What Employees Want

I think the best management advice I ever received was a reminder that I, as a leader, accomplish all of my work through the people on my team.

Therefore, my goals as a leader are:

  1. to make sure that the team members I am privileged to lead are happy, engaged, productive and
  2. those team members are working within a system of work that is continually optimized to accomplish clearly articulated goals quickly, cost-effectively and without defect.

That first leadership goal raises the question: What makes employees happy, engaged and productive? Over the years I have observed that most employees want the same things:

  1. Employees want to feel like they are part of a something important, a mission that transcends the daily activities of their workplace. Healthcare leaders are lucky because we have a great story to tell about caring for the people in our communities that is easily embraced. Lately I have expanded our mission to include transforming the healthcare system to provide better, safer and less expensive care.
  2. Employees want to feel that they bring meaningful contributions to the mission. Employees do not want to be over-managed. My greatest management mistakes were micro-managing employees. My greatest frustration as an employee was being micro-managed, especially when the supervisor was less capable. Leaders need to provide employees the big picture, direction, and periodic feedback – then get out of the way.
  3. Employees want to be recognized for their contributions. Studer Group provides great guidance to leaders on how to recognize employees.
  4. Employees want their leaders to have their backs, and in turn they will have yours. When the division as a whole lets down their customers the leader needs to accept responsibility, never singling out anybody in the organization. We are imperfect people. Mistakes are made. Leaders need to create a culture where we treat mistakes as learning opportunities and not times to dole out punishment. Leaders need to lead by example and admit when they make mistakes and to vow to learn from that mistake in order to do better in the future.
  5. Employees want leaders that ask them what they need to do their job better and what are management’s misconceptions that negatively impact productivity and quality. Employees can accept constraints if they understand them.
  6. Employees want to know managers are concerned about their satisfaction and continually gauging what can be done to improve the workplace, even if it is already a highly regarded workplace.
  7. Employees want to be surrounded by other high performers that have the same passion achievement and good work. That means leaders need to address performance issues in a timely and candid manner.

What would you add?

4 thoughts on “What Employees Want

  1. Hi Will – not sure this is an actual point or more just a guiding principle. I’ve found when managing people that – as we all do – there’s a degree of belly aching and venting that happens. Importantly as a manager I’ve always tried to listen to that without judgement (except for when a line is crossed in terms of criticizing someone else’s work). Being open to all feedback is important and the replay to the employee can take many forms…in some cases just placing their feedback in context can help them understand why certain things happen; they may not have had visibility beforehand.
    So, in summary, seek first to listen & understand…don’t jump to conclusions.

  2. I would strongly agree with your thoughts– and I might add a couple items based upon my experience:

    8. Employees want to know they’ve got a viable career path. I always attempted to take a personal interest in my team by understanding their areas of interest, then help them build a plan to achieve their career goals. This included a lot of coaching around skill enhancement, network building, aptitude for proposed path, internal interview process, etc…

    9. Employees want to have fun! It’s important to build comraderie within the team. I’d set up informal contests or events that encouraged teaming or good natured competition.

    10. Employees want to be challenged! And I don’t necessarily mean challeneged around their assigned tasks or goals. I’d challenge my team by asking for their input on strategy questions or how they might handle complex issues. I wanted to stretch their mind and spur creativity.

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