Have you ever heard a manager indicate they just need “warm bodies” for a project or even for open positions? Nothing screams devalued like referring to another person as a warm body. Many times we may not actually say the words, but our actions reflect that our employees are just cogs that we can plug and play to accomplish our goals. You probably have taken an employee survey at some point in your career. One of the questions on most surveys is, “do you feel appreciated and valued by your supervisor?” Inevitably the results indicate this question is scored low by most employees. Yet, we know employees have a strong desire to feel valued and appreciated on the job. The Boston Survey Group surveyed over 200,000 people and the survey indicated that the number 1 factor for happiness on the job is feeling appreciated. A Glassdoor survey stated 80% of employees say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. So why the disconnect?
When you look up “valued” Dictionary.com uses words like affection for or favorably regarded. If you put that in employment terms, it might mean that the employee feels like someone who the organization values. They are valued because of what they do and how they do it. Most employees want to do a good job for the organization. They do not come to work with the idea of not contributing. On the flip side, most employers do actually value their employees. They may not express it very often but they know that without these employees, they wouldn’t have a business. We want to take a look at some of the reasons why we often have this disconnect between employees and their managers when it comes to feeling valued and appreciated.
- If you value someone, you spend time with them. Managers are busy; they have a lot of balls they are juggling. I’ll be honest, for me the ideal employee is one I can put in a position and they don’t need any maintenance. Employees however want feedback; they want to know how they are doing and not just once a year in a very judgmental performance review.
- Many managers tend to over manage. They have a need to be involved in many of the decisions. This slows down the process and sucks creativity out of decisions.
- We often fail to realize people are different. What one person finds rewarding, sounds horrible to the next person. One person may thrive on public recognition, while the next abhors it.
- Thank you efforts are less than authentic and many times come across as an insincere after thought. Organizations usually want to say thank you with something like a t-shirt or a group lunch. While I always like a good t-shirt and seldom turn down a meal, it typically does not have the effect employers hope it does.
- Very little time is spent communicating how the organization is doing and what the employee’s role is in contributing to the organizations success.
Many employees want to feel like they are a partner in the organization. They want to know how the organization is doing. They like being involved in decision making. They also like being trusted to make decisions when they feel they have the knowledge and ability to do so. There are a couple of steps that a manager can do to help their employees feel valued and none of them involve buying t-shirts or sponsoring an employee of the month award.
- Have a clear understanding with every employee on what their role is in the organization, what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them. Help them understand how their role plays a part in the organization as a whole.
- Schedule regular one on one meetings with employees to review how they are doing, what struggles they are facing and getting an understanding of what you can do to help them. If something is broke, actually try and fix it. Knowing you understand their issues and actually trying to fix something tells them they are in fact valuable.
- On a regular basis, catch them doing something right. If you have both agreed on clear expectations, this becomes a lot easier. When you do thank them, be very specific about what they did, why it was important and how that helps the organization.
- Have regular communications and better yet, up to date visuals on how the organization is doing. If they are partners, then they should know how we are doing. Even if things are not going well, people want to know. Hopefully, you are putting things in place to get on track and you are involving them in helping come up with ideas for improvement.
- Give them the responsibility and authority to do their jobs. Nothing shouts “not valued” more than over managing or being a decision making road block. Make their roles, responsibilities and expectations clear, make sure they have the tools they need to succeed, help them clear the clutter and then let them do their jobs.
- Hold people accountable. When people are not held accountable, what is the message to those who perform well? It doesn’t matter what they do. If people are not meeting expectations, help them understand why and either get them back on track or give them the opportunity to take their skills and apply them to another organization that may be a better fit.
Notice that I did not mention buying gifts, lunches or free turkeys. Buying lunch occasionally for team successes or celebrating is very important if it is for a specific purpose when a team achieves a key goal. This shows appreciation and makes the environment a more fun place to work. As an organization, you want to celebrate successes. Rewarding an individual with something that is really of value to them after an accomplishment is also a great idea. However, having an employee feel valued is more about your relationship with the employee. Recognizing what they do, acknowledging their performance, having regular conversations and showing them they are valued.