A company is only as good as its employees. Talented, productive employees who are engaged with their employer are critical to each organization’s success. However, as Jim Harter and Amy Adkins note in their Gallup article titled, “Employees Want a Lot More from Their Managers,” less that 33 percent of Americans feel engaged. What’s more: managers are the cause of more than 70 percent of variance in employee engagement scores. It stands to reason, then, that if you can make your employees feel more supported and valued, engagement will improve—and that will have a positive impact on business operations.
There are a number of things you can do to show your support and appreciation to your team members, such as provide transparency about company matters and making sure to always thank them for their hard work. But there’s one thing that most employees want more than anything else, and that’s to maximize their potential so they can get promoted, earn more money, and do more interesting work. Employees who feel stalled in their development are likely to get frustrated and even look elsewhere for work with better prospects.
So what does “maximizing potential” mean? Well, for an employee, it means mastering new skills, acquiring more knowledge, assuming more responsibility, and having the opportunity to work on interesting, high-profile, and/or cutting edge projects in order to advance his or her career. For you, the manager, it means all of that—but it also involves putting each employee’s skills and knowledge to work in a way that best benefits the company.
In order to reconcile an employee’s goals with the company’s objectives, you need to know the employee’s career plans. Though you probably discussed some of this during the hiring process, it’s important to revisit that conversation regularly, since people’s plans can change. Once you understand what it is your employee wants, figure out how that goal fits into the bigger picture of your company’s business objectives. Then you should discuss what career paths are available within the company, because it gives the employee something to work towards.
For example, let’s say your company provides cloud-based storage solutions. It’s a growing, highly competitive industry. One of your junior employees currently works on the Help Desk, but you learn it’s her dream to develop cloud-based security scripts. Will she be able to pursue this dream within the company? Well, considering the shortage of developers and the overwhelming demand for security software, it would definitely be in your company’s best interest to nurture this employee and help her acquire the skills she needs. Then, when she’s ready, you can employ her as a security software developer.
When you have a good understanding of what your employee wants, it’s time to figure out what skills he or she needs to acquire and provide him or her with the tools and opportunity to do so. This can involve offering training opportunities, stretch assignments, and shadowing. You should also regularly meet with your employee to assess his or her progress and find out if you need to provide more guidance or adjust the course. This will also ensure the employee is aware he or she is advancing.
It’s also important to acknowledge your employee’s accomplishments. Remember, even if something isn’t a big deal for you, it could be a huge achievement for someone else. By publicly expressing your admiration and thanks, you’ll make your employee feel valued—and that’s key to bringing out the best in him or her.
Helping your employees maximize their potential is critical to their success. By helping them advance and grow, you can simultaneously improve your own performance —and improve your company’s bottom line.