This is the transcript of Episode 5 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
The type and quality of employees can make or break any business. As business leaders we often make the mistake of thinking we can only get the right people if we offer the biggest salaries. While people do indeed want to be paid well, they also want a number of other things to make work worth their while.
Firstly, your employees want to know what their specific roles are and what success looks like. It is your job as business leader to make sure that every person in your business knows what you expect them to do, how you expect them to do it and how what they do contributes to the overall success of the business. Don’t just leave it up to a line manager or HR person or the employees themselves to figure out.
The second thing your employees want to see is their co-workers disciplined if they step out of line. Disciplining employees is one of the hardest things any business leader has to learn how to do well but a management style that is too soft can foster an unethical workplace culture and create feelings of resentment in employees that stay within the rules.
So it is incredibly important to balance strong inspirational leadership by the will and skill to appropriately discipline employees.
Employees also want praise.
While everyone doesn’t do the same work, or everyone’s work doesn’t have the same direct impact on the business, everyone wants to know that their efforts are recognised. In business we often leave praise for big milestones … signing a new deal, delivering on a big contract, exceeding annual targets … where the type of praise employees want is often for smaller achievements.
As a business leader you set the tone for the culture of who receives praise for what. It costs nothing to send someone a note to say “good job on writing that tough email” or “that’s a brilliant idea, well done!”. In a workplace where the leader is generous with praise, employees thrive and are more willing to consistently give their best efforts.
And people want to give their best efforts without being micro-managed. If you give someone autonomy you’re saying to them “it doesn’t matter how inexperienced you are, I trust you to do the best you can and I will guide you when you get stuck”. It doesn’t mean that you let go of doing all the usual checks and balances, but it does mean that the responsibility for quality work is shared.
Employees also be impressed by their boss. As a business leader you have to consistently live the values of the organisation. You have to be honest about your shortcomings and about when you need assistance. And you have to always strive to do better … not to have something to brag about, but to lead by example.
Lastly, employees want to be part of a winning organisation. They want to know about the small steps of progress as well as about the big wins. They want to feel that they have helped achieved something bigger than just their own tasks. So remember to regularly share updates about the business’ progress with every employee and make sure that everyone knows how their work is contributing to it.