Every day, employees complain about, or tell humorous stories about, their fearless managers. And every year, new research and reports on job satisfaction point to a high rate of employee dissatisfaction.
The reasons for this dissatisfaction are job mismatch, job definition, pay and pay inequity, poor benefits, lack of support or feedback, lack of growth or advancement, favoritism, overwork, and loss of confidence in leadership. But the top reason employees leave an organization, according to 2007 Global Strategic Rewards Report, a study by HR consulting firm Watson Wyatt, is stress.
Is job satisfaction an indicator of management acumen? Yes it is! The reports and research portray a widening gap between the needs of employees and management. There also seems to be a lot of codependency going on with employees, especially younger employees, who actually believe that management is not responsible for employee and team failure. The logic is that the troops are to blame for failures on the field not the generals.
I can always tell when I'm working with or buying services from a well-managed company. It seems to accomplish what it does effortlessly, and the staff members are relaxed and appear to be empowered to make decisions. These companies are also able to retain staff year in and out, so my face to the company stays the same, which is reassuring.
To help close the gap between employees and management, I've compiled a list of rules to help send managers off in the right direction. The first rule is really the key, as accepting responsibility will set managers on a path of discovery, practice, and improvement.
#1: Accept responsibility
You are the person responsible and accountable for your staff's productivity, actions, and behavior.
#2: Manage systems
Having effective systems (how we do things) creates a level playing field for all employees. People come and go; systems don't. It's always better to blame the system and then fix it than to blame the person. Without good systems, managers are left to try to manage personalities — which is a minefield. Good systems include corporate vision, objectives, values, and standards.
#3: Acknowledge the differences
Not everyone thinks the same way you do. They may have different motivations, values, and standards. Understanding human behavior is very important and something that, for most of us, is a lifelong practice. Embrace the differences and put them to use.
Hand over the technical/tactical work and teach employees how YOU do it. Set quantifiable objectives and make staff accountable to them. Most important, give them the opportunity to come up with a better way to do it. If you aren't delegating responsibility, you are abdicating it. And with abdication goes control.
Seek better ways to do it. Innovative companies listen to their customers and their staff and then change to meet their needs. Create a system for change.
#6: Hire the best
Get the right person the first time. Seek out hiring best practices and interview with technical and behavioral questioning. Always, always call at least two professional references. Provide a compelling reason for people to want to work with you and provide them with the tools to deliver your objectives. The cost of replacing a staff member is at least 1.5 times the incumbent's annual salary.
#7: Communicate effectively
Don't assume employees will always understand what you tell them, as some will require different learning methods and/or require repetition. Explain your vision and objectives and set standards: "How we do it here." Include your staff in decision-making and planning processes.
#8: Document systems and processes
Documentation will ensure that everyone understands exactly what is expected of them. It clears away ambiguity, introduces accountability, and reduces the cost and time to train.
Look at your staff directly in the eye and let them finish before you speak. The closer they are to the customer, the closer you need to listen. If employees aren't close to the customer, have them (along with yourself) take front-line jobs for at least a week every year. It's amazing how customer service or quality is reprioritized when the customer is complaining directly to you!
#10: Gather feedback from customers (internal and external)
This one is a lot like listening, except you are formally asking to listen. Make it a part of your productivity reviews. Conduct random and/or anonymous surveys related to individual and team performance.
#11: Review productivity and performance
Conduct reviews of all staff members at least annually. Use quantifiable criteria and objectives. Set individual goals. Ask employees to rate your performance.
#12: Leverage information technology wherever possible
Shared client/contact records with documented communications ensures consistency and efficiency. IT should reduce or remove manual intervention and return value to internal and external customers. The data can be leveraged for more effective marketing and sales.
#13: Provide motivation and praise
Reward the achievement of groups or individuals when they meet or exceed objectives. Share group successes. Praise in public and reprimand in private.
#14: Provide inspiration
Set the standards and live by them. (Do unto others....) Create standards for general behavior, customer service, quality, etc.
#15: Ask questions!
Answers will change over time, but the questions will always be the same. For example:
- Can we do this?
- How many will you need this year?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- When is the best time to contact you?
- How are we doing?
- How can we do this better?
- Will we still be able to meet this deadline?
Dave Soteros is president of Alrym Consulting Services, a strategic business development company.