You hire people with the right skills. You pay them well. You give them bonuses. All the right things, right?
And yet, you find yourself constantly frustrated that they aren’t giving you 100%. When the pressure is on to meet deadlines or find solutions, it can be exasperating to be the only one who seems to be driven and ‘switched on’ to the goals. You just know they could do so much more if they would only commit their full attention and enthusiasm to the work.
So much could be achieved! Targets could be met and smashed, customers would turn into raving fans and your reputation for excellence would grow and spread, turning the business into a resounding success. It would be great for the company, great for you and great for them.
So why don’t they?
A survey in 2014 by Salary.com showed that a whopping 89% of employees admitted wasting time at work. The top distractions included responding to personal emails, texting, social media, internet browsing, gossiping, getting distracted by other staff members and snack or smoking breaks.
These distractions are real but I’m going to stick my neck out and make another suggestion. I propose that the number one reason employees don’t give 100% is that they don’t have a big enough reason why. They aren’t committed and engaged because they aren’t getting enough out of their work – there’s not enough in it for them. Money isn’t the only factor in employee satisfaction and engagement, it’s only part of the picture. The rest of the picture is Human Needs.
We each are wired to get our human needs met. Tony Robbins defines the 6 human needs as:
Certainty – assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
Variety – the need for the unknown, stimulus and change
Significance – feeling unique, important, special or needed
Connection/Love – a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
Growth – an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
Contribution – a sense of service and helping, giving to and supporting others.
No matter what, we will strive to get these needs met. The needs are universal but the strategies to meet the needs are unlimited. Let’s take an example.
Meet Keith, office worker and motorbike enthusiast. Keith quite likes his job but he doesn’t feel particularly valued at work, his boss is really critical and often picks him up for the small stuff instead of focusing on his successes. In his spare time, Keith is really into restoring old motorbikes - and he’s good at it. He’s in a few online forums and Facebook groups where he is a valued contributor. Keith often finds his attention wandering from his day job to his hobby because that’s where he gets most of his needs met. He is valued in his motorbike community, people like him, respect his opinion, pay attention to his advice and thank him for his help. It feels great!
You can see how easily Keith’s job becomes a means to an end: a way to pay the bills and fund his real interests. Is he 100% engaged at work? Of course not. But, if his needs were well met at work, would he be looking elsewhere in company time? Well, the short answer is no. Keith, like all the rest of us, is wired to get his needs met and he’ll engage his attention wherever he is most likely to get what he needs.
So what can you do to meet the needs of your employees so they are eager to do their best for the company?
The most important thing you can do is build quality relationships with them. Many of our human needs are met through relationship so it’s the best place to start. It means developing your Emotional Intelligence and doing some applied inner work. You will have to answer some tough questions, such as:
Do my employees really trust me?
Do you believe that they really trust you? Are they open and honest with you? Can they give you sincere feedback when you ask for it? Or do you suspect that they hold back, say what they think you want to hear and avoid contact with you? Do you consciously do things that you know will build trust?
Human needs met through a trust based relationship: Certainty, Significance, Connection and Contribution.
Do they know who is leading the team?
Do your staff know you and what you stand for? Do they see the real you or are you ‘playing a part’? People can see through masks – to really engage with a leader, the team need to know who that person is, what their values are and where they are going. Then they can add to your mission.
Human Needs met through knowing the leader: Certainty, Connection, Significance and Contribution.
Am I open and honest with them?
Do you share important information that’s relevant to your staff, even when you don’t have all the answers? Do you make yourself available to them to answer questions and hear their concerns? Do you communicate well in times of change? People don’t like to be kept in the dark. Talk to them.
Human Needs met through open & honest communication: Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection and Growth.
Do I treat them in a way I’d like to be treated?
How do you talk to your people? Are you respectful and understanding? Do you strive to serve them well so they can be the best they can be? Or do you tend to think that you are more important so you are careless in how you talk to them? Your people are your most important asset – make sure they know it.
Human Needs met through respectful communication: Certainty, Significance, Connection and Growth.
There are other factors to consider but addressing these areas will make a substantial impact on the quality of the relationships in your organisation and you will see an increase in engagement, productivity and commitment.
Psychologists are only just beginning to understand how important Emotional Intelligence and relationship is in the workplace and as yet, these skills are rarely taught in school, university or business school. Most business leaders require training and development in this skill set and for them to neglect it is to allow many potentially productive human work hours to be squandered in your company.
Taking the time to develop your Emotional Intelligence will not only benefit your company and your people - who will be happier, more engaged and more productive - but you will spend less time 'managing staff' and more time leading high performing people. The added bonus is that your relationships outside work will improve as well.
What is there to lose?