One thing we know for sure, it’s been quite a year of surprises, adjustments, and challenges
both at home and in our businesses. It is easy to get bogged down and laser focused on the big questions: How are we going to adapt to stay in business? How can we still be profitable? How might we need to streamline to become more efficient? Quite frankly, these are just some of the questions we ought to be asking periodically in our businesses anyway, pandemic aside. However, when stress is high, and we are moving swiftly to survive each day, one question that is easy to overlook, is how do we let our people know we care?
In a time where a lot has shifted, including scaling down the number of employees, working from home, shifting roles or responsibilities, it can be easy to take your people for granted.
And yet, the very thing that sets you apart from your competitors, is how you care for your people. How you intentionally create a culture of caring matters greatly.
Do your people know you see them- really see them for their unique contributions? How do you know? Do they know you value and appreciate them? Before you answer yes too quickly, especially the kind of yes that is followed by, “well I provide them with a job, after all”, think of it like this. If you are a married person that hasn’t told your spouse since the summer of ’17 that you love them, your marriage may be limping along a bit. Same with your employees.
They need to know that they are seen, valued, cared for and appreciated. The research tells us that when workers leave a company, it is not necessarily due to the job itself, but rather due to the relationship with the manager or the owner. If they feel unappreciated, and undervalued, that is enough to send them packing. Up to 70% of the time, this is the motivation for leaving. That is way too many people exiting; way too much talent walking out the door over something that is preventable.
So how do you begin to create and maintain a Culture of Caring? There is not a one size fits all – magical recipe where you get out the right ingredients, mix them in in the precise order and voila, a culinary masterpiece appears. However, you might try the following:
STAY IN TOUCH WITH ALL YOUR PEEPS - especially if everyone is working remotely. Check in regularly, not to tell them the next thing you need, or how they missed something, but to ask how they are really doing at home and at work given all the challenges occurring right now. These calls can be brief… just a hey, I was thinking about you and wondering how you are doing.
SCHEDULE REGULAR ONE ON ONES - This is beneficial whether you own a large company with many employees, or a smaller café or mom and pop shop. Make the time to sit down on a regular basis either face to masked face, or virtually to have a planned 30 minute (or more) meeting. This is different from the above in that 1:1’s have a specific agenda of questions, e.g.,What is going well for them at home and at work? What is one challenge they are experiencing? What if anything do they need from you to support the work they are doing? What ideas do they have to help things run more efficiently? What would they like you to do more of, or less of? What would they like to do more of/less of? What is a strength that they see in themselves, and in the company that they would like to build on? What are the things they feel frustrated about? The goal is to have real, honest and open conversations.
NOTICE WHEN THEY DO SOMETHING GREAT- AND SAY SO. Don’t wait for something monumental, but rather notice when an employee does something that was helpful to you, a coworker, or a customer. Thank them for going the extra mile, or their willingness to work extra hours when needed. People who feel appreciated want to give you their all.
MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON THE GREATER GOOD – AND THAT ENCOMPASS YOUR COMPANY VALUES - Because just like your five year old, your people are always watching your every move. Your words and actions must be congruent; your decisions based on the company values you espouse. When there is congruence, and appreciation, people are more likely to be willing to weather the storm with you.
LOOK FOR THE UNIQUENESS AND STRENGTHS OF EACH EMPLOYEE AND BE WILLING TO HELP DEVELOP THEM. Research tells us that businesses with an intentional culture, one that looks for the best in people, will reap the best in people. And when we notice what people do well, and share those observations and appreciations with them, most people will shine. When we express how their strengths play out at work and help them see that they can develop those strengths for their benefit and the benefit of the company, you keep people wanting to learn and grow. People who are excited about working for your company are likely to stick around, especially when they know and feel that you care.
CHECK YOUR OWN ATTITUDES AND MINDSET. How do you talk about other employees, your leadership team, or colleagues? Are you honest with them? Are you willing to talk to people privately and honestly and provide necessary feedback in a way that is truthful without being attacking? Do you view employees as a necessary evil or as an asset to the company? What ever you believe you will exude either positively or negatively. Both will have an impact. The question is, does your attitude and mindset provide the right impact?
FIND OUT WHAT CAUSES EACH PERSON TO FEEL VALUED AND APPRECIATED
Some of us feel appreciated when we get a monetary bonus. Other people feel valued by words of appreciation. Don’t dole out funds unnecessarily when an unexpected day off, or words of appreciation may be enough. The trick is to know your people well enough to know what resonates with them. Sometimes buying them lunch or providing an unexpected gift card is a way of expressing that you care and value them. Too often business leaders or owners believe that the only way to show caring or appreciation is via a raise. Expand your thinking into additional tangible ways of showing that you care.
How you create and model a culture of caring goes a long way in employee retention, engagement and satisfaction. Don’t assume it is enough to keep people employed. People are people and we all need encouragement and positive feedback. Your staff needs to know that the people at the top care about the ones that are running the machinery that keeps everything operating smoothly. Incorporate caring words and actions into the fabric of your company culture and watch your people thrive.