What do employees really want from their managers? The answer may seem like a mystery, as employees don’t always feel comfortable sharing their true thoughts with the boss. While the answer varies from person to person, our research and experience gained from decades of work in this area reveal some common themes, so we’re pulling back the curtain on a collective “wish list” every boss should know.
Here are some of the most common employee wishes and those that come up most often as unmet:
- Show your humanity
Gone are the days (if they ever existed) when employees expected leaders to be stoic, fearless, and to have all the answers. Leading with heart first—having the courage to be vulnerable—invites trust and respect from employees. The pandemic taught us that we’re all human and anyone, no matter their position, faces challenges in their work and personal lives. No one has all the answers, but we can work through things together. Let your humanity show.
- Less fluff and more transparency
Enough beating-around-the-bush, or worse yet, “spinning” of messages. Employees want to know what’s happening and why in a direct way. This is truer than ever in today’s times of uncertainty and volatility. Tell them what you know when you know it. Chances are you’re currently waiting too long after getting key information or waiting until you have the complete picture to communicate.
- More listening (to them)
Listen, ask for input and feedback. In other words, stop the monologues. Employees want to feel heard, and they are more likely to support things they help create. Make sure you’re having real, two-way conversations with your team members.
- Empathize with them
Pause and imagine how they’re feeling. Better yet, ask. Show you hear them, and validate their feelings. The payoff is an employee who knows you care – and is more likely to stick with you and the organization when other opportunities come knocking.
- Prioritize employee well-being
Get to know your employees as people and be mindful of their well-being and stress levels outside of work. More than half of workers rank employee well-being as one of the top 3 leadership challenges for the next five years. Make sure you’re addressing this challenge by checking in and respecting employees’ needs. In doing so, you’ll reduce burnout while helping them thrive both in and out of the workplace.
- Give them flexibility
If there is one thing that has emerged near the top of many employees’ wish lists over the course of the pandemic, it’s a need for flexibility. Employees want to be trusted to do their job well while also making the time for family and personal needs. Whether that means working from home some of the time, adjusting their schedule to accommodate childcare needs, or taking an hour out of the week for a doctor’s appointment, you’ll be well served to extend trust and flexibility where possible. Employees will feel more engaged, happier and more motivated to do their best work if their needs outside of work are also met.
- Take action on employee suggestions
The action might be to loop back with the employee to share appreciation for their thoughts and help them understand why you are or are not implementing their suggestion. The action is closing the feedback loop, which can be as worthwhile as implementing an employee’s suggestion. Either way, you’re saying that their ideas and perspectives are valuable. This will motivate them to share their suggestions in the future.
- Recognize and show appreciation
Say “thank you” for a job well done. Reinforce the specific behaviors you want to continue to see. Share recognition in front of peers for great work, unless you know the employee dislikes the spotlight. At a two-way communication training recently, a woman asked whether she needed to reward and recognize someone on her team for “just doing their job.” Absolutely. Jobs don’t inspire and motivate people; leaders do.
- Thoughtful, timely feedback
Offering timely, candid feedback goes a long way. This includes celebrating and reinforcing good behaviors as well as providing specific, constructive guidance on areas for improvement. Why wait until an end-of-year milestone to share feedback if they’d benefit from adjustments along the way? Employees who receive a steady flow of feedback feel more supported and confident in their work.
- Clarify your expectations
People rise to the expectations set for them. Many problems in business are caused by a lack of understanding of expectations or a misunderstanding of what’s needed. Have you developed and clearly articulated your expectations? Do your employees know what they can expect from you in return?
So that’s my short list. Best of all, everything on the wish list is free!
Which of these skills do you need to focus on?
In the spirit of giving, we want to pay it forward by giving away copies of Heart First. We’ll provide you, members of your team, and/or a leader you think will benefit with a copy (it’s on us!). Click below to select your option and submit your book order today!