One Simple Change That Will Make Your Employees Thrive

Hint: The people aren’t the problem, it’s their environment.

In my last article, I wrote about how you can become a better boss. I talked about the ways in which workplace culture is completely backwards, and that in order to become better leaders, we need to start challenging the idea of what a ‘boss’ should be. It’s groundbreaking stuff, which you can read here if you’re so inclined. Honestly, I’m surprised my Pulitzer prize hasn’t arrived in the post already.

If you have people that call you ‘boss’, this article isn’t about you. Well, it kind of is, but mostly it’s about the people in your charge, how a change in mindset will make them thrive, whilst challenging some of the concepts which have become ingrained within workplace culture.

The customer comes FIRST

Regardless of what industry you work in, if you have customers or clients, then the chances are pretty high that you have heard this expression. If the primary purpose of your organisation is to sell a product or service, you need to be able to meet the demand for that product or service, and the needs of your potential customers or clients. If you achieve that, your customers will do business with you and give you their money. Boom, we’re in business. The customer’s needs come first. It makes sense.

Wrong.

Question — Think of the most senior person in your organisation. How much time do they spend trying to win business from potential clients/customers?

The answer is probably somewhere close to zero.

My point is, it is often the people on the bottom few rungs of the corporate ladder who are given the responsibility of meeting the needs of potential customers and clients. But what if the needs of the people you’re relying on to attract new business aren’t being met? What happens if they’re feeling unfulfilled, uninspired or unmotivated? Do you think they’ll be giving their all to meet the needs of a customer when their own needs aren’t being met?

If you want your people to give you their all, you must prioritise their needs over the needs of your customers.

“But what more do they need? They get free dental!”

Most companies offer a range of perks to their employees. Whether it’s discounts, pension contributions, additional holiday time, these are the things that make people want to work for you, initially. But alone, these perks are not enough to stop people from jumping ship if something better comes along. They are not enough to generate loyalty.

Loyalty is what forms when employees come to work and feel the following:

  • Trust
  • Safety
  • Fulfilment

Trust

I show up to work every day knowing exactly what I’m being paid to do. I know what my job role entails, and I know how to do it. But the reason I’m happy to come to work day after day is that I know I have the trust of the people above me to get my job done. My manager doesn’t spend his day breathing down my neck, micro-managing every little thing that I do. If he did, I probably would have walked out by now. But he doesn’t, and as a result, I feel trusted to get my job done, and I feel happier in work for it.

If your employees don’t feel trusted to do the job that you have trained them to do, they will not perform to the best of their ability. If you constantly micro-manage them, they will feel inadequate, they will not take risks or try and solve problems on their own. And if you can’t trust your employees to do their job properly, have you done your job properly? Employees need to feel trusted.

Safety

What do I mean by this? Well, I don’t mean that employees need to feel safe that they won’t be eaten by a grizzly bear in the cafeteria. Although that would be preferable.

By ‘safety’ I mean that employees need the ability to do their job, safe in the knowledge that if they make a mistake, they won’t get into trouble. Mistakes happen, we’re human, not a single one of us has never made a mistake. And all too often we see mistakes being treated like the coming of the Apocalypse.

Shortly after joining my company, we had a visit from our Head of Region, someone much higher up the chain than I am. He gathered all the managers together for a quick pep talk as we were busy getting ready for Christmas, and he said something which has stuck with me ever since. He said:

“You’re in for a busy few months, and things won’t always go the way we want them to. But at the end of the day, we sell chicken and knickers. What’s the worst that can happen?”

(I’d just like to add that the company I work for sells more than just chicken and knickers, I’m not sure there’s much demand for a shop which sells only chicken and knickers.)

His words provided some much-needed perspective; a reminder that when most of us get so overwhelmingly stressed by our jobs, we lose sleep and worry about what will happen if things don’t go right. But what’s really the worst that can happen? Will someone die? For most of us, the answer is no, so we should stop acting like it.

I personally have also worked for people on the opposite side of the spectrum. People who would treat any mistake like the world was about to end. You cannot let your employees feel like this. If you do, then all you’ve accomplished is to create a fear-based environment, in which your employees don’t feel empowered to do their jobs, or think for themselves for fear of making a mistake and getting into trouble. Is that the kind of company you’d like to work for? Make your employees feel safe.

Fulfilment

Do we all wake up every day feeling inspired to go to work? Not on your life. I enjoy my job, but I’d much rather write all day, and there are times when even that feels like a chore. But we all have our reasons for doing our jobs, and even if it isn’t necessarily our dream job, most of us could probably wring out a few positives if we really took the time to think about it.

For me, it’s my people. They are the reason I go to work every day. I don’t go to work to make my customers happy, to make sure they get their coffee and scrambled eggs in good time. That’s not my job.

My job is to make sure that my team is happy. And I don’t mean a cursory “How was your weekend?”, I mean that I routinely have one-to-ones with my team and ask them “Are you happy coming to work every day?”

If you have a team of people who are genuinely happy coming to work, who come together and understand why they come to work every day, you will achieve the results you desire.

Prioritise the needs of your employees, before those of your customers.

And they’ll make sure you get your damned scrambled eggs.

Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK, who recently discovered that people who drink their coffee black are more susceptible to psychopathic tendencies. If you made it this far down the page, welcome! Thanks for reading. If you’d like to read more of my work, you can get to my profile super-quickly by clicking here.

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