Showing meaningful appreciation to your staff does not have to cost money. I would argue that the most important elements of creating a positive culture have less to do with the benefit plan and more with the ‘softer’ sides of the equation. Certainly fair pay, vacation and health benefits are important, and necessary. However, often overlooked are those key aspects of relationship building, or ‘soft skills’, that are critical to showing an individual or team the commitment that you have to them.
First off, let’s dispense with the term ‘soft skills’. This needs to go the way of the dinosaur. Increasingly, companies large or small are coming around to realize the impact to the bottom line that these people skills impart. I prefer to call them ‘primary skills’ which is more reflective of their enormous impact on corporate culture and long-term success.
It Begins With You
Showing staff you care for them should extend beyond the workplace. Work Life Balance programs are critical pieces of the organizational sustainability puzzle. Helping staff to find the right balance between their career and personal endeavors results in a more happy, committed, and effective team capable of delivering sustained high performance over the long-term. Really. But, we will save this discussion for the next article in the series.
Creating the day-to-day glue that binds a successful company together begins with you as a leader. The nature of the relationships that you have with your team is a large contributor to the type of workplace environment that you have together. Are you someone that they can trust? Do you treat them with respect? Are you fair? Affirmative answers to these types of questions go a long way to establishing a positive culture where staff feel valued. There are both informal and formal things that you can do to help create an environment where people say it’s a great place to work.
Small Touches, High Leverage
Your daily interactions with your team influence more than you might expect. Small touches like simply saying ‘hello’ to your team every day go along way. Occasionally taking the time out to spend a few moments with individual team members also demonstrates your interest. ‘Managing by walking around’ affords you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them by creating a leadership style of mutual approachability. Having a boss that people feel OK to share feedback with is a key element of establishing trust.
Notice What’s Working
Recognizing the accomplishments of your team and of individuals regularly builds feelings of loyalty and respect. Unfortunately, attention paid to what needs to be fixed often far outweighs the times an employee hears about what’s right. Given the workload of so many in business today, quickly zeroing in on the problem is often what time and the current situation seem to demand.
The problem here is that the impact of hearing only what needs to be done differently can be highly discouraging over time and many leaders remain unaware of this. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that critical feedback isn’t important. It is just that more often than not, it becomes the primary focus of feedback in a working relationship. So start looking for more of a balance and strive to acknowledge things that have helped out, large or small. It’ll go a long, long way to building your employees feelings of competence and value.
No Big Bands Please
Speaking of recognition, it doesn’t have to be of the high-octane big band variety either. Most folks don’t want a band to play when they have achieved something. Many simply want a plain and simple ‘thumbs up’. They only need to know you are aware and appreciative of their bit. The same holds true for team recognition. Although a good celebratory party can be fun and effective, simply showing up to employees’ team meetings or work areas and congratulating them is powerful. Too often this is overlooked because of the belief that only a big event will do. Daily or ongoing acknowledgement has by far the most impact on team and individual motivation.
How Am I as a Leader Doing?
Not only is it important for you as a leader to be providing your employees with information they need to have about their performance, it is equally valuable for them to be able to provide you with similar feedback. This shows you are serious about their input. The information garnered about your leadership style and impact can be crucial to theirs and your success. Knowing your successes and opportunities for growth with each team member allows you the chance to create higher levels of staff engagement. And engaged employees have always been the engine of corporate success.
A good place to begin generating this type of reciprocal feedback is via a 360 feedback tool, of which there are many. The important piece will then be to take action on the learning. This action will then go a long way towards creating a workplace where people show up giving their all.
In a Nutshell
As we’ve seen, creating staff value does not have to cost money. Far from it. It is the tone and content of the day-to-day interactions that you share with your team that build a place where people like to come to work. From simple greetings to uncomplicated and ongoing acknowledgement to seeking leadership feedback, these are the raw materials for creating a solid foundation of positive culture. Now what is the return on investment of that?
I’m interested in hearing about some of the things that you or your company do to create a fun and rewarding work environment. What things do you see as making the biggest difference? What have you seen in other workplaces that make it a great place to work?