My coworker was packing up. I sat next to her desk and watched as she searched through it, making neat stacks of company materials on top, and stuffing her own things into her bag.
I was new in the company, fairly new to the working world, and I wondered to myself what had happened. She had been here for several years – almost since the company got its start. She was amazing at her job, she and our boss got along fantastically, and she always seemed so happy here. Now she was leaving for a new job in a completely different industry. My inexperienced brain was puzzled.
Sarah had been telling me about the position while she cleared out her desk. Now as she zipped up her purse and stood up to go, she startled me by answering my silent question. “I can do more than this,” she announced.
You want great people to plant their flags in your place for the long-run, right? And you want them to give you great results while they’re here?
Well, you’ve got enemies: Monotony. Stagnation. Boredom.They sneak in at some point, after the Honeymoon Phase of your new hire’s Probationary Period is up and everything’s become routine. They make employees feel restless. Restrained. Underused. Unfulfilled. They can make other grass look greener, and a change of scenery tempting. You’ve got to fight your enemies.
Recent human capital trends involve ensuring the well-being of your employees by helping them be happy and lead fulfilling lives. Don’t let your employees get bored. Don’t let this job seem to limit their potential. Don’t let them feel like there’s a ceiling above their desks.
Give them growth. Give them challenges. Give them the feeling that this job makes them better.
You won’t only increase the chances of keeping your quality employees around - you’ll also increase the quality of your employees. Two fantastic outcomes for you, and totally worth your time and effort to get a plan in place.
And yes – I know: This can initially sound like a daunting, potential mess, where you have a big shake-up, move everyone around, and start handing out promotions. But there are so many ways to invest in your employees’ growth and keep them all right where they’re at as far as positions go (and keep them happy in those positions longer.).
So let’s get going on this! Here’s how you can fight monotony, stagnation, and boredom, and help your employees to feel limitless potential in your company:
1. Help them work on personal goals
2. Develop their skills & traits
3. Let them use their (other) talents
4. Give them a challenge
5. Feed their character
1. HELP THEM WORK ON PERSONAL GOALS
Your employees want things for their lives. They want things that have nothing to do with your own goals for this company or their role in it. Embrace that and support them in their pursuit, and it’ll be great for you. It’ll practically be a secret weapon against any other job that might come calling to them because most employers either don’t understand this or don’t know what to do with it.
Most employers only focus on employees’ sales goals, output goals, performance goals. You’ll give focus to your employees’ personal goals, and it’ll affect those other things for the better. Here are some steps to make this happen:
- Meet with each employee
Ask what their personal goals are, encourage them to work toward those, and talk that process through with them. You could set benchmarks together for things each employee will do to work toward their personal goals.
- Follow up regularly with employees about their progress.
Decide on dates to have goals done by, and then set up reminders for yourself that will automatically go off when the employees' say they’ll have those things done. Your reminders will prompt you to follow up so that you can be your employees’ best cheerleader - even if you normally forget your own birthday.
- Involve everyone in helping each other to stay accountable to their personal goals.
You could have a meeting where everyone presents one thing they want to achieve, and the one step each will take before the next meeting. At the next meeting, give time for each employee to share and celebrate their progress with everyone.
- Take time alone to think about how you/the company might help support each employee’s goals more.
It could be with:
Additional/new assignments to build skills needed.
Shadowing you or another employee regularly.
A schedule change to allow for school/training.
A seminar or class that would benefit both of you.
An introduction to someone you know personally, who could be a mentor or quality connection.
This might feel scary at first. What if you find out your accountant wants to be a racecar driver? Or that your assistant has daydreams about capturing her future world travels with a drone?
How does helping your fledglings prepare for flight help you? Let’s look at it the way Scott Amyx, Managing Partner at Amyx Ventures, does:
“Growth and the corresponding satisfaction (for you and the employees) comes when we help our employees align their life goals to work activities. Perhaps the hardest growth may mean encouraging an employee to leave for another opportunity elsewhere. Great managers place their employee’s professional growth over their personal agenda.”
Show an interest in helping your employees on a personal level and just watch how your employees return the favor to you while they’re here.
