1 year old – Are your people really your most important asset?

Today marks the 1st Anniversary since I published my first Blog Post article. Little did I know how the year ahead would develop….and what a year it has been! First of all I want to take the opportunity to thank the more than 10,000 viewers who clicked on the Blog in the past year. I did my very best to keep it fresh and updated and to deliver useful business insights, with this being my 124th Blogpost.

Today, I want to tackle a subject which I truly consider a core subject. More so, as various businesses had to face unprecedented disruptions and challenges and had to rely on the flexibility and sacrifices done by its employees. But is this being really appreciated by business leaders? If anything, the need to show appreciation has increased! Here are some tips on this:-

  • Touch base often. With many of your staff working remotely or on a hybrid system, make sure you find time to touch base with them and see how they are faring. They need your support. Show you have a real interest in what they are working on.,…and make sure you read all the emails they send you, as they now do not have the time to stay popping to your office to tell you they sent you an email.
  • Give balanced feedback. Employees want to know both what they’re doing well and where they can improve. Receiving both positive and developmental feedback was one of the key things that makes them feel valued. Employees employees who received only critical feedback will likely give up, because they feel they could never do anything right. The trick is to avoid giving both types of feedback at once. Research shows that people who need developmental feedback most tended to only hear the positive things their manager said and the people who performed well left remembering more of the negative comments. So be sure to clearly separate out the positive feedback from the developmental feedback.
  • Address growth opportunities. Employees want to know what the future holds for their careers. In such uncertain times it may be difficult to offer and plan growth opportunities. The worst thing is to avoid talking about this. Address the matter and lay all the cards on the table. Being honest about things will likely make people feel valued.
  • Offer flexibility. You require more than ever for your staff to be flexible, to aid your business respond effectively to such challenging times. However flexibility is not a one way street. So giving the option work remotely or even simply suggesting to an employee to come in late the day after working extra hours is likely to be interpreted as an important signal of trust and appreciation. If you do not trust your employees you do not solve it by forcing them to work from the office even during a pandemic!
  • Make it a habit to communicate. Simply taking a few minutes to tell your employees specifically what you value about their contributions can have a tremendous impact. Try to build it into your regular routines, perhaps by spending the first 15 minutes of your week writing a personal thank-you note. The range of options are almost limitless. The idea isn’t to create an automatic system for thanking employees, however; it’s more about giving yourself permission to express your appreciation in a way that feels natural to you.

So far I focused on things to do. Now let me give you some pointers on things to avoid.

  • Be serious on your gratitude. There’s a big difference between yelling a thank-you on your way out the door versus sitting down with someone to describe the things you value about their work and its positive effect on the team or organisation. Meaningful expressions of appreciation were often described as timely, relevant, and sincere, and expressions that come off as hollow may actually be worse than no thanks at all.
  • Neglecting performance reviews. Many busy managers feel that annual or bi-annual performance reviews are a waste of time. But to employees, they’re important milestones that provide clues about their progress and performance. When a manager skips them, employees often infer that the manager doesn’t value them.
  • Not being constant. If you haven’t been focused on showing your employees appreciation, don’t overcompensate for it; chances are, they’ll see your efforts as insincere. Instead, let them know that you’re working on developing your gratitude skills as a leader. Take time to ask how they’d like to be recognised. Some may enjoy being thanked publicly, while others will bristle at the idea. The key is to know your employees’ individual preferences.

The thing is that I have heard business leaders, CEO, managers repeat the mantra that “their people are the best assets” ad nausea. But are they really acting as they speak? From what I see on a daily basis, I doubt it. At the end of the day, building a culture of appreciation comes down mostly to a lot of small common sense practices. Never take your people for granted and make it clear that you’re interested in your employees’ growth and in them as individuals.

One final thing. Not all employees are the same. Some employees fail to understand the very difficult and particular situation their employer and the business they work for is facing. However, the majority understand the difficult times we are in and have shown time and time again that they are ready to do all that is needed to help the business. So I beg business owners, CEOs and managers to stop repeating that employees should “just get on with it and consider themselves lucky they still have a job”. It may be true, but it does nothing to help people feel appreciated for all their efforts.

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