It cracks me up when an employee approaches me to tell me what he/she needs. I know it shouldn’t, but sometimes it’s just too funny. I got to be a part of a company once when someone asked for a nap each day, paid. Funny, right? Funnier still? He got it. Contextually, you can see why I crack up. I have been asked for more money, more time off, more time on, to move another employee out of a department, to fire an employee who annoys others, to tell the CEO he/she stinks, to tap phone lines, to read emails, to reduce payroll across the board and not tell employees about the check changes in advance, to… You get the idea. Craziness.
Most times, I laugh. I get up from my seat while laughing. Place my hand nicely on the shoulder of the requester and laugh as I slightly escort the person out of my area. I don’t respond verbally. Just laughter. I do this because if I let myself say what I would want to say, I would be out of a job.
What I know will help to alleviate many of these situations, though not all, is the connection to basic needs. People have needs. In the workplace, what can we do about it? Ideally, we can address them and set them up for success. It takes a little work. It might undo a culture completely. It might cause everyone to see how unhealthy things have been. So what? Productivity improvements are connected to the people we employ. Set up standards that allow for goals to be achieved while motivating staff and meeting their needs, and you would be a hero.
So, what do people really want?
- Collaboration – the ability to work with others. Relationship is a natural desire of humans. Some love it more than others, but we’re all wired for it. Creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness are enhanced through collaborative efforts
- Invested Leadership – seeing the leaders of the organization take an interest in the goings-on of a work group and/or an individual contributor. A manager of a small group of employees portrays an understanding of the culture of leadership every day. Leadership is to take a vested interest in the people it employs. This gives employees an understanding of fit and of connection to the mission
- Viability in Advancement – is there really a chance to advance in the organization? We often say that there is, but employees figure out rather quickly whether that’s going to be true or not. The real trajectory within an organization should be evaluated. Providing a path for real advancement in usage of skill sets, knowledge and relationship motivates an employee towards a sense of purpose
- Compensation – salary, commission, bonus, PTO, benefits, retirement, etc. are a reality of living. Our staff have homes, apartments, significant others, families, a social life, vacations, holidays for which to pay and enjoy. Compensation allows an employee to handle some of the bottom levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that the more analytical level is addressed
- Impact – simply, is what an employee doing impacting the purpose of the group? When we challenge the status quo and (re-)introduce the concept of impact, we wake people up. What each employee does allows a product to be delivered, a service to be given, or a resource to be offered while changing processes, enhancing knowledge and keeping the lights on! The line worker who is placing four screws on the same piece on the assembly line is a superstar. Those four screws hold something significant together. No task or role is small
If you’re a leader, not matter how small your charge, sit with this list and evaluate what’s going on at your company. Now evaluate what you are doing to move towards meeting these needs. Be practical.
And I would be remiss not to point out that there is a grand difference between need and want. An employee might ask for what he/she wants and try to cloak it as a need. Rip the sheet off of that want. Expose it. Time off is a need. Six weeks of vacation a year is a want. Just because someone asks for it, doesn’t make it a need.
There are days I need people to leave me alone. And then I am reminded that is a want. So, now what? Oh, I know. I will rephrase it. “I want people to leave me alone some days.” That’s better. Now, what do I do about the HR career and people thing? Crap.