By Bruce Hakutizwi
Getting the most from your workforce begins with the recognition that good people are the most important resource you have. It is then a matter of translating this knowledge into a practical strategy which convinces your employees they are genuinely valued and appreciated.
Research suggests that workers rarely become unhappy at work over money alone. So, offering a key member of your staff a pay rise, just to keep them from leaving, is actually an admission that you have other problems to fix. Here’s a check list of measures which can really make a difference and ensure a content and productive staff:
Clarify line management responsibilities
Everyone in your business should know what their responsibilities are, and who they should report to. This allows workers to feel valued, and contribute to the building of a well-functioning team unit. Not only does this systematic approach facilitate workflow and task tracking, it also identifies who each team member can approach for help and support.
Invest time in team bonding events
Planned team bonding exercises help people to get to know, and trust, each other in a variety of ways. Workers get a chance to learn about each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and special interests, and connecting in an alternative setting often prompts and fast-tracks the development of communication, planning, and problem-solving techniques. Bonding exercises can also provide scenarios in which to practice other useful skills, such as conflict resolution.
Research tells us that the development of good communication skills helps to strengthen team bonds and pave the way for personal connections which are genuinely more meaningful. Closer professional relationships can also lead to deeper and more productive discussions in the workplace.
Optimize workplace communication
A healthy working environment is built upon good communication. And while this means management clearly defining team goals and their expectations, good communication should also demonstrate that this is a two-way conversation. Workers must be able to express their concerns without fear, and see outcomes which prove they have been listened to.
Open and honest communication helps to keep everyone involved and avoids damaging rumors about management intent. And more important still, it builds an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
Look out for ‘red flag’ patterns of behavior
Some ‘red flag’ behaviors can be an early indicator that all is not well within the workplace. The following are some examples of tell-tale signs which would merit discreet investigation.
If employees are properly valued, everyone understands that accidents, emergencies and family issues can occasionally cause lateness. However, if this happens regularly, it can be a sign of deeper issues such as low morale. This may be precipitated by poor working conditions, possibly including workplace bullying, or a management style which keeps undervalued workers in the dark.
While recurring illness resulting in late attendance, or absence, may have a purely physical cause, it can also be a symptom of burnout – a condition which can affect overburdened employees or “voluntary workaholics” prone to pushing themselves beyond their limits. In such circumstances, the motivation to work can quickly disappear and the worker will often need professional help to recover.
One particular form of lateness can involve rogue middle managers who believe they work so hard they can ignore rules meant to apply to all. While their commitment may be of some merit, their behavior can negatively impact an otherwise happy and inclusive environment if they they continue to award themselves unwarranted privileges. Everyone expects fair and equal treatment within the office and if one person is breaking the rules it can destabilize the office equilibrium.
Lack of communication within a team, with managers, or throughout the business
A level of informal conversation between co-workers signals that they feel relaxed in each other’s company, so the widespread absence of such conversations can suggest that employee relationships are far from optimum.
If this is the case effort should be made to provide better opportunities for employees to converse socially. This is best done by upgrading areas where staff tend to congregate, for example, by including comfortable furniture, tables and chairs, as well as providing drinks and light refreshments. Similar work can be done in social and rest areas for the exclusive use of employees. Such measures send a message that it’s OK to talk.
Lack of new ideas or suggestions for development
A lack of open communication will limit the emergence of productive and innovative business ideas. While at work, staff naturally talk about their job, and this in turn leads to ideas for development and improvement. These proposals must then be tested by discussion and exchanges of opinion, which is why staff who are comfortable with informal debate can be a valuable resource; they will help push forward your business and introduce new ideas and methods of working.
The goal of all these measures is to create a people-centered business environment in which workers know their jobs and responsibilities, trust their colleagues, and feel they can speak out, knowing their voice will be heard. Such an approach breaks down barriers which impede work flow while simultaneously maximizing a company’s investment in human capital. The result is a happy environment and a streamlined workflow.
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Bruce Hakutizwi is USA and International Accounts Manager for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses. Bruce has over seven years’ experience working within the U.S. business transfer marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.