In my last column I outlined three things employees can do to impress their bosses. This week, I turn the tables and address a few things employers can do to impress their employees.
I've seen some employers act as if they shouldn't worry about impressing their employees unless it has to do with flaunting wealth. These are the same employers who blame their employees for every workplace problem, and who will always blame their employees for every workplace problem.
Thankfully, most employers know that when they make an effort to impress their employees, the result is a workforce that increases its commitment and productivity. Think about it. If employees are an asset (and they are), it only makes sense that the investor (the employer) creates the optimal conditions for the best possible return on investment.
We could look at many ways to impress employees, but due to space limitations, here just a few that will create a positive impact in just about every workplace.
Listen To People
Hearing is one thing, listening is another. By definition, hearing is simply the act of perceiving a sound by ear. As long as your ears are functioning as designed, you can hear. It doesn't even require conscious thought. If you're close enough to something that causes a noise, you hear it.
Listening is truly trying to understand another person's point of view, and it requires an active, conscious choice. To listen, you must have a purpose in your heart and apply mental effort. Think of listening as a goal or a mini-project: Information must be collected and analyzed!
Listening also takes time. Over the years I've seen many employers shoot themselves in the foot by cutting their listening time short. Unfortunately, the following scene is way too common:
At an employee meeting, Employer Tom stands up to announce the particulars of an upcoming project. After his presentation he asks "Any questions or concerns?" Tom waits only five seconds before saying, "Good. I hope to see everyone else as excited about this project as I am."
Tom's cutoff is too abrupt. People need time to formulate their thoughts. In Tom's mind, he's giving people a chance to be heard, but in reality nobody feels Tom cares about what they have to say. As a result, their trust in Tom and their enthusiasm for the project can become severely diminished.
Employees have valuable ideas and thoughts. However, if employers don't take time to listen (or listen only haphazardly), those same employees grow indifferent. Apathy emerges instead of energy.
Employees are impressed and remain engaged when employers truly listen.
Acknowledge Their Contributions
Beyond active listening, employers impress employees with specific acknowledgments of employee efforts. People want to know that their work matters—that what they do is needed and valued.
As with listening, genuineness is important here. An acknowledgment must be sincere or it has little value.
It's good to know that although reward programs have their place, tremendous power exists in a well-placed (and genuinely heart felt) "thank you." Just be sure to look your employees in the eye when thanking them. It has to come from your heart, but they'll see that in your eyes.
When showing appreciation, keep in mind that timing is crucial. Wait too long and you diminish the value of your acknowledgment. Also, any recognition given in the wrong place (i.e., too private or too public, depending on the situation and the person) can also weaken the impact. Know your audience, and adjust accordingly.
Employees will be impressed when employers consistently acknowledge contributions and efforts in appropriate ways (and unimpressed when they don't).
Be Their Advocate
Employers want their employees to care about the quality of the work they produce and how they represent the company. Think of advocating as a natural, reciprocal law: If employers don't care about their employees, it doesn't take long before the employees don't care about the employer.
Find out what employees want and help them get it. For example, when change is coming, ask employees about their concerns and then work with them to find solutions. This doesn't mean employers must solve all employee problems. It just means employers are listening and brainstorming with their employees, trying to find ways to resolve their struggles.
Advocating for employees may take an inordinate amount of time, or even doing something that sets the company back financially. However, if it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do.
Few things are ever 100 percent certain, but when employees know their employer watches out of them, they are much more likely to remain committed, go the extra mile, and do the right thing in return.