We’ve made many technological advances in business over the last few decades. There are so many things in the office that can be done with minimal human effort. You name it and we’ve probably made it easier with technology. Collaboration. Document sharing. Communication. Data entry. Accounting. But with all of these new technological methods, it seems we’re still missing some very important things. Your average worker is still stressed; in fact, workplace stress seems to have been increasing steadily over the last decade.
The fact is that the many emotional aspects that come into play at every office are still mostly untouched by technological advances. There’s still no way to automate the generation of good feelings, esteem boosts and the sense of being appreciated. These things are vital to employee satisfaction, which makes them vital to the overall impact of your business in the long run. You could be the most advanced office in the world, with coffee-making robots and mind-reading keyboards. As long as your workers feel stressed and undervalued, you’re still going to seem pretty backward in the grand scheme of things.
If business is going great for you, you might not think you need to pay much attention to this. It is possible for a company filled with unhappy workers to find financial success. But eventually, the effects of long-term worker stress and unhappiness will catch up with you. So perhaps you want to protect your business for the long haul. Or perhaps you’re simply looking at things from an ethical point of view and want your employees to be happier… just because. In either case, does it not make sense to have your employees view their job, and themselves, as valuable? Instead of just something they do between the hours of nine to five?
It’s a simple fact that most people at any given job are there primarily to get a paycheck at the end of the month. One of the problems bad office managers have is the belief that everyone in the office must be motivated by sheer love of the job. This can be an extremely harmful mindset in the long run. I’m going to use the video game industry as an example here, having spent many years working in it myself.
Many believe that only video game fans would ever be working in the video game industry. The widespread idea is that video games are fun, so the job any game studio employee is doing must, by extension, be fun. This mindset is contributive to the long-hour “grind” culture that exists in this industry. Employees are often guilted into working extremely long hours because, hey, we’re all video game fans here, right? You must be passionate about video games, surely? Prove it by doing some free overtime!
Forgetting that employees are mostly in the office because they’d be fired if they weren’t is the first step in this process. By recognizing this, you will stop taking your employees for granted. If you keep pushing them and undervaluing them, they will eventually quit. Your company isn’t necessarily an object of passion for everyone in the room.
What you should be doing is looking for ways to alleviate this “it’s just a job” attitude. You need to create a culture within your office of truly valuing employees. When employees feel like their work is being appreciated, you create a happier atmosphere. And something as simple as a happier, friendlier atmosphere can make people care all that much more about work.
So the first piece of practical advice is probably one you’ve heard before: make sure you’re giving feedback. This feedback must be thoughtful, helpful and intentional. Intentional might seem like an odd word to use there, but let me explain. There’s giving an employee feedback because giving feedback is something you have to do. Then there’s giving feedback with meaningful intent. With the intention of making to make this employee feel valued. To feel like any improvements that could make are achievable and that you’ll help them do it.
This mindset can also be expanded into everyday conversations with your employees. Don’t just bark an order at them. Think about why you’re giving that employee this task. Did they do a great enough job on the previous task for you to entrust them with this one? Then let them know. Make sure they know that you believe in them and look forward to seeing how they approach this task. Tell them about the criteria that have made them the best fit for this task. Let’s say you have a client that can be a little picky about how you go about the task. Tell the employee that you’ve picked them for this because they have a great eye for detail, as well as a great way with people.
And what about material rewards? There is a disturbing amount of people out there working overtime without extra pay or reward. This often happens if employees are paid a flat salary instead of being paid by the hour. The employee will be contracted to work between a certain set of hours and aren’t legally compelled to work outside of those hours. So if an employee usually leaves at 6pm, any amount of time over that is overtime – possibly unpaid.
Don’t run a company that takes advantage of an employee’s goodwill (or fear of being fired) to get additional hours out of them. That goodwill (or fear) will expire soon enough and be replaced with a sense of expendability. Are employees doing an amazing job? Have they been putting in a few extra hours? Make sure this time is being monitored. You should know exactly what is being achieved in that overtime so you can give the right compliments later. You should also know exactly how many extra hours and being put in. Even if there’s nothing legally compelling you to pay them extra, give them something. Maybe something extra in that month’s paycheck. Maybe some company-branded gifts from somewhere like Motivators. Maybe a special lunch outing during break hours.
You need to make sure that employees feel valued. Sometimes this can be as simple as listening to them. Which brings us to one last suggestion: accept the feedback of others. If you value an employee, then you must value their opinion, right? So let them know. If you’re going to be making an executive decision regarding a project that employee is on, ask them for their opinion. Even if you don’t follow their suggestions to a T, they fact that you even asked with be appreciated tremendously.
Don’t let advancing technology allow your company to become soulless. Make sure your employees feel like human beings instead of cogs in an unfeeling corporate machine.