We all see images of tech companies with ping pong tables, nap cubicles and free food across the web. Why? What is the purpose of these perks for the company when they appear to pay for sleep? The real driver for long-term success in these companies is found in the organization's culture. The culture must reflect management’s commitment, through daily behavior, to meshing the needs of the organizations with the needs of its employees, a commitment to seeking performance with fulfillment.
“Our research, with 14 separate organizations covering several thousand employees found that, on average, work unit satisfaction accounted for 39% of the variability in work unit performance. The same research also found that leadership practices accounted for 69% of the variability in work unit satisfaction”- Michael Leimback, Wilson Learning
Many organizations still operate with leadership defined by the old military model of a tight hierarchy of command and control. Control management cultures embody, implicitly or explicitly, the notion that the manager is the most important person in the organization. Employees need to be told what to do. They should not question, and certainly shouldn’t make mistakes. Employees appear to be replaceable commodities. Although people choose to tolerate controlling leaders, they will not choose to become anything more than compliant.
If you believe you are in control of your organization, you need to carefully reconsider that belief. For you to be effective at all in today’s economy, you must have information and creative ideas from a host of others. Good information and ideas are critical elements of business success, and they are elements you do not control; others do. In the spirit of Mission Impossible, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find ways to work with those people, to engage them, earn their commitment, and help them learn, develop, and grow. Success in this mission means that the business grows too.
We have seen with our own work with clients that there are five best leader/manager practices that contribute to employee satisfaction because they answer the five questions that employees want answered.
- Why are we here? (What is our mission?)
- What are we doing? (What are our goals?)
- How are we progressing? (What feedback are we giving employees?)
- What’s in it for me? (What employees need to we meet? What recognition do we give?)
- What happens when I need help? (What support are we providing to employees? What barriers to their success are we removing?)
Maintaining your competitive advantage is up to you.
The issue of finding and keeping good employees needs to be addressed at several levels. Certainly attracting the right people is key. Many companies are finding that the culture they are creating to keep good employees is also attracting good employees. Another critical factor is selecting the right people. This involves being clear about your mission and vision, and about the competencies needed in the jobs to be filled. It also means applying appropriate assessment tools and performance-based interviewing to match individual talents and needs with the organization’s performance needs.
Of course, keeping the good people you find and hire is essential. Adequate compensation and benefits are necessary, but they are not sufficient to retain the best employees. Ultimately, your need to create an organizational culture that consistently displays an understanding of the value of your employees and a commitment to investing in the intellectual capital that resides in those employees. It is up to you, as part of the organization’s leadership, to set the tone and create the culture. Words will not be enough. Maintaining your competitive advantage requires daily actions that show your commitment to the concept that your people really are your most important asset.
How would your employees answer the 5 best leader/manager questions?