Walk in my shoes….how often do we wish our boss, our spouse, or children, heck even the cashier at the grocery store would just for a moment really understand where we are coming from. No one truly understands what we go through each and every day just to get our daily tasks accomplished. Wouldn’t it be great if they could, for even a day, be able to take a walk in our shoes? That way, they would truly understand things from our perspective.
Well, guess what, just as we say that about the people in our lives, you better believe that there are people in ours wishing the same thing about us. Guaranteed, our employees do not believe that we know what they go through every day to get their job done. So…the big question is, do we? I am not so sure. Of course, we think we do. And at one time, maybe we actually did their job so we think our insight is plenty but I would like to caution you on this. Why? Because things evolve and change at a constant pace, nothing stays the same. So, what can we do to get a true picture?
I can already hear the moaning and groaning but here it goes. Walk in their shoes! Here is my challenge to you…for at least 4 hours, do someone’s job. Choose a position you are comfortable with and think that you know what that employee actually does on a daily basis (of course, you could really up the ante and select a job about which you know precious little). Let that person know several days in advance that you will be coming to “be them” for a few hours and that you would like them to prepare to show you a typical day. Stress that you want this to be a learning experience and because you value what they do you would like them to be a partner with you on this exciting challenge.
Then get out there and do your best! Enjoy the adventure and keep an open mind. At the very least, you find you were right and you do know what goes on in their world at work. Chances are, however, that you will learn something new. This knowledge is powerful! It will give you a greater appreciation for the work your employees do, will allow you first hand experience upon which to base process improvement initiatives and will allow your employees to see that you are on their side. Louder than any words you speak, this action will instill upon them that you value their time and their efforts and will strengthen the relationship you have with your staff. If you think you don’t have 4 hours to “waste”, reconsider the return on investment that this experience proposes. You stand to gain far more than money can buy. So while it may not show up on any balance sheet, the asset you are protecting is the most valuable one any company has- investment in your people is always, always worth its weight in gold.
The “Go-To” guy….every manager has one. You know who I am talking about, that person you count on for everything. Great person to have on the team to be sure, but by relying on them completely you are doing not only them but the rest of your staff a disservice as well.
Your “Go-To” can get anything done. They are fast and accurate and you trust them with all of the important assignments. Logical, I know, but the damage you are doing seems to defy logic and may happen so gradually that you don’t even realize there is a problem until it is too late.
Traditional motivational theories tell us that people need to have responsibility and need to feel valued to stay motivated. So by this logic, our top performer should feel great being relied on so heavily. But two things are at play here. First, it is important to note that one thing that can cause dissatisfaction is unfair treatment. Is it fair to keep burdening your A-player with extra work? Just because they can do it, does it mean they should have to? And let’s not forget the rest of your staff. How are they feeling when they see the “important stuff” going to the same person over and over? My guess is that they feel that you don’t trust them. That lack of trust (real or perceived) is a morale killer in and of itself.
The other consideration comes down to equity as well. Does the “Go-To” person receive compensation that is in line with the additional responsibilities or has it just become an expectation that this individual be given extra work or tougher assignments simply because you know you can count on them getting done? If the output (compensation) does not equal input (the employee’s capability and hard work), Adam’s Equity Theory, as well as others of course, tells us that the employee will become dissatisfied and will reduce effort, become disgruntled or disruptive and in extreme cases will leave the job, or should I say leave you?
The decision is not easy and will require work on your part but you have to choose to either distribute the responsibility (which is a terrific opportunity to allow other employees to shine) or come to the conclusion that you will continue on the current path knowing that there is a chance that eventually you will likely loose one or more truly valuable assets to your organization.
If you are shooting for higher productivity, look to psychology not policy. Productivity is the result of motivated employees. Motivated employees are not the result of policies….let me repeat that. Motivated employees are not the result of policies.
Managers worry about when employees come and go, when they take a break and for how long, how long they spend on the internet, and on and on. So their first instinct is to create a policy to limit what the employee can do. Sounds sensible, right? Hmmmm….I don’t think so.
To find out what really motivates employees, you need to have an understanding of motivational theories. Motivational theories are psychological understandings of what can inspire people to extend their abilities and to perform to the best of those talents.
There are many great theories out there and it is certainly worth the time and effort required to at least garner a basic knowledge of some of the most prominent. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory and Alderfer’s ERG Theory are three good ones to investigate.
