The last few months have presented unthinkable challenges for many. Layoffs and furloughs. Work from home, and for many now back to work. A very strong voice to create equity and greater inclusion for our diverse workforce. This is not an easy time to be a leader as organizations try to prioritize and more clearly demonstrate their focus on their employees.
So, what do your employees really want from you right now? For starters, they don’t want to be called “employees”. That’s a transactional term that literally means someone is hired and paid for their work. That’s it! Is that what you want from your team members? Some companies have moved towards calling their employees “associates” for this very reason, suggesting more of a partnership and two-way relationship. That still feels very impersonal and cold to me though, so I would offer calling your team members “team members” is most effective.
For the most part, your team members want to be your partners in influencing how the business runs. They want to be treated fairly in line with the real value they bring to your organization and especially to the clients and customers you serve. Even though some may just be there for a transactional paycheck, everyone benefits from a more holistic and human connection with you beyond just being your employee and you being their employer.
TED produced a great video last year with Michael C. Bush entitled “This Is What Makes Employees Happy At Work.” In it, Bush discusses things like trusting employees and empowering them to do what they think is right. He also shares how powerful treating people fairly and equitably is in driving performance. Ultimately, his message though is about being the kind of leader who really listens in search of the best approach and strives to change one’s own behaviors because he/she truly believes the way we treat people matters.
Given our current conditions, it’s a powerful message to keep in mind. Building on these key principles, what your team members really want right now is:
- To feel valued
- To have a voice
- To be empowered to make decisions and influence positive changes where possible
- To spend quality time with you and other leaders, mentors, and role models in the organization
- To have a future with the company, including a well-defined career path with increased opportunity to develop and grow over time
Yes, it’s about equity and inclusion for all team members regardless of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. And yes, it’s about providing a safe and supportive work environment as many of us consider when to return to work versus how long to have our team members continue working from home. And it’s about much more than this. It’s about the human condition and making sure our team members know we care about them and will do everything we can to support them as they continue to do everything they can to support us and our businesses.
That may not be a universal statement for every one of your team members. I get it. You may have some less invested in your success. Folks who roll into work and clock in and clock out for their paychecks. Nothing more, nothing less.
These are discrete performance management issues though, not broad workforce management issues. You need to hold people accountable to clear performance expectations and address these one-off performance issues head on. For everyone else, show them you’ve got their backs and make sure they know they do have a voice and that you are listening. Whether that’s assembling an Employee Experience Committee to discuss these issues or holding a monthly “Lunch with the CEO” so a few team members can engage in a focused dialogue about what matters most to them. These intentional actions on your part will go a long way towards driving equity and inclusion with your team members. Just make sure you are prepared to take action and implement any necessary changes based on the feedback you receive. There’s nothing worse for employees than offering constructive feedback and sharing ideas freely knowing that nothing will ever change.
Are you struggling to keep your team members productive and engaged right now? Worried about whether your own unconscious bias and drive for results is impacting your employees’ experiences? Give me a call at 310.589.4612 or email me today to discuss your specific situation and review some possible solutions to enhance your overall environment and employee experience at work. Or maybe you’d like to visit the Talent Management page of our website to see how we enable our clients to inspire their employees and achieve better business results. Our consultants are also standing by to facilitate a series of workshops to help you increase cultural dexterity at work. Ask us for more information about these exciting new programs to drive greater equity and inclusion across your organization.