Getting Employees to Care More

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Urgency, Ownership and Accountability

If you’ve had the pleasure of working for a boss who was committed to excellence, chances are they brought out the best in you and helped drive exceptional performance and continuous improvement. But when you think back on how many managers actually fit that description, chances are it is a pretty small number. In the same way that children develop their values by observing how their parents behave, employees look to their managers to gauge the level of expectations.

You’ve likely seen more examples apathy – a complete lack of caring demonstrated by a person who is just going through the motions in their job with no enthusiasm. You’ve seen it in teachers, health care professionals, coworkers, family members, volunteers.

Do the Leaders Care Enough?

For all the focus on employee engagement, the root of the problem may be the lack of management engagement. If management isn’t leading by example in terms of caring about performance and innovation, the people who report to them won’t care about quality, about the customer, about safety or about each other.

What to Care About

Development of people: Help the employees working for you perform their work more effectively by training them, coaching them and giving them new challenges. Stop answering questions and solving problems that they can take care of to create higher levels of confidence and a sense of self mastery. Make sure that you aren’t pushing your problems and issues to your manager when you should be handling them yourself.

Safety: In industrial workplaces, a focus on safety demonstrates caring for employees. When they feel cared for, the will be more likely to contribute to results.

Serving the customer: Treating customers like gold helps create more gold! Leaders must focus on putting the needs of customers at the top of the list. Remember that keeping your current customers is easier than finding new ones.

Continuous improvement and innovation: The leader must not only be open to new ideas for improvement, they must put those ideas into action. When employees see their ideas come to life, they will be more engaged and productive. And it is best if the employees are involved in the improvement efforts instead of management acting as a bottleneck that restricts the number of ideas to be implemented.

Achieving results: Employees are the most motivated when they are challenged and supported. As a leader, set ambitious goals that stretch employees and then provide the necessary support. Being too easy going, or too autocratic can become turnoffs.

Quality, accuracy and speed: Help employees produce high quality work first, then help them get faster. Provide coaching to improve performance. Help employees see the importance of being both good and fast.

How to Care More

Make it Personal: Leaders should clarify their expectations one-on-one with their team members. It should be a personal request instead of a ‘corporate’ request.

Explain the ‘Why’ – Studies show that employees will be 50% more willing to execute with enthusiasm if they understand the reason behind the leader’s request.

Say Something – When a leader observes a performance or behavior and doesn’t either support it through praise or correct it, the employee assumes the leader doesn’t care. Over time behavior will sink to the lowest common denominator.

Stay Positive: Leaders have long known that positive reinforcement is the key to higher employee motivation and improved morale and attitude. So why be stingy? Reinforce all the positive performance and behaviors you observe. And when tackling problems, keep a positive mindset focused on solutions instead of blame.

Model the Behavior: Employees listen with their eyes instead of their ears. The leader must practice what they preach and lead by example.

Grow People: When you develop the capability of your people, you show your interest and trust in them. Along with the increase in performance, you get greater flexibility.

Getting employees to care more starts with the leaders caring more. With greater care comes increased accountability and ownership and a greater sense of urgency.