2. DEVELOP THEIR SKILLS & TRAITS
One day in science class when I was about twelve, my teacher announced that she was going to teach us to dance. She told us to put away our science books, push our desks out of the way, and join her in the middle of the room. We’d been languishing through cell processes that week, and this complete change of pace delighted all of us. It was back to the books the next day, but I felt alert and attentive, and everyone’s participation increased!
You don’t have to put off work for a day to give your employees the same satisfaction, energy, and happiness that my science teacher gave to us. Investing some time into helping them develop new skills and attributes will give them a feeling of achievement, and make each person even more valuable to you. There are so many ways to do this, experiment to make it a perfect fit for you and your company. Here are some ideas:
Make a big list of skills and character traits.Or you could give a bonus or some other incentive for doing one of those things during off-time, if the employee demonstrated (through a course certificate, presentation, report, etc.) that they really did the studying.
Pick a subject to start with, and decide how you want everyone to learn. You could make a schedule where you have people taking some time during their workday to read/watch/listen to the study materials of your choice.
- Let your employees choose their own subjects and courses.
Mike Sims, owner and founder of ThinkLions, considers helping his team grow to be one his company's secrets of success. To help employees grow, his company funds their education and promotes them when their skills reach a new level.
“We allow our team members to choose trainings and courses that they believe will make them more effective at their jobs, and allow them to take those courses on company time... Invest in your staff, and they will gladly invest in your business with their efforts!”
Send key employees to seminars or classes.
A little time out of the office and in a new setting, with other people who are there to learn the same thing, can be a great way to give an employee renewed energy, fresh ideas, and a new skill.
Have them share what they learn from their trip with others in your company. You could have people studying different topics and preparing to teach their coworkers at an upcoming company meeting.
Throw in a surprise every once-in-a-while.
This would be along the lines of my science teacher’s strategy; having everyone learn something completely out-of-the-norm and fun to lift their spirits and give their energy an extra boost.
Steve Pritchard, an HR Consultant from Anglo Liners puts it perfectly:
“Most people’s ideal job involves a role that provides opportunities for progression. If you want your employees to stay and grow with your company, you need to show them what the benefits of staying and growing with you are over going somewhere else.”
And it doesn’t matter what role you’ve got everyone in – you can give each of them progression from it, and helping them develop new skills and traits is a fantastic way. No matter how you choose to do this, it’s going to reward you!
3. LET THEM USE THEIR (OTHER) TALENTS
At work, we’re given a title, and a job description, and a dress code, and a little space to use. We might do the same thing, over and over and over. And everyone there sees us in that one role.
After a while of doing nothing else, that role can stop feeling… special. It can stop giving us a feeling of pride, and make us crave a chance to display something new.
Each of your employees has other strengths and abilities that they would love to show off, and letting them do it would benefit you in so many ways. This will take a little creativity and observation, but it doesn’t need to be hard or complicated or involve a complete overhaul.
You can do this by looking back through resumes/cover letters, asking around, observing, asking for help when you have a problem to solve, giving company-wide challenges, etc.
You can also find out directly from the employee. Steve, the Founder of Cuuver, suggests a one-to-one meeting with the employee a month after they start in order to
“Gauge what they enjoy about the job and what other tasks and responsibilities they’d like to be involved in. Show them in the early stages that your company is invested in development and progression.”
If you have this talk with your employees, the parts of their jobs that they enjoy most will probably be things that let them use certain strengths, and their wish lists will likely include things that allow them to use different skills.
If someone is especially friendly and outgoing, have that person be a welcome committee for new employees. If someone is great at persuasion or influencing others, have them give presentations on new procedures/policies. If you’ve got an artist keeping your books, ask them to submit ideas for the company’s marketing materials.
I know a business owner in the construction industry who did this with one of his employees. The employee was a window installer, and his employer noticed that he was meticulous, organized, and had perfect handwriting. So he asked this employee to complete field reports for all the jobs each day. It went so well that he later asked the employee to organize, track, and distribute inventory.
This employee had always been reliable and hard-working, but he was a little shy and kept to himself when he could. The recognition and trust from his boss, plus the pride and energy he got from contributing his unique strengths made him blossom.
How would you feel if you got to surprise and wow someone with your hidden talent? How would you feel about the person who gave you the chance?
4. GIVE THEM A CHALLENGE
Remember when you saw friends on social media posting videos of themselves getting ice-water dumped over their heads? Have you heard of the packs of people who ate cinnamon? Drank the same blended meal for thirty days straight? Or took more steps in one month than they had in the previous six?