You will find one theory after another out there and most have their merits. Bottom line is each will discuss what people need to be motivate in the workplace and most will discuss what can kill that motivation.
People want to feel trusted, they need to be able to express creativity, they want growth opportunities, they want what they give to their job to equal what they feel they get in return…not once will you hear that people want to inundated with rules, micromanaged and controlled. Yet, that is exactly what some policies do.
Now don’t misunderstand me, policies are necessary to run a smooth operation just as laws are necessary to have orderly neighborhoods. There is a line however, between laws for an orderly neighborhood and a military state where people are oppressed by the government. It is exactly the same with an organization and its policies- less can be more; more creativity, more trust, more loyalty and more productivity.
Understanding your employees and learning what motivates them will give you the productivity you are looking for without writing a single prohibitive policy. Give them a try!
I just finished watching the movie about the NFL football player, Michael Oher. Of course, the movie is very inspiring and has wonderful life lessons weaved throughout. Today as I contemplated those lessons I had a thought not about what did happen to this young man but what could have happened. In one scene, Lee Ann walks on to the practice field and has a talk with Michael to motivate him to make the right plays. That scene was absolutely pivotal to Michael’s success and it occurred to me that it was because Lee Ann knew how to motivate Michael that he was ultimately able to succeed.
It wasn’t that the coach did not want Michael to succeed. He did what he knew to do to improve Michael’s performance- it just was not the right thing for this player. If Lee Ann had not stepped in, could Michael have ever reached the level of success he now enjoys? Or would he been doomed to mediocre performance because he never discovered the right motivation to become great? Is the same thing true for our employees? If we don’t find the meaningful way to reach each individual employee, could we be missing out on the opportunity to help make them great?
If there was ever a glowing example on why it is vital that managers get to know their employees and work to discover what motivates them on a personal level, this is it. So, how in the world can you figure out what makes your employees thrive? Start with the basics and work from there.
- Mission and Vision Statements– Do your employees know where they are going and why? With well articulated statements, an employee can understand their role in your organization and will feel part of the big picture. Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger than themselves- this helps achieve that need.
- Human Resource Strategies– Your employees are your greatest asset and your HR policies need to reflect the fact that you understand this and that you are striving to care for your employee’s best interests. This would include basics like compensation and benefit packages as well as internal motivators like training and development opportunities.
- Extra-mile incentives– Performance based incentive programs help to motivate employees to go the extra mile. Identifying opportunities to provide bonuses, flex time, additional education resources, and anything else that rewards the employee for high performance or enables them to increase their performance levels can be great motivators.
- Daily encouragement– Please do not discount the impact of a kind word and the gift of time. Sincere appreciation and acknowledgement of the employee is a hugely, often overlooked way to motivate your employees. A simple thank you, giving your employee your time to listen to their ideas and concerns, understanding and providing the tools that they need to be effective in their jobs are effective daily things that managers can do to help your employees become successful.
There is no magic formula to employee motivation because what moves each person is as individual as the person himself. It is an understandingly daunting task to uncover this information but using the basics above begins you on the path to providing the strong foundation needed to create a motivation program that will develop super-star employees.
The way you treat your employees will determine whether they just “show up for work” or if they give it their all. I am surprised how simple the concept is yet how difficult it is for business managers to grasp.
Every day I hear from employers about how the employees don’t care, how they take advantage of things, how they are unreliable. And for a small percentage of these conversations, I do believe that there may have been some poor choices made in the hiring process but for the majority, the blame lays squarely at the feet of the manager. How can I say such a thing? Simple, because the same people that are telling me about the employee issues they are having are usually the ones working very diligently to create processes and policies that treat the employee as no more than a number. So, why the surprise when the employee acts that way?
This, my friends, breaks one of the cardinal rules of employee relationship management. Rules? Okay, rules is a harsh word and we all know rules are made to be broken but there are a few “best practices”, if you will, that simply have to be given credence. Here are a few of the biggies:
- They don’t call it the “Golden Rule” for nothing. Really, if you can follow this you have got the majority of this employee relationship thing licked. Treating your employees the way you would like to be treated is huge but honestly I think it is quickly and easily lost in the shuffle. Let’s face it, you have a hundred things to worry about so analyzing the psychology behind every process or policy you implement seems daunting. But even a moment to pause and ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were them?” will be a great start.
