often give them credit for. One area that can be observed is when a change is announced in a business. As an aside have you ever noticed that often these changes are announced on a Friday? How stupid, CEO’s, Board Directors & Comms Managers should be criticized for this practice, it is not healthy to give employees the weekend to think about things as they will only get stressed and worried. It is far better to let them have a weekend and announce it on a Monday when the week ahead can be used to channel feedback and offer support, that way by the time the weekend comes around again the staff feel calmer and more open to acceptance. Sometimes employees only see the change in terms of their own perspective, especially if it affects them that way. They are not offered the chance to discuss the changes constructively and even if they could they believe that they will be seen as being negative. That is a cultural thing and should be wiped out. Employees need to understand why things are being done, so that they see the full picture, we spend so much time training managers to focus on the task, the team and the individual, but we forget to manage the people through the same areas. I am always genuinely amazed at how constructive and effective people can be when they feel included. Keep things secret and keep employees excluded, then you foster blame and mistrust.
Learn to Appreciate – Businesses need to learn the value of ‘thank you’ it is so simply and can mean so much, yet often we see arrogant managers who treat employees as if they are nothing but a commodity, paid to do their job and should be grateful for it. These Managers do not see the additional work that staff sometimes put in just to get the job done, the hours they put in can be scary, often long after the Manager has gone home. Let’s face it, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your job description accurately reflects what you do? Not many I bet. If you had to rewrite your own job description it would probably involve a lot more than was originally advertised. Yet still we see CEO’s, Directors, Managers asking us to do more, work harder, work smarter (bloody hell I hate that phrase) and not one word of thanks or a sign of appreciation. Oh and the odd cake doesn’t cut it.
The Other Side
We need to be balanced, and what you have read works another way too. Employees need to consistent in the way they communicate, not militant, not secretive, not two faced. The approach should be to ask constructive questions, seek clarity, listen to what is being said, and not to react, but to respond, there is a difference. They need to own what is going on around them, not apportion blame or carry out a witch-hunt, that is not constructive in any way, however right it may feel at the time. Finally they need to appreciate what is good, appreciate what could be good and appreciate how it could be made better, even if that means they have to make the decision to move on. Remember employers are not responsible for an employee’s career, they do not own an employee’s career, an employer and place of work is a conduit that is used to play out a career, developed by the honing of skills, knowledge and experience of each employee until such time that the employee feels that something better can be gained elsewhere. With good management practice, an employer and their business will be host to long standing careers with wonderful people who develop, learn and share together, wanting to deliver great results and earning rewards for themselves along the way commensurate to their skills. These people will be highly valued, sought after and be the envy of other businesses wanting to be like them, and hey those businesses are out there right now, and loving every minute of it. I hope you experience them. In the meantime enjoy Hallowe’en for another year, do something silly and daft, dress up, watch a scary movie, eat popcorn dusted with salt and sugar, and be among people for whom you genuinely care for, show them too, and watch their reactions. Magic.
This blog forms part of the Management & Leadership Development offered by SerialTrainer7 Ltd. If you would like to find out more about Management training for your business then email Simon@serialtrainer7.com or call 07979 537824