When the economy is dragging, nurturing employees may go on the back burner; in turn, employee morale begins to drag. Even within a robust market, companies immerse energies in staying ahead of the innovation curve or beating the competition, thus dimming the mentoring light.
In these scenarios, courageous employees who reach out to management for stretch opportunities and promotions often face rejection, further toppling their morale.
In addition to the above, leadership's resistance to employee dreams may be fueled elsewhere. This drives the question of "how to make your employees feel valued?"
Say "yes" to your employees
According to Whitney Johnson, President and Co-Founder, Rose Park Advisors, in a Harvard Business Review's video, Don't Kill Your Employees' Dreams, a manager may think that "every yes to an employee would mean a no to the company." In other words, saying yes to an employee wanting to explore new ventures would mean she wouldn't be doing her day job.
However, she says, this simply is not true.
"This is a zero sum view of the world in which the size of the pie is fixed. But good leaders realize that saying yes to an employee who wants to do more can be a catalyst for enlarging the pie, creating more value for everyone."
Get to know your what drives your employees
Johnson also explains that while some employees express unrealistic ambitions, your job is to help them succeed, even if this means helping "steer them toward a more realistic path." She says that an employee's expressed ambition provides insight into internal drivers. So, instead of being dismissive, handle the situation in a way that makes the employee feel appreciated -- and valued.
Give employees an opportunity to think strategically
Once you've set the stage regarding how to move forward, engage the employee in the strategic planning process.
Johnson suggests, "Have them craft a plan showing how either their ideas or advancement will benefit all stakeholders. This gives them an opportunity to think strategically and demonstrate they are team players, further underscoring their value."
Whether your organization is a lean start-up or 100-year-old global enterprise, Whitney Johnson's formula applies to make employees feel valued.
In addition to actualizing your employees' dreams, the following ideas can help you nurture your team on a daily basis. For example, here are a few tips to show appreciation for your employees:
1. Say thank you. Whether your employees are submitting a weekly report or have just returned from a customer delivery, don't forget to articulate appreciation.
2. Encourage risk taking. Micromanaging your employee's every word after you granted permission to test-drive a new sales strategy or hovering as they try out a new application will only serve to erode trust.
3. Be flexible. Your office hours may be sunup to sundown, but perhaps others need just a little more time away to be their best when at the office. An extra hour in the mornings may enable your top performer to spend time with their family or to work out at the gym, thus powering them up for the day. Permitting a tailored schedule may in turn empower work performance, and ultimately, the bottom line.
4. Remember their birthday. Likely, your employee's friends and family will take the baton here, but it would add value for their boss to acknowledge the event with a simple "Happy birthday" wish.
5. Speak favorably about other employees. If you criticize one co-worker to another, your employees will soon realize their reputation is being marred behind their back, as well. Maintain a positive vocabulary when speaking of one staff member to another.
6. Follow through. When you ask an employee to invest hours on a research project, only to ignore the results - or worse - scrap the project altogether with nary a follow-up, then morale is scarred. Be committed to closing the loop on your goals, and particularly those in which you have engaged your staff.
7. Offer comp time.Whether you've asked your employees to invest weekends on a special project - or they simply offered - working weekends is no small deed. If you have the option, offer comp time (this primarily applies to salaried employees), or grant some other form of reward for those who go above and beyond what's asked or expected.
8. Be open. While disclosing full P&L may not be in the cards, bringing your team up to speed on key initiatives versus keeping everything cloaked in a veil of secrecy strengthens trust within your company.
9. Offer invitations for employee growth. In addition to listening and responding to your employee's goals as discussed earlier, be proactive on their behalf. In other words, invite them into stretch projects, promotion opportunities, networking events and such before being asked to do so.
When employees get stuck in routine and stop learning or they feel under-appreciated, their enthusiasm and feelings of possibility wane. This can lead to productivity and retention decline, which in turn impacts a company's bottom line. Offering your energy through small daily actions as well as responding to their aspirations will not only make your employees feel valued but also can propel your company to new heights.