- Trust is a two way street. Don’t take for granted that your employees trust you. Why? Because it is not automatic and has to be reciprocal. You have to earn their trust and you have to trust them. Sure, this is hard- no one said working with people was going to be easy- but it is a critical step in creating a relationship with your employees that paves the way to people who will go the extra mile for you.
- Give them opportunities to grow. This goes hand in hand with trust. You may find the occasional individual that is happy doing the same thing over and over again and that is great. However, many need to grow…notice I said need and not want. This is not optional. If you trust the employee, you can give them new experiences and chances to expand their skills. Not only does that make them more valuable to you, but it also fulfills the employees desire to learn and grow- a win-win situation.
- Create allies with communication. Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd and by keeping them abreast of any changes not only quells rumors, which can quickly sap morale, but makes them feel part of the big picture. Of course I am not suggesting complete transparency but I am definitely warning against keeping everything as closely guarded secrets and “need to know” status intelligence. Holding back information that could have been shared makes the employee feel that they were not worthy of the consideration- you never want an employee to feel that you do not value them, NEVER!
Whether your employee makes minimum wage or 100k a year, at the end of the day, each and every employee is a person. People are unique, unpredictable, a real handful and a true joy. They are the greatest asset any company will ever have …now the trick is to always remember this and to treat them as you would any precious commodity.
Performance Management…even just writing those two words I imagine supervisors everywhere rolling their eyes and sighing loudly. The pencil-whipped annual reviews, the stressful meeting and the disgruntled employee that always result…why do we put ourselves though the torture?
Well, there are two pretty compelling reasons. First, if you actually start to think of performance management as an ongoing process of employee development instead of a time and place to tell your employee everything they have done wrong in the past year (or at least as far back as you can remember anyway), it will prove to be one of the best things you will ever do for your organization. It is a process that will elevate your good employees and weed out those that are not suitable for your company. If that doesn’t make you want to investigate this idea further maybe this will- your A-players not only want it but will leave you and go where they can find it.
Strong statement? Sure, but this is serious stuff and not something that can be broken down in a single blog but consider this; You are the A-Player on the team 1) you want to hear that you are appreciated and that your employer is invested in making you even better and 2) if there is no performance management in place, the B and C-Players are getting away with murder. And who is picking up the slack? That’s right! Your A-Player….and how long do you think it will be before this super star decides to take his talents elsewhere?
Hopefully, long enough for you to grab a good book on the subject or consult a professional and begin to seriously manage your staff so that everyone is on the same page, working from the same playbook and achieving the level of performance that you know they can accomplish.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.–Abraham Lincoln
Every leadership class I have ever taken or given has a section devoted to power. I have, in the work environment, defined power as the ability to influence others’ actions and behaviors. Many, immediately thinks of power as a bad thing. I believe this stems from the abuse of power. Like Abe says, it is a true test of character to have power. We all have met our share of “Power Bullies”. People with a title, wielding their label like a saber. This is one type of power but there are all kinds of power in the workplace and I have broken them into three categories.
First, there is legitimate power. This includes positional power, coercive power and reward power. In this category, you have power based on your title or position and you use that to force people to do what you want. Usually, they are not acting how you want because they want to but rather, because they either fear or desire what you can do for them. Sure, this power works- for a while. Eventually, people will tire of being manipulated simply because you hold a position of power. If you have not earned their respect along with that title, you will not keep people motivated for long.
The next category is informational power. This includes expertise power (the “what you know”) or the connection power (the “who you know”). In business, leadership should have the knowledge of what they are doing and know the right people to forge solid relationships- this is almost a given. This power block does instill a little higher level of trust and devotion in the people you lead but is not enough in and of itself. So what is?
The final group is one type by itself and in my opinion the most coveted and powerful of all; referent power. This power comes from being liked and respected. People do what you want because they want to do it. No matter what you do or think, this power can not be bought or given- it is simply earned. It comes from having strong values and morals that others are aligned with such as trust, integrity and ethics. Even if your title is non-existent, people are gravitated to follow you. This makes you a true leader with real power.
