In the new age of work, we have seen a growing trend towards people-first leadership. Workplaces are learning that the true key to business growth and success is to focus on employee happiness, engagement, and well-being.
And with this new preoccupation with employees comes a renewed focus on workplace culture, employee benefits, and inspiring perks. We're seeing a rise in flexible work-hour policies, more career development support for all levels of employees, and even an added focus on fun and play in the office.
But in your quest to create the best workplace ever, don't forget that there are some basic needs of your employees that should always remain priorities.
Here are five needs every employee has but doesn't ask for:
1. Psychological safety.
Psychological safety is the shared belief amongst a group that the environment is a safe place to take risks. This creates "a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up," said Amy Edmondson in a 1999 study.
To build psychological safety, you have to be sure that people are socially sensitive to others and ensure everyone feels heard. According to Charles Duhigg, to create psychological safety, team leaders need to model the right behaviors. Leaders should not interrupt teammates during conversations. They should demonstrate they are listening by summarizing what people say and by encouraging teammates to respond in nonjudgmental ways. They should admit what they don't know, and they shouldn't end a meeting until all team members have spoken at least once.
2. Autonomy in managing their schedule.
According to a 2010 study by Columbia University psychologists, "The need for control is a biological imperative." The first step in creating drive is giving people opportunities to make choices that provide them with a sense of autonomy and self-determination. As Duhigg elaborates, "When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster."
3. Constructive Feedback
Several studies have shown the importance of constructive feedback. Feedback not only helps employees do better work (helping bottom-line metrics), but also maintains their motivation to do great work and develop themselves personally and professionally. People who receive thoughtful constructive feedback have experienced increased confidence, self-esteem, and better interpersonal relationships and teamwork. While giving feedback is often seen as a tricky thing that we tend to avoid, it is actually a necessity in the workplace and can be a positive and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
4. The ability to fail without retribution.
This is a big one. At the office, it is important to always put things in perspective: we are all here to engage in quality, meaningful work. The focus should be on a shared goal, not on keeping tabs on who is doing what.
When we create a type of environment like this, innovation and engagement become the norm. As Richard Sheridan notes in Joy, Inc., when you feel safe from constant retribution, you are more willing to run experiments: "You create a new kind of culture in which you accept that mistakes are inevitable. You learn that small, fast mistakes are preferable to the big, slow, deadly mistakes you are making today."
5. Support, not advice.
It's tempting to dole out advice. After all, if you're seen as a leader or mentor in your workplace, you want to be helpful to the people who look up to you.
But remember: as well-intentioned you may be, advice is still just your point of view. When you give advice, you are simply signaling what you would do in a similar situation, and that is not always helpful to people who may be very different from you in terms of strengths, values, and life priorities.
Instead, focus on being supportive. Ask your protege questions to help them discover the answer for themselves. Be a sounding board for scenarios. Connect them to new people and resources. There are ways to be extremely helpful without being overbearing with advice.