Everyone says they care about their employees. It’s great that the accepted norm amongst business leaders is to recognize the value of people and desire a positive work environment for the team. We’ve all said it in some form, “our employees are our most valuable assets” or “our greatest strength is our people.” Smart business leaders love to say how much we love our people.
So how do most business leaders show the love?
When I inquire on how a business is caring for their employees, the most common replies include company social events, personal recognition like birthdays or various compensation elements. All of these are good things we should do for our staff likely along with a host of other benefits which we hope encourage people to feel good about their work.
While social engagement, recognition and compensation plans are good; moreover, necessary things along the path to a healthy workplace, I have found there are three steps you must take to show employees you care.
1. Make Time:
You must make time to spend with your employees. Like many of you I’ve had periods in my life where having time to spend with people I care about seemed like a pipe dream. My schedule and demands on my time left little room for others; business or personal. Just like a health & wellness program, you better make the time as your life depends upon it because it does. When I let my work production run roughshod over my life, I could feel my team’s performance suffering just like my physical health when I stop making time for exercise.
Do your employees recognize the “harried executive syndrome?” That’s when you walk through the office or shop at such a pace and with that determined look that they not dare try to slow you down. Is your phone glued to the side of your head? Does your staff feel the need to apologize for taking your time when they do finally ask you to talk?
There is no stronger sign that you care than to make time for your staff. Don’t make them beg or apologize for taking your time. Let them know clearly that there is no better use of your time than to help them or receive their valuable feedback. Just about any sincere act of care for your team will require an investment of time on your part; so make time for your employees.
2. Be Clear With Your Expectations:
Most people prefer to know what is expected of them in a work setting and “most people” is likely a gross understatement. I spend a lot of time working on client strategic plans and budgets. We start with a review of Vision and Mission; we re-test our Branding against the Mission; and we create a clear Strategic Plan and associated Budget so that the business owner knows what to expect. Business owners are usually enthusiastic about the planning process given how much they care about their business.
Would it surprise anyone that I also spend a lot of energy prodding business owners to focus on building a clear and thorough set of performance management guidelines for their employees? Many business owners feel it’s sufficient for employees to follow the manager’s lead on how they are performing; “I let them know how they are doing.” This approach can be like a professional Space Mountain Roller Coaster. Fine for temporary amusement but not for your career and livelihood.
Take the time to create a business plan that you translate to individual goals and objectives for your staff. Make their goals and objectives clear so they know what you expect and how they can measure their progress and success. Put employee expectations in writing including your plan for review of results. Show your team you care about them enough to invest in their very own business plan.
3. Provide Quality Feedback and Counsel:
Quality Feedback is the magic pixie dust that you can’t find if you neglect “step 1” or “step 2.” Quality Feedback requires step 1, Quality Time, with your team members AND step 2, Clear Expectations, with which you can benchmark your feedback on progress
A well-established best practice for providing Quality Feedback is to schedule one on one meetings with employees in advance; put a monthly, one hour meeting, on both calendars for example. Set the agenda with 15 minutes to review progress against objectives, 15 minutes to highlight any obstacles, 15 minutes to brainstorm solutions and conclude with the most important 15 minutes for open discussion of how they are doing in general. The time allocation doesn’t need to be rigid but is for example of how to make for a quality dialogue.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of Quality Feedback. Conversation with your employees that is rushed, disorganized or lacking any consistent substance is like “greeting time” in church. It checks the box of having done it but nobody is really building deep caring relationships. You can have greeting time every day if you like and no harm will be done; but, to demonstrate you care and build more business depth in the relationship of your team, you must invest the time and substance of Quality Feedback.
The value of the three steps outlined here is felt most in the sum of the parts. Any one step without the others will lose impact. But when practiced with consistency, the synergy becomes apparent and your team will see, hear and truly experience how much you care.
You care enough to make time for them; care enough to invest their individual roles; care enough to pay attention to their work and provide quality feedback and counsel.