I am such a strong believer that people want to do a good- if not great- job at work. I have never heard of anyone waking up and saying, ” I think I am going to go be a screw-up at work today.” People want to succeed. So if this is the case then why do so many companies feel that they do not have a good, talented workforce? They ask where can they find people that can get the job done…maybe the question should be, “what can we do to empower our current workforce to be successful?”
There are a lot of answers to this question including setting realistic goals and making sure they have proper equipment and tools to get the job done. In my eyes though, the most frequently overlooked way is to make sure that the employees are trained. Manager’s favorite lines to this are, “they can learn on the job” or “they have experience so they should know what to do”. Both of these are true- but they are not enough. It is imperative that a company is SURE the employee is trained. This is too important to leave to chance.
A manager I was having this discussion with really believes that training is spoon feeding the employee and that they should take it upon themselves if they feel they are lacking a skill or knowledge in an area. Okay, fair enough, as long as you are fine with the idea that the employee may or may not know what skill or knowledge is lacking. Proactive training is not such a crazy idea as long as the employee AND the employer are active in the process and get to enjoy the fruits of the labor.
Enjoying the beautiful spring day (finally), I really noticed how quickly the trees and flowers had changed from the stark, colorless state that they were in just a few short weeks ago to showy wonders of nature. This started thinking about change in general (not just as it applies to HR or business) and I remembered the quote, “The only thing constant is change”. While of course I believe that to be true, I was hoping that I could find even one thing that remained the same; something that I can count on to be steady and stable. I pondered this and ran through all kinds of stuff I thought had the chance of being unchanged. Nothing, and I mean nothing that I could consider, held true. Even a rock changes-albeit usually gradually over time.
So then it comes down to perception. The rock is changed- maybe by elements of nature, maybe by force of humans- but the question becomes, does this change matter to me? A rock that changes ever so subtly by flowing water is nonetheless changing but the change is so small and the effects of the change is so insignificant that no one really even notices- or cares. But what happens when the change does matter?
William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions, (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-Making-Most-Change/dp/0738213802/ref=pd_sim_b_5) really breaks down how we can make the most of change when it hits home. He reminds us that the situational shift is not the most difficult to manage but the psychological components is where the real work lies.
Unfortunately in my experiences, it is the psychological effects that the managers will do anything to avoid. I have seen everything from telling staff that nothing has changed (when in all actuality a significant shift in culture and business operation was taking place), to trying to make it seem like the change is wonderful- which it may be for some people and the company itself- but for others it may be mean job elimination or other consequential variation. Both efforts generally seem to do more harm than good. Managers need to accept that there will be grieving, fear, and other really uncomfortable emotions that must be honored and not simply pushed under the rug if they want to help minimize the distress and disruptions caused by the change.
Okay, this is my first shot at an HR blog. I have talked about doing this for years- literally. Please don’t ask what stopped me because I don’t really know and am just glad to be here now- hoping to share some of what I have learned over a rather long and interesting HR career thus far and what I think when it comes to what we do in business in this regard. But first, I think I just need to explain the name, HonestlyHR.
Well, I picked HonestlyHR for several reasons. First, HR Bartender was already taken! I really am not kidding when I say this because I do hope that this blog can be a place (I am thinking “Cheers” here) where “everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came”. A place where we can all belly up to the bar and swap our stories, questions and best practices. The name HR Bartender embodies that philosophy.
Second, I feel like HR is always charged with being the moral and ethical compass of a company. I really wanted honest to be a featured part of the name. I grappled with HonestHR, HonestyHR and other combinations. Finally I settled with HonestlyHR because I want everyone including myself to approach the content I hope to share here honestly. Honestly is an adverb meaning in an honest manner.
This brings us to the final reason I chose HonestlyHR. If honestly is an adverb, that forces us to look at HR as a verb. Crazy sounding? Maybe a little but I have found in far too many companies I have worked with over the years that HR is a noun that is viewed as a trophy. ”We have HR in our company! Yippee!” But in actuality it was a person or a group of people with the title and little or no power to impact the people of the company- the H in HR. So if we think of HR as a verb- an action- it means that something wonderful could happen.
I know, especially in the beginning, my thoughts may be all over the place…let’s face it, HR is a huge collection of disciplines (Compensation & Benefits, Employee Relations, Training & Development, Talent Acquisition to just name a few), but I hope you bear with me and feel free to weigh in on anything I have said here. That ultimately is how we learn and grow after all-listening, sharing and evaluating what we find.