When your workforce feels appreciated and valued they are increasingly likely to go the extra mile and become empowered brand ambassadors for your business.
By creating a team of motivated workers who actively want your business to succeed, you will reap the rewards of a driven, happy and ultimately productive workforce. All of this will generate more profit and improve business overall.
How do you cultivate a team that values their work? By showing them you value them even more.
A 2014 study from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) demonstrated that the top four factors for British workers are:
- A good relationship with colleagues.
- Work-life balance.
- A good relationship with superiors.
- Appreciation for their work.
Being happy and productive at work goes far beyond the task or project your people are working on working on. As the BCG study shows, it is the elements that surround a job that decides your enjoyment and dedication to it. Business leaders have a responsibility to ensure their employees are happy – not only to save on replacement costs, but to maximise your human capital investment.
Let’s examine what changes you can make to show your employees that you value them:
A few personal touches to demonstrate value:
Taking the time to get to know your employees as individuals can make a world of difference to their attitude towards you and how they perceive their role in the workplace.
Example: I know a Managing Director who was very good at getting to know his employees. He paid attention to little details – How did they commute to work? What did they do at the weekend? Do they have a family? He took the time to ask questions and always managed to find something to chat about with everyone on the team. But it wasn’t the shared interest that made these conversations so valuable. The value came from how the conversations made the team feel recognised as individuals and valued as such. Due to this personal connection, his people always felt confident to approach him with their own ideas and innovations.
Realising that your team is your best resource is the mark of a good leader. By recognising and cultivating your team’s unique skills you’re adding to the varied skillset available throughout your business. Asking questions and seeking opinions from your workforce demonstrates that you believe it is the combined expertise of the team and not just your own experience that makes the business successful. When this mentality is exhibited by those at the top it empowers all employees to value and improve their skills to benefit the business.
Example: Evie, a member of our team, recalls that when she started in a junior publicity role for a previous company the CEO came over to her desk and asked for a Twitter tutorial. For Evie, this thoughtful request validated her use and value to the company and boosted her confidence. The gesture acted as motivation to work hard at her publicity and marketing skills and share what she learned throughout her team.
If you want to appear interested in your employees then it needs to be about them, not about you. It takes time and isn’t a box you can just tick. People can see straight through insincerity and it’s not a trait people will easily forget. But when someone shows genuine interest in you or praise of your skills, that confidence boost isn’t easily forgotten either, but this time it is a positive feeling.
Example: Another colleague once had a CEO who really wanted to be liked, but who wasn’t willing to put in the time. Now and again she arranged for her PA to organise ‘fun socials’ for her. She’d show up and buy a round at the bar – but it was obvious she barely knew anyone’s name. Her employees’ value to her just didn’t ring true, so their loyalty to her and the business was seriously lacking. It’s great to do fun, social activities as a business, but they are more impactful if they feel like a treat, rather than a bribe to gain loyalty. Instead of a round at the bar, the CEO could do regular tea rounds in the office. This is far more effective, as it would present an opportunity for her to get to know her people for their benefit, rather than her own.
Do you remember how terrifying it was at school when you had to go and knock on the headteacher’s door? Even if you weren’t in trouble and were just running an errand it would take a lot of courage to knock. I’ve seen this repeated in plenty of offices and it’s incredible how this one layout choice affects the mentality of the employees. It clearly shows that the office owner’s time and work are more precious than everyone else’s. This creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, which automatically closes off any lines of communication.
Example: At Penguin Random House, the publishing company, there are no office doors. As an intern, you could be sat next to the commissioning editor, and they would do a tea round just as often. It opens up relationships and removes hierarchy. People create their own methods for communicating ‘do not disturb’, or simply go elsewhere for privacy.
How to structure your business to demonstrate value:
Create an internal comms plan
By creating open lines of communication with your people, responding to their feedback, building action plans and sharing the plans – you will encourage everyone to share insights, ideas and innovations.
Example: At an associate’s business, they use a Slack channel to post all meeting agendas, notes from meetings, business roadmaps etc. This ensures everyone has the freedom to comment. He explained that this transparency and trust makes him feel valued and creates a feeling of shared responsibility for the business.
Welcome new employees
Too often on their first day, an employee is left to explore the website of their new company and read up on the background (something they probably did for their interview). The new employee would feel much more welcomed if someone in a senior position gave them a tour and talked them through some key points, whilst getting to know them. This would highlight how happy and appreciative the organisation is to welcome the new starter to their team.
Example: A friend who was hired as a new teaching assistant in a large school was really nervous on her first day. The Headteacher came to her classroom (rather than requesting she came to her) and showed her around the school. This put her at ease, made her feel welcome and opened the channel of communication between her and the Headteacher.
Build time for “non-work” into the workweek
This doesn’t mean let your employees go to the pub at 2pm on a Monday. More accurately it raises the point that sometimes doing something completely different can refresh and improve your mindset for a piece of work.
Example: I once had a meeting with a business coach who suggested we do a ‘walk ‘n talk’. There were some complicated issues to discuss and I was anxious about being distracted. We wandered around St Paul’s and across the Millennium Bridge. We got some fresh air, stretched our legs and chatted. When I got back to the office I realised it had been one of the most productive meetings I’ve ever had.
Reward with equity
At Vestd we’ve seen the benefit of rewarding team members with equity in the business. It’s amazing how having a piece of the business, no matter how small, can dramatically transform someone’s relationship and interactions with that business.
Example: Hana Sutch, co-founder at Go Jauntly, built her team through rewarding them with equity. These team members have a vested interest in the business and its success. “It’s a fantastic human motivator” says Hana. You’re showing them that you value their hard work and want them to share in the success that they are helping to generate. It doesn’t have to be costly and complicated and can be set up quickly. By becoming shareholders, team members become much more than employees. It’s about giving people ownership and collaborating in a very real and human way.
Create opportunities for new experiences
Some businesses worry that if they spend time and money training someone then that person might decide to leave and offer their skills to a competitor. Some might, but others will feel valued by a business that is willing to invest in them personally.
Example: I know someone who had a great idea for a presentation she could give at a conference. While the audience for the conference wasn’t the target audience for her business, her manager recognised it would be a great experience for her – so supported her with the application. Her presentation was a big success and she greatly appreciated the support from her manager. The process boosted both her confidence and loyalty to the business. She now routinely gives successful presentations for the business and they’ve benefited from a whole new area of value.
Investing in each other
When you’re facing the pressure of running a business, dashing in and out of meetings and making significant business decisions – then demonstrating your appreciation of your employees can fade into the background. By following these simple tips and taking the time to show your people how much you value their contributions, you will reap the benefits of an engaged, energised and productive workforce.
If you invest in them, they’ll invest in you and your business…it’s really that simple!