A positive culture can be established and maintained with relatively minimal effort, but it requires you to actually care about your people. I have put together five key points to help steer you and your company in the right direction.
Just about everyone has worked for a company and/or manager that loses the pulse of the workplace. Or even worse, they have caused or allowed the culture to become toxic. It is vital to foster a healthy workplace environment. One where employees enjoy coming to work and know that they are valued.
1. Build relationships with your employees
Take the time to get to know your employees. Knowing their career ambitions, hobbies, family, and living circumstances can help you understand what inspires them to get out of bed in the morning.
This knowledge will also give you the ability to provide adequate insight to help your employees achieve their career goals. Just as important, it enables you to find commonalities that will help your employees feel comfortable coming to you. Maybe they just want to talk for a couple of minutes about the prime-time football game the night before or ask you for tips about a hobby that you have in common.
Establishing a strong foundational relationship will make the employees feel heard and understood. It will also help provide employees with the courage to come to you when professional or personal things are not going so well.
Have you ever had a good employee enter a slump? Did you take the time to ask them how they are doing?
It could be that the employee is dealing with something serious, like a terminally ill family member. Or, it could be less serious, like their kids needing extra help with homework because they have been struggling in school. Late nights being a good parent can have a detrimental effect in the workplace, too.
Understanding when to push employees to do better and when to provide a helping hand can make all of the difference. But you cannot expect to manage your employees effectively if you do not understand who they are as people, as well as workers.
2. Provide constructive criticism regularly
By providing regular feedback, I DO NOT mean you should micromanage. If you do a good job vetting job candidates, then you should be able to provide a certain amount of autonomy in the workplace. When provided with directions and/or an end goal, good employees will focus on accomplishing your vision.
You need to know which employees can handle the autonomy and which ones might need extra attention. Of course, this goes back to building relationships with your employees. This will help you understand what each employee is capable of and how you can help them achieve the most that they can.
Even the strongest employees need to receive feedback on occasion. Saving all of your feedback for an annual performance review is not adequate leadership. If you are engaging your employees on a regular basis, then it should be relatively easy to spot employees that are struggling with a task.
On the other hand, maybe you have an employee that is accomplishing their tasks efficiently, who would appreciate more work and/or responsibility but has not vocalized these thoughts. Also, let employees know when they are doing a good job.
Providing constructive criticism regularly will help employees stay productive and provide a sense of accomplishment. If the employees have heard from you on a regular basis, then they will know exactly where they stand when it comes time for that annual performance review. This alleviates some of associated anxiety for both leader and follower. It will also help build a workplace culture that is more communicative and embraces transparency.
3. Invest in your employees
You hire someone to fill a position. Do you think that the employee wants to fill that particular role forever or do they view it as a steppingstone for their desired career path? This is another reason to take the time to build relationships to understand your employees.
If someone gets hired on to be an administrative assistant and they are perfectly happy with that position and do not want promotions, then enable that person to be the best administrative assistant that they can be. This might mean paying for an advanced course for Microsoft Excel. An administrative assistant that can work efficiently and anticipate the needs of management is invaluable. If that employee leaves for a more promising opportunity, it could take years to find a truly adequate replacement.
On the other hand, someone could accept the position of administrative assistant, but they desire to work their way into being an office manager or even a top-level executive. You can provide the same type of training that I mentioned in the previous example, but you can also take training even further. When making business decisions, take the time to explain your rationale. Be a mentor.
You should do such a good job training that employee that other companies want to recruit that person for a position that would be a promotion. This will only help your reputation and it proves to your employees that you care about more than just the bottom line.
How you invest in your employees should speak volumes to them about what you think about them and their potential. It could even be the main reason that an ambitious employee decides to stay with your company and waits for the right opportunity to be promoted within the company instead of jumping ship and trying to make their mark with a new company.
4. Eliminate bad habits and toxic employees
It seems that every company has at least one employee that likes to do the bare minimum that is required of their job. Sometimes it might even seem that they are not even doing the minimum. This can be fixed by providing that constructive criticism I talked about earlier. Maybe they are constantly surfing the web or making an excessive number of personal calls. These employees are the modern-day smokers. They are tending to personal habits, while alienating their co-workers.
I do not mean to sound unreasonable. I think it is perfectly acceptable for employees to respond to text messages periodically or take an unusual phone call from someone who does not normally call while the employee is at work. It is when these actions become habitual that they become a problem.
When you allow these bad habits and toxic employees to continue unaddressed, you are also sending a message to your good, hard-working employees: There are no consequences for blatantly failing to do their job.
Depending on the type of service that your business provides, the good employees will view this as an increase in their own work because they might have to pick up the slack. Of course, you can show how much you appreciate your stronger employees via awards and better pay raises.
Additionally, you need to sit down with employees who are coming up short and address these issues. At first, it can just be a relatively casual talk about productivity and workplace culture. If positive adjustments are not made, then you can always go the route of verbal warning, written warning, and termination.
5. Value your employees appropriately
We do not live in the dark ages. This is the easiest time in history to look for a new career opportunity. Everyone can use LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor to see how other companies might value their skillset. This has contributed to a downward trend in employee tenure. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, the median employee tenure was down to 4.2 years.
If you have successfully established a healthy work environment that makes employees look forward to going to work, then the best way to ensure your employees will stay with you for the long haul is to pay them appropriately.
This reminds the employee that they are valued by their employer every time they receive a paycheck. Conversely, an underpaid employee will become frustrated with the paycheck acting as a repeated irritant. This will cause your company to go through the expensive recruiting and onboarding process on a more regular basis.
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