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Employee Development and Growth

How to Create a Supportive Work Environment

One of your roles as a manager is to create an organizational climate that will motivate and engage employees. To do this, you must gain an understanding of your employee’s wants and needs, and use this information to help bring out their best.

If employees can see “what’s in it for me” they will be more inclined to work toward the desired goals.

Here are some pointers:

Get employees involved in decision-making. Whenever possible, give your employees a chance to participate in important decisions. If they are not in a position to decide “what” is to be done, then solicit ideas for “how” an assignment should be done. Give your employees choices. People who do not have a say in what affects them may become listless and disinterested in work.
Maintain an “open-door” policy. Show others you are approachable and accessible by your demeanor and by physically leaving your door open as much as possible. If your schedule permits, consider setting aside a designated time each day for “office hours” when you are available to meet with employees about any concerns they have.
Use appropriate means of reinforcement. Encourage your staff to maintain high quality in their work by tying their rewards directly to their performance. If an employee goes above and beyond what is required, he or she should be rewarded. This reward will serve as positive reinforcement so the behavior will be repeated, and an example to others that good performance pays off. Conversely, if an employee is rewarded without merit (or allowed to perform poorly without a negative consequence), this may cause resentment among staff members which, in turn, depreciates performance.
Help employees see their place in the big picture. Ensure that your employees understand how their job duties or a specific assignment tie into the goals of the organization. Explain how their work contributes to profitability or success.
Give your support when it is required. An attribute of high achievers is the willingness to ask for help. Whenever an employee asks for your assistance, view this as a strength instead of a weakness. Do not make discouraging remarks or use body language that indicates frustration with the employee. Instead, respond in a way that shows you are willing and eager to help.
Ask your employees for suggestions. Invite new ideas and suggestions from your staff. And do not let great ideas just sit there -- put them into action by making changes. If an employee makes a suggestion that you decide to act on, consider involving him or her in the process and – at the very least – let the employee know the suggestion was acted upon.
Listen. Great managers are good at listening. Take the time to hear what your employees are saying – to you, to others, to a group in a meeting, etc. Listen to their words but, more importantly, strive to understand what they are trying to get across.
Use a flexible management style. What is your approach to managing employees? Do you treat all employees the same? Many managers mistakenly believe it is a good practice to treat all employees exactly alike. Remember, every individual has different needs, and the approach that will work for one person may not work for another. Circumstances also change, and what was fair and reasonable at one time might not be the best approach now. Having a flexible management style means having a different approach to different situations. The rule of thumb is to treat employees fairly – not necessarily the same.
Share information. Keeping employees “in the loop” about company events, strategies, challenges, staffing changes and high-level decisions empowers them and provides greater connection to the organization. Aside from confidential information, feel free to share information with your employees about sales results, new business ventures, corporate goals and other highlights of the business.

Managing Employees During Tough Times

When budgets are tight and your primary focus is staying profitable despite lagging sales, it’s easy to relax your employee retention efforts. It’s obvious that the company is going through challenging times, so everyone just needs to “ride out the storm” and give it their all, right? In fact, they should be grateful that they even have jobs, right?

Not true! What you do today for your employees, when times are tough, will directly influence what they do later, when business improves.

Make your move before they do

Don’t risk overburdening your best employees and burning them out, or worse, forcing them to look for better opportunities elsewhere. Replacing strong employees is a time-consuming process – and always more costly – than retaining the talent already under your roof.

With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can continue to boost morale, encourage productivity and recognize your top performers. Here are 5 affordable, but effective, ways to keep employee retention and morale high during difficult times:

Communicate, communicate, communicate
The continuous stream of negative information in the news during an economic downturn can make even the most confident employees anxious about their job security. At these times, more than ever, you need to manage the gossip and rumor mill and provide clear updates on the company’s well-being. Whether the news is good or bad, employees deserve to be kept in the loop. Communicate honestly and frequently about how the company is doing, and how each employee can contribute toward keeping the company successful.
Give back to employees in other ways
Although you may not be able to reward employees with pay raises, bonuses and other monetary rewards, you can provide other types of perks. If business is down, consider offering voluntary time off, flextime or even telecommuting. Additional time, whether for vacation or other activities that promote a healthier work-life balance, is a benefit that most employees value. Extend the opportunity to come in later, leave early or even take days off without pay.
“Invest” in employee development and training
Training is a win-win for you and your employees. Not only does it empower employees and expose them to new challenges, but it also contributes to your company’s success by matching employee skills to your greatest needs. The slowdown is an ideal time to cross train employees, too. Cross training increases an employee’s value and provides essential relief in areas where employees are busiest and need assistance. In addition to conducting internal cross training among employees, look into DVDs, CD-ROMs, online presentations and other affordable training programs on a wide range of topics, from computer/IT skills, sales and marketing to safety, management and leadership.
Recognize employees and express your gratitude
Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done. Take the time to write out a thank you card, call attention to an employee’s achievement in a meeting or if your budget will allow, give a gift card, personalized desktop accessory or other small token of your appreciation. Other possible low-cost perks to boost morale company-wide include implementing a casual dress day, providing lunch to a team or department that meets a specific goal, or offering preferred parking for a designated employee.
Mentor employees for maximum results
Managers, take note: Taking an active interest in each of your employee’s careers is critical to helping them develop personally and professionally and goes a long way toward building loyalty. Listen to your employees’ concerns, give regular, constructive feedback, provide the tools they need to succeed and most of all, build a level of trust and respect with them. Most employees don’t leave their jobs; they leave their bosses. Are you providing enough reasons for them to stay?

Company Policy on Promotions and Transfers

Depending on the size of your company and the range of positions you offer, you should encourage career growth within the company. As such, managers and supervisors should allow employees to review internal job postings and apply for desired positions and/or transfers. In addition, employees should never be retaliated against or subjected to any negative consequences for expressing interest in other job opportunities within the company.

Incorporating a company policy in your employee handbook regarding promotions and transfers is a sound business practice. The key points to cover in the policy include:

All employees wishing to be considered for an open job position within the Company must undergo the same application procedures and screening.
Employees making informal or verbal requests for promotion or transfer will be directed to the Company’s HR department (or provided with written guidelines, if available) for information on how to apply formally. This will ensure fairness and consistency in the application process, and will help the Company comply with recordkeeping requirements concerning hiring, promotions and transfers.
Company policy will determine whether requests for promotions/transfers must be made in writing, whether a particular form or format is required, general eligibility requirements, required approvals, and more. Managers must not allow any employee to circumvent established application procedures – no matter how well they already know the candidate and his or her suitability for the position.
Promotions and transfers are covered by federal and state equal employment opportunity laws. Promotion and transfer decision must be based on job-related qualifications and objective selection criteria. Discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, military status, or any other similarly protected status is strictly prohibited.
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