During my years in manufacturing, I've learned how important employees are to the success of a business. As a manager, keeping your employees happy and challenged should be an important part of your job.
Let’s talk about what makes employees great.
They have a good work ethic—a belief in the benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.
They possess a positive, can-do attitude. They see work as a way of self-fulfillment and approach work and issues with the will to work toward a positive outcome.
They are willing to learn. They try new tasks, learn new skills, and constantly look for better ways to do things.
Some employees are great right away, but others need a little coaching. Many large companies have documented employee development programs, where leaders meet regularly with employees to develop action plans that detail what the employee can do to reach a higher level. If you have the resources, this is definitely a great way to coach your employees. However, if you are like most small companies you don’t have those resources.
If you don’t have the luxury of a large HR or training department, here are a few ideas that have worked for me in the past.
Provide consistent and ongoing coaching, mentoring, and interaction. Coaching doesn’t work if it only happens occasionally.
Make sure any interaction with your employees is sincere, open, and mutually respectful. You need to listen and be willing to accept feedback from employees regarding their goals.
Ask employees how you can help them fit into the company vision.
Offer encouraging words when an employee struggles with a task and give praise when tasks are completed well. Simply saying, “Thank you! You have done a nice job.” or “Great work. Thanks!” encourages employees and inspires them to do more.
Avoid yelling at employees or doing the job yourself when things don’t go well. Instead, look at these situations as training opportunities and help the employee understand what can be learned. Decide on an action plan and make sure you support the employee so he or she can succeed.
Provide more challenging tasks and responsibilities as employees succeed and look to grow. For example, let them lead a team, put them in charge of a project like 5S, or appoint them as the go-to person for a task or process.
Believe me, this is not an overnight process. It takes time, hard work, and dedication on your part, and requires employees who are willing to take coaching seriously. Stick with it and be consistent.
Also, understand and accept that some employees are content doing one or two things and don’t want to grow or gain more responsibilities. It is important to know your employees, their goals, and what drives them.
Too many managers fall into the trap of using annual performance reviews to coach employees. On their own, annual reviews or performance appraisals are not an effective coaching tool for helping employees grow and keeping them engaged. Coaching is most effective when it is ongoing with sincere and encouraging dialogue.
Employers sometimes ask me if it is worth coaching employees who might leave. Keep in mind, if you don’t coach them, they will not grow and still might leave to find opportunities elsewhere. I recommend investing time and resources into coaching and growing your employees. I think you will find they are more engaged, productive, and creative. They will gain—and you will gain.