Culture, Talent Management

Have a Great Staff? Then Why Aren’t You Treating Them Better?

Illustration by istockphoto.com

Ah, the first day on the job. It starts off like a whimsical wonderland for the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new hire.

Everything is fresh and waiting to be explored. With each breath, anticipation fills his lungs and curiosity emanates from his pores. His smile, intensified by a youthful optimism, reveals that he is ready to dive blindly into the office culture.

Led by a desire to demonstrate his value, he attends meetings, shares ideas, identifies opportunities, introduces untapped resources and makes himself indispensable — at least in his mind — because a short while later, something strange happens.

When the disenchantment begins

He begins to feel drained, suffocated and depleted, which causes him to start pulling back. His participation in key meetings is noticeably reduced.

Project after project is dumped into his lap with no talks of a raise, no investment into his professional development, no mention of the future, no semblance of a “thank you.” The after effects of an inflexible schedule are throwing his life into disarray. He resents the way he is treated by management and the selective rigidity that guides internal policies.

His attempts to address these concerns are met with robotic rhetoric and otherwise, ignored. The cheerful countenance that once fueled his desire to make a difference is gradually eclipsed by apathy. His co-workers seem unfazed by his struggle; perhaps they’ve all surrendered to the “that’s-just-the-way-things-are-around-here” mentality. The new hire realizes he is losing his fire and decides it’s time to leave the company he was so excited to work for just a few months ago…

When the relationship starts going south

All too often, talented employees enter companies with a burst of energy that is quickly zapped by a combination of internal factors: management, the culture, politics, the workload, people, the lack of vision, etc. Moment of truth: there is no perfect company, but that reality should not stop leaders from attempting to develop a culture that truly appreciates its employees. How can an employee grow in an environment where he is not supported, challenged and valued?

Leadership involves identifying talented employees and empowering them with the tools and opportunities to become even better at helping the company become better. It requires continuous investment because, in most cases, what you put in is what you get.

If an employee is receiving the kind of treatment and engagement that makes him feel his opinions, efforts and wellbeing matter, said employee is less likely to leave and more likely to produce his best work. For relatively sane employees to jump ship in this economy, especially without the assurance of a lifeboat, the company must be doing something really wrong.

Employee motivation cuts both ways

In several industries, talent is hard to come by — case in point, the talent shortage of 2013.

According to a recent study from one of the world’s largest recruiting firms, Manpower Group, 35 percent of 40,000 employers surveyed are coming up short in their quest for the best. If your organization is fortunate enough to have a skilled and hard-working staff, why aren’t you treating them better?

Today’s worker needs a compelling reason to remain loyal to your company’s mission, and for some employees, the promise of a steady paycheck just ain’t cutting it. They need to be fully engaged and connected to a cause that makes them jump out of bed every morning ready to tackle the day’s challenges.

These high performing employees must be given opportunities to contribute to projects that drive enthusiasm and inspire innovation. Employees are indeed responsible for sustaining their motivation levels, but the work environment can play a significant role in supporting or detracting from their efforts.

These five experiences help facilitate an employee’s decision to commit to a company:

  1. A sense of purpose – They understand how their work relates to departmental goals and the organization’s overall mission.
  2. A sense of power — Their managers trust them to deliver. They are able to adjust processes as needed.
  3. A sense of involvement -- They actively participate in meetings and discussions, especially those that affect their specific role. They are respected for their professional competence.
  4. A sense of belonging — They are an integral part of the team and therefore, are just as valuable as their coworkers. They generally feel accepted as part of the team.
  5. A sense of freedom — They are afforded flexible work schedules based on their ability to perform.

When these elements are not present on a consistent basis, it can become more of a drag than a dream to show up at work. An employee’s once powerful performance can easily dissolve into a haphazard haze of going through the motions.

Help ‘em grow or let ‘em go

Who wants to help a company reach higher heights if they’re feeling low as a result of being treated poorly on the job? Employees with low self-esteem might make an incompetent manager feel better, but they do little or nothing to advance the organization. Not to mention, employee turnover can be very costly.

The modern day workplace is characterized by change and instability. Layoffs, reduced benefits and other untimely occurrences undercut staff morale. Acknowledging the presence of these conditions does not suggest employees should or need to be coddled in order to do their jobs.

However, as more employees seek greater work-life balance and a genuine passion for their work (in the midst of an ever-changing organizational structure), implementing a company culture that considers such expectations is not far-fetched.

Many companies endorse a backward ideology that views employees through a here-today-gone-tomorrow lens. In other words, let’s get everything we possibly can out of this employee before they abandon us. This attitude determines the fate of the employee-employer relationship and leads to the very thing you initially feared — he or she takes off as soon as another opportunity arises. Although every employee leaves eventually, his or her tenure should be a mutually beneficial experience that ends on generally good terms.

Creating an environment they don’t want to leave

Aiming to make every employee “happy” is not realistic or sustainable. To rephrase this article, “Create the kind of work environment your employees will never want to leave.” The focus here is on cultivating an ideal work environment in which employees can thrive and offering what your company can to keep staff motivated. To achieve this end, employers must be willing to get creative in how they approach employee retention (a second look at your onboarding process wouldn’t hurt either).

The question remains: Are you truly prepared to change how you treat your employees, especially those you depend on the most? Or have you already purchased a lifetime subscription to the that’s-just-the-way-things-are-around-here mindset?

If you don’t know what to do with talented employees, your competitors just might.

This was originally published on the HireFuel blog.

Shirell Hairston is a writer and strategist. Her work covers HR/employment, entrepreneurship, leadership and more. Contact her at shirell.hairston@employmentguide.com.
  • bunnahabhain13

    Great post! As usual, those that should read this, probably won’t.

  • sanjidude

    Post this on the bulletin board in your lunch room. Someone who should see it eventually will!

  • Miss Brooklyn NY

    Well written post with many similarities to how I’ve felt in positions. Great piece

  • http://www.gatelyconsulting.com/ Robert Gately

    The symptoms described, see below, all indicate that employees were not hired for their talent for job success.

    * When the disenchantment begins
    * When the relationship starts going south
    * Employee motivation cuts both ways
    * Help ‘em grow or let ‘em go
    * Creating an environment they don’t want to leave

    Talent is the necessary condition for job success that employers cannot provide their employees and schools cannot provide their students. Most employers don’t measure talent so they can’t hire for talent even if they do hire the best and the brightest. Talent and competence are necessary but they are two different things. Selecting for competence, culture and talent avoids most performance
    problems and tenure issues.