Let’s play a game:
You were recently promoted, and you’re determined to show your boss what a great choice he made. You’re working on a bid, and you have to get it turned in by three o’clock today or your company will be out of the running for a life-changing project.
It’s 1 pm, and you’re missing one critical piece of information. The report you need to reference won’t be sent to you, because your coworkers in the accounting department won’t have the authorization to release it. Your access to a company program will be denied because your supervisor hasn’t gotten around to logging your employee ID into the system. The internet will go down a couple of times. It’s Day Two of your commitment to live caffeine-free, and your boss is going to call you into a mandatory two-thirty meeting.
What’s your move?
Give up on your bid? Skip the meeting? Throw your rolling chair through the window?
It’s not easy to push through a challenge when it feels like the odds are stacked against us. And I know you don’t want any of your employees feeling that way when they’re working for you. You want to set them up for success and create an environment where everyone can perform at their best.
This subject is such a win-win, that no matter what you’re already doing to empower your employees, it’s worth the time to see where you might do more. As a manager or leader, you play a big role in the empowerment of employees. In Jarret Jackson's Forbes article about How to Empower your Team, we need to keep in mind that,
Oftentimes, empowerment is... interpreted to mean that managers and leaders take a hands-off approach, effectively telling employees to sink or swim. That’s more like neglect.
Empowerment is an active process. It involves coaching or teaching team members to self-serve, to become adaptive, to make decisions, and to use less of their managers’ time on things that really don’t require their managers’ attention.
I wanted to give you a great plan, so I asked around, and Nikki Vivian, Careers Coach at www.nikkivivian.co.uk, summarized it best:
“In order to succeed, we need to be motivated to succeed. So often employees can lack this motivation due to not feeling appreciated, not feeling their contributions are noticed and a general feeling of working for the sake of it.
“It's really important that employers realize that in order to get the best from their employees, they need to make sure they feel that their work is of value. Feedback and recognition is needed as well as making use of people's individual strengths and giving them an input. When people feel they have a stake in something, they work harder, and with more care.”
And with that in mind, we’re going to focus on three strategies:
USE FEEDBACK LOOPS
“I believe it is very important to listen to what we want to say and improvise accordingly.”
- Mr. Suman Buragohain, Hospitality Industry
The first thing you need to do is get to know your employees and what they need, and feedback loops are your perfect tools. Here’s how they work:
You’ll ask everyone questions - the open-ended kind that gets them telling you more. You won’t be scared to hear the tough stuff, or the embarrassing truths, or the things you don’t know how to fix right now.
Next, you’ll take time to really think about and analyze what you learned. You’ll think about what changes and improvements can be made, and you’ll make a plan.
Then, you’ll take immediate action. And you won’t humbly let your good deeds go unnoticed, because the last part to this is really important:
You’ll let everyone know about the changes you put in place. You’ll broadcast the news, so they each feel heard, cared for, and in the loop, and so they can quickly take advantage of the things you implemented.
In one of my past jobs, my boss asked me if there was anything I needed that would help me out in my position. I told him I would love some thank-you cards that I could send to my clients, to encourage them to come back and see me again. He quickly agreed, and later that day I was given a big stack of cards and envelopes, and told that they would be mailed out for me whenever I wanted.Do you know that feeling of having someone in your corner? That thing with the cards probably seemed so simple to my boss, but it meant a lot to me. It expressed to me that I mattered there, that my input was valued, and that I worked with people who cared about my success. And it made me really happy when clients came back and thanked me for sending them a card!
Feedback loops give your employees the opportunity to tell you exactly what they need to succeed, and they give you the opportunity to skip the guessing and get a game plan straight from the source. There are so many reasons to start doing this now, and Ricky DuLong pointed out a great one:
“I think one of the biggest mistakes employers make is not providing regular feedback to employees or offering a clear definition as to what constitutes good performance.”
-Ricky DuLong, Area Manager, Electrical Industry
Feedback loops can help your employees to understand what you expect, so they can move forward on assignments with confidence and clarity.
And they offer you other fantastic benefits. You can learn so many priceless things for increasing the engagement, accuracy, and output from your employees, and also for making improvements in every area of your business.
You might learn of a better procedure that saves everyone’s time and your money. You might be offered a solution to something you didn’t even realize was a problem. Or you might be given a genius idea that makes one of your responsibilities a breeze.
Your employees are in the trenches every day, so take it from Mr. Buragohain:
"Employees can always say what is working and what's not.”
And you could finally learn what really matters to the people who make it all happen for you.
GIVE THEIR WORK MEANING
This was not something I ever would have thought of if Nikki Vivian hadn’t brought it to my attention. And now the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. We all want to do work that matters. You do, I do, and so do your employees. When we do work we believe in, it makes us feel happy and fulfilled, and all of that makes us give more and perform better.