These challenges were all over social media and had a frenzy of happy participants. We can all learn from these examples, and we can take the lesson straight to work! If you want to wake everybody up while you give them pride, satisfaction and a feeling of unlimited potential here, or get everyone enthusiastically on-board about a good habit or action to take - Make it a challenge.
Find ways to make challenges with their responsibilities, or with company goals (wouldn’t it be wonderful if each person was clamoring to increase profits for the month?). Healthy competition, between employees and with themselves as individuals, is a powerful motivator that you want to tap into. You’ve got so many ways:
Have each person take a turn presenting at a company meeting.
You could either pick the topic yourself or let them choose it.
Give them a puzzle/problem/case study to solve.
Make it a contest to see who can figure it out first!
Hold a company event and give each employee an assignment that’s outside their normal responsibilities.
Where it fits, you could have awards or prizes to give out after the event.
Do a physical challenge.
It could be competing as a company in a fundraiser race, or taking a self-defense class together, or playing a sport.
Find a need/problem in the community.
Ask for your employees’ input to solve it, and make a challenge around it. The challenge could be through a deadline, number of items needed, or amount of people to involve.
If you’re located in an area where a different language is spoken by a large percentage of the population, make a company-wide challenge to study that language. The process would help your employees develop a lot of other skills, and you might find yourself welcoming a whole new community of customers.
“We developed an internal game called ‘Learn to Win’ with different levels, points, prizes and board with positions that were reached depending on the achieved goals.”
Figure out how to work challenges in, and it’ll make work fun! It’ll light everyone up, help them bond with each other, and give you the employee engagement of your dreams.
5. FEED THEIR CHARACTER
Have you ever heard someone in love say, “[he/she] makes me a better person”?
You want your employees using that starry-eyed phrase when they describe their experience at your company. They should feel that their work is making a difference in the world and has meaning.
This strategy might be the most powerful thing on the list. There are a million reasons why implementing it is worth it to you, and you could put dollar signs in front of all of them. So let’s not skip it, and the great news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot.
Get all your employees looking for the good in each other. They can report it to management, and the good deeds could be shared by management during company meetings, and rewarded in other ways too if you’d like.My cousin told me about her company’s method for this. All employees are instructed to watch out for good deeds/acts of kindness/helpfulness by coworkers. When they see something, they use an app on their phones to report it. Management gets notified, and the employee who did the act of kindness gets rewarded points (through the app) that they can use to buy things from local vendors.
You could ask your employees to write down specific things they appreciate about each other, and acts of kindness they’ve observed at work, and submit those to you. You could collect them all and put them into individual lists/boxes/cards/framed pictures for each employee.
Want everyone to work well together? Building their character – especially by having them look for the good in each other – will do just that! Like Rod Brace, CLO and Executive Coach, suggests.
“Create caring connections with employees to demonstrate support and empathy. Create a culture of honesty and transparency so employees will share their concerns and challenges openly with their leader.”
Imagine how everyone would face a challenge or solve a disaster together after repeatedly looking for the good in each other, and after repeatedly being shown their own goodness through the people they work with. Everybody wants to figure out how to help their employees be better team players, and your place could become a shining example.
- Have a rotation of collection boxes in the breakroom.
- Post information about needs in the community and how everyone can help.
- Encourage employees to post information or give presentations about causes they’re passionate about.
- Give some of your time volunteering in the community and invite your employees to join you if they can.
- Work on improving your Corporate Social Responsibility.
Are you ready to get started?
Let’s recap so we remember the plan. You’re going to give growth to your employees by:
1. Helping them work on personal goals
2. Developing their skills & traits
3. Letting them use their (other) talents
4. Giving them a challenge
5. Feeding their character
Want to know one of our major requirements for happiness?
It’s progression. I require it; you require it; every person does. We need progression as humans; we thrive on it. No matter what aspect of our life it is, if we start to stagnate – if we stop moving forward and hang out at the same level of knowledge/skill/character – we’ll feel incomplete. We’ll feel unsatisfied; unhappy; unfulfilled. We’ll get bored.
That’s great for you. And you know how to use it now! Start giving growth to your employees and watch your business follow.
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