How to look after people — Do what you think is right
Recently I’ve had one particular subject on my mind and thought I’d share my thoughts in some sort of hope that it’d help me process my thoughts, and maybe even help my readers!
So, I’ve been thinking about employee happiness and how, as an employee, I like to be treated.
Why am I thinking about this?
Generally, this subject is something that plays on my mind quite a lot. As a leader within my organisation, I want people to understand that they are appreciated. I want them to know that the work they are doing makes a difference in our business. I want the teams who work longer hours, go the extra mile, and deliver really cool solutions to feel like they’re being treated fairly, and rewarded for their efforts and expertise.
I’ve previously (at other companies) seen how taking staff for granted can lead towards a culture of cynicism towards your management team, business, and ultimately your brand.
There’s a real risk that this behavior will then manifest itself as high performing staff feeling as if they have to move jobs to find gratification in their work, whilst average and low performers tend to get comfortable and accept the status quo for what it is.
As an employee, this isn’t something I want to be a part of. As a leader, this isn’t something I want to accept.
What does good look like to me?
I have to work for a company which I believe wants to advance and progress. The aspirations of the management and senior management teams create interesting and complex problems for teams to solve. Problems in relation to growth and scaling, adopting new working practices, and providing career progression by “on-the-job” learning. Ambition asks more questions than it answers and breeds excitement within an organisation.
I want to know that the company I work for wants to progress, in the same way, I want my career to progress.
I’m a parent so flexibility is something that I require. To be honest, I’d still want flexibility, even if I weren’t a parent. On average, children go to school for 190 days a year, so I require flexibility to do my other job of being a parent! Not only that, but sports days, sick days, parent days, short-notice assemblies… There’s a lot.
Being malleable with your working hours is so much more then it appears, though. This is your company saying “I understand that you have a life outside of this place, and fully encourage you in that.”
We need to recognise that people are individuals, human beings.
Problems, not prescriptions
Sorry for the uber-cheese (pictured) below, but it’s true.
Don’t prescribe how your teams should solve problems. Just give them problems and ask them to solve them. We employ people as experts, they’re qualified in what they do and are more likely to get behind an idea if they’re the ones who came up with it. This is mutually beneficial. It’s a win-win.
That’s not to say the business can’t drive which problems are being fed to teams but give your teams the freedom to solve problems and make decisions.
Show that you value your staff in as many ways as possible!
- Pay generously — This makes it hard for me to find a job elsewhere, yes, but at the same time, when I do speak to colleagues or peers, I know that the business I work for values my skills above the market rate.
- Give praise — And reward unexpectedly. If someone delivers a project well, or even solves a complex issue imaginatively, reward them. Do it unexpectedly, do it personally and do it publicly.
- Give your time — Do not cancel or show up late to 1–2–1 meetings. Show that you value your time with your team. Show an interest in what they’re working on. Offer support. Ask them how things are outside of work. Solicit feedback, because you can learn a lot from your employees and how they might perceive you.
There are many ways to show value, ensure that you show it in as many ways as you can.
Trust underpins every single point above. I want to feel trusted to do the right thing. I want my team to know that I trust them to do the right thing.
There are many things you can do to build trust within your organisation. You can provide new and exciting projects to staff, adopting a goal-driven mindset. You can trust people to use flexible working, you can trust employees to come up with the best solutions to complex business problems, to name a few.
Another thing I found useful to encourage two-way trust is fostering a no-blame culture and rewarding honesty when you see it. This allows staff to feel safe in their environment, trusting that they can make mistakes without any fear of rebuke.
To finish up…
I feel like I’m stating the obvious. People like to be treated like grown-ups. No, seriously. You can trust them. Know that they are experts in what they do. No, they’re not going to exploit flexible working. Value people, monetarily, give praise — publicly, and give your time freely.
For me, if you’re doing the things above, you’re doing a great job! Well done!