(What Employees Really Want)
I have a friend who gathers our two families together once per year to attend a local fair. He insists upon it, after all, both he and my wife worked at this particular semi-rural fair as teenagers and hold fond memories—and tell tall tales—every year, pointing out that this booth has moved, that ride is different and the assorted cows, ducks, sheep and chickens are just, so cute, you know.
But that’s not really why my friend—his name is Dave—insists on going to the fair. He goes to get his Bacon on a Stick: he gorges himself (and encourages everyone to do likewise) on fat-fried taste-treats, sugar-smothered mounds of dough and every other conceivable thing you can think of that his wife normally won’t let him touch with a 10-foot pole.
In sum: he is acting like employees do every day—and most of the time. What do employees really want? Some studies suggest it is meaning, being of use and fitting into the universe in a comfortable manner. How remarkably philosophical, and utterly untrue.
Employees want what they want and they want it now. Most employees are not deep-thinkers, nor do many ruminate upon the long-term implications of the business. What most employees want is short-term; a workplace where, sure, they have to earn the money in their paychecks, but not work excessively hard in the process. (Also, they want it to be a nice place). And there are always a few employees who want to do, well, nothing. That would be their bacon, if allowed. Employee loyalty is virtually nonexistent at a good many places in today’s world of work.
This may seem a harsh assessment, but consider this: a smart leader will manage others where they are and not where they want them to be. In our work with hospitals, universities, nursing homes, food manufacturers, financial firms—you name it—we have seen leaders (especially those who are newer) repeatedly attempt to make every employee a clone of themselves. They are inevitably disappointed. Their fundamental error is they should have been thinking about their employees first, not themselves.
One example of this is a customer service training program we rolled out in a string of medical facilities covering a bevy of states. After buy-in from top executives, we trained the line staff—those who actually delivered the services—and then we trained the executives and regional leaders to keep the organization—and its employees—on a good path by maintaining and supporting the program throughout the organization.
The result is that employees aren’t simply putting the company’s new program into practice—they are putting their program into practice—and reaping the bacon on a stick in the process. Our train-the-trainer concept begins with line staff chosen because they are “influencers” in the workplace. And they begin every training session with a show of hands: “How many people in this room want a better place to work?”
Can you smell the bacon now?
Author Patrick M Lencioni (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business) has it right when he opines that organizational health trumps everything else. But you can still have your bacon, and be healthy too. You just have to do it in an effective manner.
By Darrell L. Browning