Fancy dinners, chocolates and heartfelt sentiments may go a long way with significant others on Valentine's Day, but your employees desire to feel appreciated in different ways. While no two employees are exactly the same -each will be spurred on by different motivators -great leaders understand a nuanced approach to recognizing and rewarding individual efforts is the best strategy for creating a winning culture.
But what does motivate employees? One reward that has significantly less motivational power than you may think is money. So if you're a leader who defaults to bank account boosts to make an employee feel special, you still may not be hitting on what your people value most.
The only way to know what they truly value is to take the time to get to know your employees. While motivations are truly individual, there are five things that will make employees feel a valuable part of the team.
1. To be challenged
A staggering 73 percent of workers want to do something more difficult, so much so that they'd be willing to leave your company to do it. Workplace boredom is real, and it's a culture killer. Instead of maintaining the status quo and making your best people feel like they're stuck in a Groundhog Day loop, constantly push them a little outside their comfort zones.
Whether you're allowing people from different departments to co-habitate the same meeting, or encouraging (and perhaps bankrolling) time spent away from the office to pursue and master a new skill, preventing your employees from settling into a routine is beneficial for all parties. Of course, you still must tailor your challenges to each individual so that they can reach their maximum potential.
2. To have a voice
Great leaders find the right balance between setting the tone of the company, and reflecting the wants and needs of the people who work there. Closed-door policies create disenchantment, which quickly turns to resentment and can sink even your best plans. And even worse, listening to employee concerns and never following through on addressing any of them is a surefire way to increase your company's churn rate.
Simply put, your employees want to feel a vital part of the mission they signed up for when they took the job. They don't want to run the asylum, so to speak, but it takes a stronger leader to incorporate ideas from down the chain than to act unilaterally. Simply assuring with your words that you're available any time, and displaying with your actions that you're malleable to change, will alleviate a tremendous amount of stress for your employees and cultivate their creativity.
3. To be respected
Respect must be earned, but your employees should never feel like they're constantly wanting it from you. Take time to bridge artificial gaps that exist based on title differences alone, and treat employees like you would a friend.
Get to know what interests they have outside the office, ask about their families. In other words, treat them like a person. If this seems obvious to you, then you're probably already doing it, but it doesn't come naturally to every leader.
This is where understanding what motivates each person at your company is of paramount importance. Not every employee enjoys a public display of kudos for a job well done, but some do. Not every employee wants to participate in an office-wide social hour as a reward, but some do. Know how every individual likes to receive recognition and they'll feel respected.
4. To have autonomy
In other words, learn how to master the art of delegation. Resist the urge to micro-manage every aspect of a project and you'll be encouraging creativity, hard work and a sense of real accomplishment.
Will someone else do your work exactly how you would have done it? It's not likely, and as a leader you should be excited by that prospect.
5. To be coached
Even though your employees yearn to be set free and carve their own paths within the company, they still will turn to you for guidance and leadership. If you've satisfied their desires to be heard and challenged, then you've set up a workplace utopia where everyone is learning from each other and no ideas go to waste.
Regular reviews are great ways to impart your wisdom on your employees and coach up workers who may be struggling. When you meet with individuals, remember to relate performance to goals - both personal and company-wide. Your employees will feel the love even if you're constructively giving them areas in which they can improve.