Helping Staff feel valued

Friday, March 14, 2014

In today’s economically challenging times, financial rewards cannot be used as they were in the past to reward staff performance. If a bonus culture prevailed in the past, the absence of bonuses will negatively impact staff morale, particularly when staff feel they are working harder than ever. Poor staff morale is a symptom, what are some of the causes? And what are some of the ways management can boost morale by helping staff feel valued? 

1. Enhance the ‘soft skills’ 
Management’s lack of leadership, teamwork and communication skills is the number one reason for poor staff morale in firms. Soft skills are really the hard skills and because it is an art and not a science it is not something you can learn by reading a book. Enhancing soft skills requires firstly the motivation to do it and on-going practice and feedback. Many mangers lack not only the self awareness surrounding their lack of communication skills, but also they lack the self awareness of their own lack of self awareness, which is a blind spot. To assist staff in feeling valued or appreciated, the first step is for management to put themselves in staff’s shoes, see the picture from their perspective. 

2. Demonstrate that you care 
We all want to feel valued and appreciated. Many naive managers operate from a place that ‘staff are lucky to have a job.’ Just as customers volunteer to do business with your firm, staff volunteer who they are at work, they choose what qualities and attitudes they display. If they are not happy they will resign. Some will resign by leaving the firm. Others will resign and stay in the firm, which is even worse. Most people are reasonable. Staff know that management cannot have all the answers all the time. At minimum though management can demonstrate that they appreciate where staff are coming from and that they care not just about their opinions and viewpoints, but also about them as people. 

3. Open and honest communication 
Many mangers feel they are expert communicators because they send regular emails ‘to all staff.’ At best this is lazy and at worse condescending. Email is a wonderful tool, but it is not the answer to a communication strategy. There is no substitution for face to face communication, or to put it simply, good conversations. What is the quality of conversation in team meetings? (If there are no team meetings, that is not a good sign!) If staff are silent during team meetings, it is not because they have had all their questions answered and that they are happy, it is because they feel it is not worth their while speaking, because they feel they will not be listened to. 

4. Availability 
In many firms, managers and team leaders are good at demanding results from their people but are poor at supporting them to produce the demanded results. As is often the case, managers and team leaders have their own clients to deal with and coaching their own people is not even a secondary issue for them. Imagine a rowing team. Everyone rows like hell but there is no one at the help to keep the boat in the right direction. Managers achieve through others. Their job is to bring out the best in their people. Most managers know that they achieve through others, but they forget that there is a difference between delegation and abdication. You help make staff feel valued by being available to them. To be available you have to be visible. 

5. Learning and growth 
We all know that the world around us, including our businesses, can only grow if we grow personally. Yet, when firms get busy, then skill building is cut to the bare minimum. If staff feel they are not being invested in from a skills enhanced perspective, they will not feel valued. It is human nature to want to grow and develop. Without training and development, stagnation and complacency take hold. 

6. Feedback 
Too many companies fail to retain talented staff for the simple reason that managers are unable or unwilling to give praise where praise is due. Should feedback be all glowing and positive? Of course not. We all need to know where we are falling short of the mark and how we can improve. But we need the other side of the coin as well - deliberate, spoken acknowledgement about contribution and good work. We all know that for managers walking the talk is vital, but that doesn’t mean the talk is not important. Managers’ words mean a great deal to staff. As a manager you may make an off the cuff remark, but that remark good or bad will probably be shared with many people. Also what you don't say is often as powerful as what you do say. You may think that a staff member will know when they are doing a good job, so you feel you don’t have to tell them. But for many people if they don’t receive feedback, they are unsure if they are doing things right. 

Some practical steps - 
1. Have conversations with your direct reports. 
Find out more about your staff. What are their interests? What motivates them? We don’t leave ourselves at home when we come to work. The more people feel they can be themselves at work, the more productive they will be. 
2. Be sure staff know how they fit into the organisation and its goals. 
It may be obvious to you, but it may not be as obvious to staff as to how they contribute to the company's overall performance. Everyone wants to know how they are valued. 
3. Get the balance right. 
Make sure that when you tell people what not to do, you tell them what you want them to do. The brain does not process negatives. Try not thinking of a yellow door! 
4. Say thank you and acknowledge staff for a job well done. 
Notice when people are moving in the right direction, even when their execution falls short of your standards. 
5. Remember, showing that you care, regularly and clearly, will drive engagement. 
Engaged workers care more strongly about performing to the best of their ability. The only cost is your words and a bit of your time.