You may think that financial rewards are all staff want, and while that is a driving force for us all, that’s not only what staff need.
I once worked at a firm where the staff were treated to a host of ‘extras’, yet many staff often felt undervalued and unappreciated. In the mind of the owner, large sums were being spent on trying to keep the staff happy, but the sad fact was the owner still saw high staff dissatisfaction and was honestly confused by what he perceived as the lack of appreciation for what he expended on their behalf.
The reality was that while staff appreciated the ‘extras’, many felt that they weren’t recognised in more basic ways. If a staff member wanted to leave early for an appointment or take a day off without accessing leave, the owner was harshly resistant – despite many hours in excess of their contracted hours being performed on a weekly basis. Other staff felt that they were invisible, spoken to only when something was needed but not recognised for their efforts on an individual basis. Still others felt underpaid, seeing what they perceived as earnt wages being spent on the extras but never in their pocket. The mistake wasn’t in offering lunches out or social events, it was in assuming that these extras met the needs of his employees.
Workplaces seeing see high turnover of staff is often due to the berating and belittling of staff on a regular basis. Talented staff are often lost because they feel unappreciated or untrusted.
Additionally, the tendency to give with one hand and take with the other can also lead to your staff seeking greener pastures. Don’t offer your staff a lunch out and then expect them to make up the time, or organise your required work functions on weekends when staff want to be with their families.
Don’t assume that the way it’s always been done is the best way. Multiple studies in recent years have shown that productivity, efficiency, and well-being of workers can be increased by implementing a reduction in working hours. Don’t resist change when the potential for benefit is within your grasp.
The first way to show appreciation for your staff is always the most obvious – pay them what they’re worth. Nothing is more guaranteed to cause your driven, hardworking, and loyal staff to leave than under paying them. Be aware of what other firms are offering and be prepared to be competitive.
Set up a culture of flexibility. It can be more difficult to manage but can reap great rewards with staff not turning themselves inside out to satisfy the needs of their health or family.
Pay attention to the hours your staff work. If you have staff that frequently come in early, cut short breaks or stay late, then allow them the dignity of being able to go to health appointments, leave to care for their children and restructure their hours if required and possible.
Consider what other ‘extras’ your staff actually want. Don’t assume – ask them. If they want social interaction – try and facilitate that. If they want lunches or gifts, or more morning teas or RDO’s – then do what you can to try and make that work. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful.
Ensure your staff feel appreciated as individuals. Tell them when they’re doing well, applaud their efforts, celebrate their successes. Be constructive and measured with your criticism.
Most importantly – get to know who your staff are on a one-on-one basis. Take the time to chat. Ask them how they’re feeling. Let them lead the conversations, learn about their lives and then, simply, care. Care about their individual needs, goals and challenges and do the best you can to help each and every one to achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.
And that’s the point, we need to appreciate our staff, not just for the work they do, but for who they are.
You can implement a host of changes and make an enormous effort to support your staff, and sadly there will always be those who remain dissatisfied, who want more than you can give and who won’t appreciate your efforts. But past those few, you’ll find that most staff will be more loyal and willing to go the extra mile, and a happier, more relaxed, workplace.
It’s up to owners and managers to create the culture they want in their office and to show their staff that the grass really can be greenest where they currently are.
Written by Caroline Fougere - Garland Waddington Solicitors, Sunshine Coast