7 Steps to Employee Greatness
Think about the best job you’ve ever had. Perhaps it’s the one you have now, or it may be many years ago. What was it about your employee experience that made it great? Now, think back to the worst experience you’ve had as an employee (sorry, if this is a painful memory!) The contrast of these bi-polar work situations — and how these experiences inform your role as a manager of employees — provides the grist for a conversation of guiding employees to greatness.
We have explored many times on these pages the importance of trust in the development of a strong marketing program and growth plan. It is this seminal trust that is also the core of a strong employer-employee relationship, the foundation of thriving staff and, indeed, employee greatness. But trust is not a tactic; it’s the outcome of shared values, a shared vision, assumed responsibility and always keeping your promises.
In employee development, the foundation is to recognize that people seek purpose. We are naturally wired to want to impact others and make a difference. Every person is unique, gifted, experienced and purposed, and great companies inventory and place their people in positions that use their strengths, and help them pursue purpose and meaning.
An effective employee development process requires commitment by you and your employee that has in view the core purpose of the employee, the building of trust, and the mission of your company.
Employees thrive within a company when it is clicking on seven principles. As you think about your own experiences, how many of these define the difference between your great and your dreadful times as an employee? As a manager, how are you doing in these areas?
1. Employees share values with corporate leaders
We understand the importance of shared values in our personal relationships and friendships. If we don’t share a view of the world and an outlook on what things are vitally important or what standards of conduct aren’t negotiable and what principles go without saying, relationships are going to be short-lived.
We know instinctively that the same is true in our business relationships, yet the culture of a company or industry, or the intense pressures of competition or corporate quotas can move values quietly to the side. That’s why leadership is so important. Without the north star of shared values, a company can lose its right to be trusted. Its products can lose their reputation for quality and trustworthiness. Employees will be keeping their backs to the wall. The desire to take chances and to innovate is muted.
When you and your employees look at your business—into which you may be pouring decades of your life—the corporate expression of value and vision will either bring satisfaction (if it aligns with what you value personally), or frustration (if it doesn’t).
2. Employees and the company share a vision
If you think of your company as a ship at sea, and you’re a member of the crew, you can share values with other hard working and knowledgeable sailors that will help you survive in a storm. But if the captain hasn’t decided or won’t tell you the destination, it’s going to be a difficult and unproductive trip. Values without vision won’t take you very far (at least not in the right direction). A group of dedicated people with a common vision can more easily stay aligned and keep the ship surging in a straight line in the right direction.
Shared vision creates passion and purpose. It engages the emotional side of the brain and changes the activity from thinking to doing. If the values drive the shared vision, this ignites employee trust and engagement. It elevates the whole organization from head to heart.
3. Trust permeates corporate practices, communication and personal relations
When workplace trust is intact, employee dynamics can work well. When the trust is violated, relationships suffer. One of the characteristics of a managerial team that can develop trust with employees is credibility. The staff comes to rely on management for accurate information regarding important topics such as pay, delegation of job duties and promotions. Misinformation destroys that credibility, and the bond of trust can be broken. When employees no longer trust management, it can create a situation of elevated employee turnover.
4. There is a process to identify each employee’s interests, skills and strengths and then use them effectively to accomplish your company mission. (#16 of Valcort’s 35 Keys to Business Growth)
The manager-employee relationship is one of the primary components of a strong organizational structure. Employees rely on their managers for career development and guidance on how to improve their skills. For the relationship to be successful, it must be grounded in trust. When the sense of trust is strong, it adds efficiency to other elements of workplace productivity.
As a manager you spend time analyzing an employee's performance and creating a developmental plan to help the employee thrive. Based on your consistency and knowledge, the employee trusts that your guidance is accurate. You must be able to trust the employee to execute the plan and accept ongoing and predictable accountability.
An effective employee development process requires commitment by you and your employee that has in view both the effectiveness of the employee and the mission of your company.
Most importantly, recognize that people are naturally wired to want to impact others and make a difference. Every person is unique, gifted, experienced and purposed. Great companies inventory and place their people in positions that use their strengths, create value, purpose and meaning. A great boss can identify and deploy an employee in their sweet spot, where gifts, experience and purpose align.
5. The company makes a substantial investment in its current employees
Develop a motivational compensation program: If you want to succeed in a competitive environment your company must have a well-designed compensation plan that motivates employees, controls compensation costs, and ensures equity. The best compensation plans mirror your culture, so you need to establish a compensation philosophy for pay and benefits.
Many employers base their decisions on the market—that is, they look at salary surveys to see what other employers are paying (external equity). Once you access the market data, set wages and salaries at some point above, below, or equal to the market data depending on the circumstances and philosophy. But you also need to consider internal equity—that is, whether their compensation reflects how much you value certain positions in relation to other positions within the organization.
Increase earned responsibility: It’s easy to think “If I want something done right I have to do it myself.” Yet effective managers know that delegation of tasks is essential for building trust in the workplace and increasing productivity. When you hold onto tasks and don’t delegate, you deprive your employees of an opportunity to advance their skills. Growth comes through struggle. Limiting the difficult opportunities for your employees hinders their professional development and implies that you don’t have faith in them. Focus on treating your staff as if they are what you would like them to be. Treating people as if they are responsible and capable increases the likelihood that they will be.
6. The company develops and is consistent with a process of accountability
Of course, with opportunity comes accountability. Accountability is one of the most important aspects of any business. A company that holds its employees accountable for the choices they make and the tasks they perform witnesses high levels of productivity and efficiency. For accountability to be effective, it must be fostered—being definitive with organizational roles, responsibilities and goals, and then enabling employees to achieve their goals. Then establish a system of rewards and incentives.
7. The company provides opportunities based on abilities and contribution.
Employee concerns over pay systems, managerial favoritism and equal recognition are common leadership challenges. Reaffirm that everyone will receive an equal opportunity to be recognized, rewarded and advanced. One of the fastest ways to erode a workplace's sense of well-being is by failing to recognize these vital employee expectations of fairness and recognition.
Do these seven best-practices reflect your most positive experiences? Did a company invest in you as an employee, discover your skills and guide you to new heights? Or did some of these remind you of difficult circumstances, perhaps when you realized that your values weren’t shared by those in charge, or that different standards of accountability were being used for the boss’s favorites?
As a manager, does this list challenge you and bring to light new opportunities for making your employees thriving stakeholders. Go guide them to greatness.
Over many years and hundreds of client relationships and strategic marketing opportunities, we have established the Valcort 35 Keys to Business Growth, best practices that build trust, align values with products and practices, and create organic growth. We are exploring these 35 practices, one at a time, on these pages. Find them all, as they’re introduced, here.