7 Proven Ways to Genuinely Connect With Your Employees
What kind of difference would it make for your company to get every one of your employees excited about solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of your customers?
Every company today needs employees who are enthusiastic and who bring the very best of themselves to work. Companies need this not just from top performers but from every employee, every day, in order just to be competitive and survive, let alone thrive. The single element that distinguishes one company from another more than anything else is its people and the effort they exert.
The secret to unlocking this unlimited source of energy for your company is to build and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees. When you trust and respect your people--and really connect with them--they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm.
Give these seven strategies for connecting with your employees a try and see for yourself how your organization will benefit.
1. Put people first.
All employees--no matter what their positions are or how well they perform their jobs--want to be respected and valued for their contributions. Respect comes in many different forms: respecting opinions, respecting time, respecting culture, and more. And respect is a two-way street. Employees also need to respect their employers and their own careers instead of viewing their jobs and salaries only as entitlements.
2. Create a safe haven.
In many organizations, bosses rule their employees through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Unfortunately, over the long term, fear causes employees to contribute less to their organizations and to disconnect both mentally (checking out, clamming up) and physically (absenteeism, resignation). Employees must feel safe when they take the initiative to try something new, whether or not the idea works. It's your job to provide your people with a safe haven to bring forward their ideas, and to tell the truth--no matter how hard it may be for you to hear.
3. Break down barriers to information.
Information is power, and bosses have traditionally wielded this power by selectively granting information to employees or withholding it from them. Organizations today can no longer afford the practice of selective communication. Employees must be informed--through constant, complete, and unfettered communication by their co-workers, managers, and customers--about what's going on in the organization and their place within it. Only when they have complete information can they and will they give all they have to their organization.
4. Create golden opportunities for personal growth.
Owners have an inherent interest in ensuring that their organizations get the biggest bang for their buck, that is, that revenue is maximized, expenses are minimized, and customers are consistently delighted with the products and services they receive. The granting of stock and other financial incentives is one way to develop a sense of ownership in employees. But there are many other nonfinancial ways that leaders can instill an owner's mentality in the workplace, including giving employees real responsibility and authority to make decisions that affect their jobs and their work.
5. Undo the organization.
In the past, rigid, bureaucratic, and rule-bound organizations were the model of consistency, dependable results, and steady if not stellar profits. However, this old model of business is now officially extinct, and a new model of business--a lean model built on speed, flexibility, and the active involvement of frontline employees--has taken hold. When you give your employees the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs, you and your organization will be successful because you're depending on them to do the right thing on their own instead of depending on policies and procedures that force them to do so.
6. Engage your people.
Although many organizations have spent a lot of time over the past few years developing and installing elaborate employee suggestion systems, few have made them a permanent part of the way they do business. Even fewer actually implement the good suggestions they receive. This is a mistake. Employees are a tremendous potential source of organizational improvement, and you should make it a point to regularly tap this wealth of ideas.
7. Make recognition a way of life.
Despite years of research proving the overwhelmingly positive effect of employee recognition on the bottom line, few bosses take the time to recognize and reward their employees for a job well done--and even fewer employees report that they receive either recognition or rewards at work. The amazing thing about this is that the most effective forms of employee recognition cost little or no money, such as verbal and written thank-you's for employees who do a good job, and publicly celebrating team and group successes.
While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.