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What Employees Really Want from Their Boss

Q. I hired two employees in the past six months—my first. I want to be a good boss. Can you give me any tips to follow?

A. We often talk about the magic formula, “Employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team.” Let’s break this apart and apply it to being a great boss.

Contributing Members – Employees want to feel that they are a vital part of the team. To do this, you need to set goals for each team member. The goals should be specific and measurable. They should also tie to the overall goals of the organization. This means you will need to talk to your employees about your vision for the organization; share with them what you want to accomplish and what part they will play.

However, setting goals with the employee is only the first step. You will want to give employees immediate feedback (both positive and negative) on their work products and behaviors. In addition, you will need to meet with that employee one-on-one each week or two to review his/her progress towards the goals. You will need to spend time coaching the employee on what he/she has done well and how to think about approaching and overcoming challenges. During these meetings, you should ask your employees open ended questions and listen to their responses. Use your questions to guide them to better solutions (i.e., how do you think you might approach that, or what do you think the client really needs to close the sale?). At the same time, be open to their ideas and suggestions. Encourage dialog.

If you do these things consistently, the employee will feel cared about, listened to and invested in. Three of the things that employees say they want from their employer.

Recognized – Employees want recognition for their achievements and good work. They want to know that you are paying attention to them and noticing the things they do well. Recognition comes in many forms and you should adjust these to fit the needs of the individual employee and your organization. For instance, some employees like praise in front of their colleagues or clients. For these employees, public recognition is important. For others, public recognition is embarrassing. These employees would prefer your thanks in a more personal setting. When you praise employees make sure to include the following three components: 1) state specifically what they did that was praiseworthy, 2) explain how their actions positively affected the company, a client or the team; and 3) give your personal thanks (I want to thank you).

You may want to include other forms of recognition in addition to praise. These might include incentive compensation, spot bonuses, gift cards, paid time off, opportunities for training or other kinds of learning, more responsibility, promotions, etc. Use your imagination.

If you keep your praise and other forms of recognition specific, personal and creative, your employees will feel appreciated and will work hard to please.

Winning Team – Everyone want to feel like a winner. The same is true in organizations. Employees want to work for an organization of which they can be proud. How do you build this kind of organization? It all comes down to culture, and culture is created at the top. Everything you do from setting rules and policies, to the way you treat your customers and vendors, to how you and your business interact with and impact your community influences your culture. It is important, especially to the millennial generation that organizations give back. Find ways to let your employees participate in community projects, their local Chamber of Commerce, Food Bank or Christmas Mother Programs. Ask what they are passionate about and, when appropriate, support these efforts.

Developing a great culture also means treating your employees fairly. Do your homework and make sure your compensation and benefits are in keeping with the market. Invest in your employees’ development. If possible, be flexible with schedules or give employees the ability to work from home occasionally. You must do what is right for the business, but creating a work environment that recognizes the needs of employees can go a long way to creating a winning culture.

Being a good boss takes a lot of work. Ensuring your employees feel like recognized, contributing members of a winning team is a critical first step.

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