A 2012 American Psychological Association survey indicated that less than half of American workers felt they were adequately valued at work. They felt that their monetary and non-monetary compensation did not appropriately reflect their contribution to the organization. Based on my experience with executives, managers and employees those numbers ring true.
We all hear things like “Our employees are our greatest assets,” and “Our people come first.” But that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the perceptions on many employees. Why is that? We all inherently know that people want to feel valued for who they are as a person as well as what they bring to a business or non-profit. So why is it that we have such a hard time making people feel sincerely valued?
It’s not just about the money. Study after study shows that money is not the most significant factor in job satisfaction. We also know that as soon as employees receive a pay increase they believe they should be making more money.
It has to be about how people are treated. Is their work too easy or beyond their ability? Do they feel heard when they express an opinion or suggestion? Do they feel that instructions are given instead of orders? Do they feel like they have the proper tools to successfully complete their work? Do they feel like you are invested in them as an individual and not just a production unit?
What can you do?
Give Time–One of a leader’s greatest commodities is time. We are all forced to manage our own priorities lest we don’t get everything accomplished for which we are responsible. But, if you want to show people you value them, spend time with them outside of meetings or formal settings. One of my favorite tools is “Managing by Walking Around.” Go to your employees spaces on a regular basis. You may have an open door policy, but quality employees often don’t want to barge in on you because they know how busy you are. Make it a habit to sincerely connect with them in their space.
Equity not Equality–I often work with leaders who want to treat their employees fairly, so they treat everyone the same. That sounds great in theory, but in practice that’s unfair and unproductive. Your employees are individuals with unique motivations, skills and personalities. High performance leaders understand this and treat individuals as such. Employees may need more or less structure. They may need more direct supervision or more autonomy. They may need more time with their family or they may need projects that consume them for a time. As a leader your job is to differentiate your supervision as much as is reasonably possible to communicate employees’ value to your organization.
Provide Opportunities for Leadership and Growth–While some people may want a job that they can just show up to, with no increase in responsibility or importance, most people want to be challenged, and they want to learn and grow. Find those individuals and provide meaningful opportunities to lead. Then support them. It’s important to remember that they WILL do things differently than you, and they WILL make mistakes, but with proper support and instruction they can succeed and they, and your organization, will be better off in the long run.
Get to Know Employees Personally–The key here is sincerity. Don’t show up with your note pad and run through your list of “personal” questions. Show genuine interest in what they do outside of work, what and who matters to them, and what they want to accomplish in and out of work. If you have to dash back to your office to make a few notes after a conversation, that’s fine, but they will know whether you are being sincere or checking something off a list. This point also comes with a warning: Don’t get TOO personal. Your level and areas of interest in an employee’s personal life should never make them feel uncomfortable.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but doing these things will get you a long way down the road to your employees feeling valued in your organization. Oh, and don’t forget when you do something nice for someone you win, too, both in the short term (feel-good chemicals being released in your brain) and in the long-term (positive, motivated and loyal employees).