Why do you go to work? What does your job do for you other than provide a salary that pays your bills? These are important questions when considering employee engagement, performance and productivity in the workplace. We all look for something from our jobs. Our jobs are part of our identity and are important to us. We all have an employee ask from our employer.
Our work with clients has shown that disengaged employees are more likely to communicate their needs when given the opportunity. They are potentially great employees frustrated by unfulfilled needs at work. Needs that are usually inexpensive to remedy.
Why Employers Fear the Employee Ask
Most employers will treat this topic with some trepidation. They believe that employees will simply ask for more money or something that will cost lots of money. This reflects a misunderstanding about most employees.
A while back, I was commissioned to do some leadership development with new line managers in a large organisation. During my initial discussions with some senior managers, a challenge was set to find a solution to a longstanding issue within this group. We would compare solutions at the end – new line manager vs senior managers! Exciting!
When we eventually compared solutions, they were practically the same. The management team asked ‘how on earth did you get these results?’ The answer…..I asked the new line managers on their behalf. I set a simple parameter – they were experienced enough to know what would be accepted, and what would not, as a solution.
Moral of this story? Don’t stifle the employee ask. Just set clear parameters.
Employee Ask: 3 Core Needs
When you look across the research on what people want from their jobs, we can summarise them into three inter-connected core needs:
Most employees want to be recognised as being good at what they do. Regardless of everything else, this is generally true. Recognition is a great motivator.
A key part of this recognition is trust. Being trusted by your managers and colleagues will go a long way to feeling that your work is recognised and valued by those around you. It will also indicate that your opinion and contributions are welcome and valued.
Rick Conlow, Global Leadership Coach, reflects that the better people feel about what they do, the more they want to do it well. He also comments that his clients rarely think about recognising the individuals and teams under their leadership without being prompted to do so. This would seem to be typical of many company cultures. Leaders and managers need to appreciate the power of recognition and the impact when it isn’t given.
Interesting and Challenging Work
I discussed the employee ask in a previous pulse article on LinkedIn. In it, I referred to an example where a client using our software received a clear ask from almost 10 percent of their employees. All of these employees reported as disengaged on the survey. Yet, they asked for interesting and challenging work that would ensure a career and to compete for promotion opportunities.
These employees were geographically dispersed and, in most cases, did not know each other. This was a spontaneous ask. They wanted projects on top of their ‘9-5’ work to enrich their experience and to work with interesting and influential people. This links obviously to recognition, which can help the quest for a rewarding career.
Being Included/Involved in the Organisation
The opportunity to get involved in challenging projects is the first part of this. The second part is that employees simply like to be asked their opinions and to feel they are listened to. Just as in the example above when I challenged newly appointed line managers to design a solution to a problem. They revelled in the opportunity. They loved being asked.
Another client used the pulse survey and collaboration features on the etimes2 employee engagement platform to solve a long running and hotly debated issue around uniforms in the workplace. The outcome was accepted by all because every employee had the chance to contribute. A different outcome to their preference seems less important than being asked in the first place.
Employees know they can’t have a say in every business decision, whether at a corporate, departmental or even team level sometimes. They just want to be kept informed on these occasions.