Several studies have shown that businesses with high morale outperform comparable businesses with low morale. In addition, employees who are given the support and instructions to perform tasks that showcase their abilities are valuable assets to their companies. To increase the chances of employees meeting or exceeding their potential, managers will need to know their employees, then apply the physical, technological, professional and social changes necessary to create an environment that encourages growth, progress and rewards for well-done work. Here are ten ways managers can go about achieving this:
1. Support and counsel in addition to leading
There’s more to managing a team or a department than assigning tasks and meeting deadlines. Effective employee management will require listening to employees, offering support and advice and helping employees meet or exceed their potential. Managers will also need to factor in external factors – such as family issues or health complications – which might distract employees from their assigned duties.
2. Assign tasks best suited to employees’ strengths
Employees who perform duties at which they excel will reduce the time and costs associated with tasks. In addition, employees that exercise their strengths and innate skills will be less vulnerable to burnout and dissatisfaction. The right mix of skill tests and socializing can help managers reveal their employee’s strengths and abilities. Assigning fast typists to enter data, having detail-oriented employees review code and documents and tasking gregarious employees with customer-facing duties are examples of pairing employees with tasks at which they will excel.
3. Determine what motivates employees, then get motivating
Employees can be motivated by a variety of factors, including increased compensation, exposure to new duties and technologies or even something as simple as routine praise. Managers who understand what motivates their employees can create incentives that keep their employees determined and focused. Because high motivation leads to high productivity, managers are wise to perform a bit of social detective work, take notes and create appropriate incentives and rewards for their teams and departments.
4. Give feedback that is constructive and supportive
How managers deliver feedback can be the difference between a determined employee and a discouraged employee. A common yet powerful tactic is to begin by highlighting what the employee did well. When discussing areas that need improvement, managers should present the information in ways that explain how the employee can improve. Managers shouldn’t use feedback sessions to scold or insult their employees, which will demotivate and discourage the employee. Routine feedback that encourages, corrects and establishes future plans and goals can keep employees focused and energetic.
5. Solicit feedback and ideas from employees
Feedback shouldn’t be a one-way channel from managers to employees. Employees should be encouraged to discuss ideas, suggestions and problems with their managers. Establishing and enforcing “open door” policies can help employees grow comfortable with talking with their managers. Making brainstorming sessions into routine meetings or even miniature contests can prompt employees to be creative or assertive. And employees who don’t feel the need to bottle their emotions or excessively censor their speech will be less likely to succumb to stress and its negative effects.
6. Continually train employees
Advances in technology, laws and society mean that virtually every business must adapt and improve to keep competitive. To succeed, employees will need both the most effective tools and guidance on how to apply them. Managers should assign training classes, mentorships, vendor demonstrations and other learning tools to keep employees’ skills and knowledge current. It takes more than simply hiring and onboarding new employees. If you want to make sure they’re good enough, you should consider inviting conference speakers to motivate them to be more efficient. This isn’t the case for new hires, but also for employees who’ve been working for your company for quite some time now.
7. Foster an environment that encourages collaboration
Encouraging collaboration between employees will require a combination of physical, technological and interpersonal efforts. Office spaces shared by multiple employees should be designed to encourage “sneaker-net” communication, where employees can simply walk to other employees for quick questions, staff meetings or a meal in the break room.
For employees that are geographically separated, the right combination of communication software and hardware can facilitate a variety of communication types from detailed written correspondence to real-time video chats. Managers will also need to provide sufficient training, counseling and encouragement to ensure that employees are communicating in effective, respectful ways.
8. Emphasize the importance of a work-life balance
No person is their vocation, and every person has obligations, desires and personal projects which are funded by their main job. In addition, employees who are concerned about an ill family member or suffering from the physical and mental effects of exhaustion won’t be able to perform at their best. The right combination of paid time-off, sick days, flexible schedules and similar policies empower employees to meet all their obligations without being burdened by occupational consequences.
9. Honor and promote the importance of breaks
There’s more to work breaks than the mandatory breaks (15 minutes for 4-hour shifts, 45 minutes for 6-hour shifts, and 1 hour for 8-hour shifts). In addition, breaks are useless when employees are worried or preoccupied with work-related issues. Managers should encourage their employees to make the most of their breaks. In addition, occasional stretch breaks, brief walks and other miniature breaks should be encouraged to prevent repetitive injuries, eye strain and “tunnel vision.”
10. Avoid a 24/7 schedule whenever possible
Maintaining a work-life balance and making the most of breaks is nearly impossible for employees who feel like they’re always on duty. Even for industries and businesses whose missions are critical, employees will need sufficient time to rest and to tend to their personal duties. Managers who find themselves using “on-call” schedules should strongly consider hiring additional employees to reduce the current employees’ workloads and training and promoting from within to increase the number of employees available for duties that fall outside of core business hours.
The most important point that managers should embrace is that their employees are more than “human resources.” There’s no single solution to keeping employees engaged and reducing turnover because no two people are the same. Successful managers will need to prioritize interpersonal skills over technological or professional expertise to motivate their employees. Getting to know their employees and their strengths, weaknesses, goals and personal traits will give managers the insights they need to make employees feel appreciated, engaged and on-track. Treating employees like humans instead of replaceable parts will be a winning strategy in both the short-term and the long-term.