I go to work every day and know that I have the knowledge and the skills to do my job effectively. Years of honing my craft makes me great at what I do. Can I still learn more? Absolutely. Do others have promising ideas that they bring to the table? Of course. Herein lies the delicate balance — friction vs well-oiled. Employees want to be part of something greater than they are, to bring value to their customers and their employers. It starts at the top and permeates down through the ranks and then back up again.
When I talk to new graduates or those looking for a job, they all seem to want to belong to a great organization, do meaningful work, learn and be recognized for the contributions they bring. Of course, they want to be paid well and have plenty of time off to do what they love to do. But getting back to the core: They want a good corporate culture — one that treats them with respect, recognizes the value they bring and embraces their differences.
A good leader hires people smarter and more capable than they are and gives them the tools and support to do their jobs. What we see in many cases is that you get hired, and then everyone tells you how to do what you were hired to do. This has happened at various points in my career and field. Boy, is it frustrating and in some cases demoralizing! Constructive criticism is one thing, but destructive criticism will cause someone to do just what is required and nothing more. Today that has a name: “quiet quitting.” However, it has been around for a long time. Has it ever happened to you?
We are in an economic situation where there are more unfilled positions than ever before. Coming out of the pandemic, workers have changed their attitudes. They can work at home on their terms, get paid more and have a healthy work/life balance. When the pressures get too heavy, they are recruited away to the next organization.
Employees look to their leaders for guidance and solid ground. When I hire someone, I hire them for their skillset and expertise, not to micromanage them. They need to be set free to do what we brought them on to do. Try to avoid the shiny ball solutions. Position ideas constructively. Don’t storm in and declare, “Company A is doing this. Why aren’t we doing this, too? Get on it as a priority.” We have all been there, right?
I think back to a former employer. Historically, all the employees started early and at the bottom and worked their way up and across the organization. In this way, the company developed lifers and treated them very well so that they could retire well off with pensions and stock options. People rarely left. Then the company opened it up and started hiring for expertise, effectively changing their culture without addressing how to integrate it with the known culture. So now you had new employees with years of expertise elsewhere coming in, and culturally it caused all types of friction with both sides. The culture shifted. The older employees resented the fact that they had to “earn their stripes” while the new hires didn’t. And the new folks found that although it was a great company, it was not worth the stress of trying to integrate into the old culture and deal with the hostility. So, both sides lost as people left for other opportunities.
Culture is king. Treat people with respect; acknowledge the small wins as well as the big ones. Be holistic and look at each employee individually. What drives them? How can we get the most out of their skills? When it comes down to it, we are all in the people business. As employers/leaders we need to act that way. Treat people with the respect they deserve, treat them well, acknowledge their need for a life outside the office and give them the support they need to do the job you hired them to do. It might not be the way we were taught and started our careers; however, it is what is expected nowadays with younger workers who don’t think anything of picking up and moving on.
Tap into talent early — nurture them and give them the work culture that attracts and retains them. In this way, you’ll build a dynasty.