Organizations around the world have been spending millions of dollars on measuring employee happiness, engagement, and investing into technologies that track how many minutes a day they're 'active' behind a screen. Even after all that data gathering, most still haven’t been able to crack the nut around engagement and attrition remains high. So is everyone just bored and unhappy at work, or is there more to what employees are craving?
Your gut and the latest trends might tell you that it's crystal clear; employees want boosted flexibility, more money, and a sustainable workload. While all these may be true to some effect, the answer is even more simple, yet it starts with: it depends. It depends on what it is your employee needs to better serve the purpose of your organization. How can you help them, help you? Here's a hint, the answer is not hidden in your enterprise-wide employee survey or even in the research that's done by institutions. The answer lies within how enabled your managers and leaders are to reflect more than they react.
We all know this too well, managers want to be the heroes by jumping in to save the day or put out a fire, or even constantly showcase how busy they are. They want to be seen as important and demonstrate that they can react to anything that comes their way, that they are resilient and can solve any new challenge at hand. However, this way of working isn't sustainable, it's also an outcome of poor planning. And we're not talking about planning for unlikely scenarios such as a global pandemic (though this is possible too), we're talking about planning that involves thoughtful and holistic reflection - slowing down to ensure you're heading towards the right direction rather than constantly pivoting with haste.
Thus, the answer is: if managers can reflect more than they react, they can better learn what it is employees are seeking from their employer, and understand where the business needs to provide these offerings versus what type of talent they should be attracting into their organization to begin with.
Here are 7 questions every manager/leader should be reflecting on regularly:
Is my company's purpose clear, strong, and communicated well so employees that choose to join and stay, can connect with it?
Is the work environment safe so my colleagues can focus on doing their best work without fear?
Am I creating a community and sense of belonging around me so work doesn't feel like all work, but a place where we're coming together to serve the purpose we're all connecting to?
Am I continuously assessing the external and internal factors that impact my industry, my business and my work to ensure I'm not reacting to evolution or changes, but staying on top or ahead of them?
Are Managers equipped with the right tools, resources and capabilities to lead and enable high-quality work in a remote and hybrid work setting?
Are employees given the right combination of trust, responsibility, and incentives to stay engaged and interested in their work?
Am I actively asking and learning what matters to my employees so I can provide them with opportunities that align to what they seek?
This last question might even be the one managers/leaders ask least, making it the most critical when it comes to engaging their talent. If you don't know what's important to each of them at a certain point of their career, how can you offer them a ways to stay engaged, happy and fulfilled?
Here are 7 additional questions you're going to want to ask your direct reports on a regular basis:
What is most important to you at this stage of your career?
What factors outside of work should your manager be more mindful of to better support you at this stage of your career?
What interests do you have outside / inside the workplace that you'd like to explore or learn more about?
What is the next career milestone that you're looking forward to?
What supports do you require to help you reach your next milestone?
What have been some of your recent reflections related to the fulfilment and enjoyment your work creates for you?
How can your work help you achieve your broader purpose (if you have identified it)?
Challenge: First, ask yourself all 14 questions listed above. Does your work and what comes out of your work offer you fulfilment and joy? Second, get into the habit of learning this about your direct reports so you can create paths for them that are better aligned with what they seek. Remember, help them help you.