Most employees have it — a desire to express themselves, creativity, ingenuity, an innovative spirit, loyalty, the ability to work with other team members, resilience, energy, ideas, etc. — but much depends on the environment in which these employees work if they are to live out their innate abilities and express their skills. “Being skilled” doesn’t necessarily translate into utilisation of giftedness — a seed needs a fertile environment in which to germinate and grow.
For employees, environment is all important and this is not just the physical environment and salary and benefits — environment goes far beyond those essentials. I had a conversation about career growth with a friend and she noted that any career move would have to have the following factors in place for her to even consider moving:
- Physically integrated offices and user-friendly building and facilities, including up to date technology
- The ability to have flexibility in how she works (hours, location)
- The freedom for her to express her giftedness and uniqueness
- The ability to make decisions up to her level of accountability
- The opportunity to influence direction and strategy
- The freedom to try out new things
- The possibility to work on many projects simultaneously
- The opportunity to relate to and collaborate with colleagues in different teams
Then she added: “The most important consideration, however, is my relationship with my boss — does he trust me, care for me and support me?” Whilst the physical aspects of a work environment were indeed on her list, the environment upon which she largely focused was one of empowerment and trust. It would seem that expectations that relate to the “employee value proposition” include relational, value and self-esteem issues. When an appropriate employee value proposition is in place, energy is applied by employees to the business tasks at hand; when not in place, energy is applied in the form of self-protection, self-preservation and counter-productive activities.
One of the greatest gifts that leaders can give their staff is a fertile environment for growth and self-expression. To harness exploitable energy amongst employees, managers should focus on the following employee value proposition ingredients:
- Offering trust — extending trust means “I believe in you” and typically results in employees not letting the manager down. It gives the employee the opportunity to make decisions and self-manage work volumes, priorities and focus areas.
- Presence — absent leadership (physical and emotional) creates doubt and insecurity amongst employees. Leaders should spend time focusing on individuals, walking the floor, listening to ideas, etc.
- Feedback — all employees need to understand where they are doing well and also where they are not meeting expectations. Feedback helps identify growth areas and shows staff that the manager cares.
- Stretch — reasonable amounts of “stretch” need to be built into everyone’s jobs. No-one really wants to do exactly the same thing every day — managers should give employees the opportunity to do things outside of their respective comfort zones (e.g. lead the next team meeting, or do a presentation on one of our company values, etc.)
- Communication — withholding information debilitates team members. Offer staff as much big picture, direction and vision and strategy information as possible. Focus on the emotional nature of communication — emotional intelligence is required.
- Celebration of achievements — acknowledgement, recognition and the celebration of excellence is part of growing an achieving culture (one that wins). People need to feel valued and receive rewards.
- Involvement — in worthwhile projects, idea creation and strategy formulation. Leaders must demonstrate that they value input from employees.
Harnessing exploitable energy amongst employees requires those in leadership positions to focus on the emotional and relational aspects of the employee value proposition. Leaders should demonstrate that they care for employees.