To really succeed in their roles, your employees need to know that the work they do has real value. The work they do needs to mean something to them, and they need to know that it means something to other people. This would have been the magic ingredient for me in so many of my past jobs, and one experience, in particular, stands out.
When I was in my early twenties, I took a job as a perfume salesperson. It was sort of out of desperation because I’d been unemployed for almost a month and my rent and car payment were almost due. On my second day of training, I sat uncomfortably in my seat as my boss gave my coworkers and I a misty-eyed testimony about the virtues of the fragrance industry.
The more she went on, the more awkward and detached I felt. I could not see myself getting into it or doing well, because I couldn’t relate to or connect with anything she was saying. I just couldn’t believe I would really be making the world a better place one perfume sale at a time. So I left after that day and I didn’t come back.
And now thinking about that has me thinking about your employees. They each have their own experiences, beliefs, and principles, and it doesn’t matter what the work actually is (within reason, of course), as long as it supports their values. If you use feedback loops, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to learn exactly what would make their positions and responsibilities more personally meaningful for each of them.
You can find ways to offer those things or show your employees how those things are already there.
You can be more purposeful about showing your appreciation and giving specific examples about how the work they do positively contributes to your own.
You can show them how they each support each other’s roles with their work.
You can pass along praise and gratitude from customers, vendors, people in the community, and people in the company.
You can find ways to help everyone use their individual strengths and talents.
You can find ways to give back as a company and give your employees the chance to get involved.
This is reminding me of something my friends and I have all gushed at different points about whoever we were dating: “He/she makes me a better person!” Wouldn’t it be so super if your employees started using that romantic phrase when they talked about their place of work?
This is such a powerful way to help them succeed, I can’t believe how close I came to missing it. Put a giant circle around this one, write it on your hand, or copy it with a marker onto your bathroom mirror, and be sure to remember how much you want to take action.
OFFER CAREER PATHWAYS
“A lot of people have the mindset that in order to move up, they have to do well at their current job until they can find a new, better job at another company.
“It's in their employer's best interest to create the opportunity within that same company.”
-Matthew Elmore, Co-Owner, ERA Marketing
In one of my past jobs, a coworker who was leaving to accept another job offer made a comment that I’ve always remembered: “I can do more than this,” she said simply.
At another job, one of my coworkers told me, “I’ve outgrown this place; it’ll be time to move on soon.”
Have you ever heard people talk about their jobs as “stepping stones” that would help them to qualify for bigger and better things? I’ve said that about my jobs before, and I often had my sights set on opportunities I thought were only offered outside of whatever company I was working for at the time.
Let’s not let your employees start feeling the ceiling at your place. Let’s take it from Matthew and help each of them to start working toward all the great moves you have to offer right there in your company.
Start by making clear and organized policies and procedures for promotions. You want to have a plan and a program for moving people up.
Make sure your managers are thoroughly trained on how to select people for promotions. They need to know exactly what criteria, qualifications, and benchmarks are required for each position, and how to help the people they lead to meet those.
Give consistent training and development to each and every person in the company.
As people move up, help them to make a smooth transition by offering things like mentoring, training, more feedback loops, and lots of resources for support.
Make sure each of your employees gets the opportunity to make a career map and to plan moves within the company.
Yes, this one can feel daunting, and it can seem scary. It might have you picturing a big shake-up where you let everyone scatter to far corners and abandon positions you need them in right now.
But what this really comes down to is investing in your employees to make sure you have - and keep - the best. That saying we’ve all heard about a company only being as great as its people really is true, and your company is its people. I was talking with Natalie Barrett, a Laboratory Quality Assurance Officer, and she observed that a focus on employee development could be started with very simple changes:
“For [my position, it could be] access to and time to review reference materials (standards and regulations that dictate the way my job has to be done). An employer who supported me in this way would definitely be helping me to succeed in my role.”
You can take this one step-by-step, and get things in place over time. And you’ll set it up to be done with wisdom, and organization, and careful thought and planning, and I’m so confident it will reward you.
Because, as Matthew puts so perfectly:
“Your employees are assets. You can let them stagnate and become depreciating assets, or you can help them become better and more valuable.”
-Matthew Elmore, Co-Owner, ERA Marketing www.eramarketingfl.com
So there’s your plan! You’re going to support your employees’ success by using feedback loops, giving their work meaning, and offering career pathways, and all of your efforts to get started will be so worth it.
After all, their success is yours too!
Joanie is a part-time employee with a mission to end the Sunday Night Blues and start a new way of working. She uses what she’s learned from her experience to help employees have happiness, fulfillment, and high-performance in their jobs, with a revolutionary approach to goal achievement. Learn more at: useyourjob.com/about
Her latest book, As Its People: A 90-Day Challenge, is for employers, managers, team leaders, and HR professionals, and gives actions, strategies, and habits for having motivated, engaged and high-performing employees. It’s available in paperback and Kindle at: www.amazon.com/author/joanelmore