How well do you know your people?
Here’s a quick way to check. Imagine the following scenarios and play along:
Scenario 1: Someone above you enters your office and says that a decision has been made to cut staffing by 10% in the organization by the end of the day. In an effort to make the best decisions, the person needs you to provide a quick 2-3 minute run down on each of your employees: what they bring to the organization, what projects they are working on that add value to the company and where you can see them going within the company in the next 3-5 years. No peeking at any files or taking a timeout to prep. 1- 2- 3 – go!
How would you do? Could you answer those questions ACCURATELY? Could you answer them in a way that would convey the value of each member of your team and/or teams to your superior?
Scenario 2: You are given $100 to spend on each employee on your team or teams. With the money comes an assignment: you must spend the money today, and you don’t have the opportunity to speak with your staff. You are to pick gifts for each of them that tie back to something they enjoy or are passionate about. No gift cards or gift certificates, and no asking anyone else for help.
How’d you do on that one? Could you pick a gift for each person that would not only be appropriate, but would result in excitement when they opened it?
Reality – a whole lot of folks can’t answer these questions about their people.
At Cabela’s, a recent employee survey revealed that “recognition” is an area in need of improvement. Making a decision as a company to focus on recognition demonstrates an impressive commitment to the employee/employer relationship. The first few meetings that involved managers and staff were interesting to watch and listen to. Some were trying their best to capture the one little thing that would drive their employees. What will make them feel appreciated? Do they want awards or public recognition or both? How often? From whom?
They are all good questions – and provide a good start. But it can’t stop there! Stop and consider the wife that tells her husband that he doesn’t tell her he loves her anymore. Being the problem-solver that he is, he sets the alarm on his cell phone to go off twice a day. When the alarm goes off, he says, “I love you, honey.”
Is the problem solved? If you believe the answer is yes, marriage might not be a good fit for you! No, it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a band-aid to a broken arm, at best. With time, the solution is going to become an irritant, because it is not genuine and heart-felt – it is merely an item on a list being checked off.
Employees are in a tricky spot sometimes. When we ask them how we are failing them, they are hesitant to tell us – or they don’t know how. I would offer the following voice on behalf of your employees:
I need you to know who I am – and what inspires me. I need you to know what I am passionate about and what drives me outside of the paycheck. I need you to know what I am working on. I need you to know what things I am most proud of. I need you to be proud of me – and to tell others when my work is exceptional. And I need you to do those things consistently and without my asking, because it shows that you genuinely care about me and appreciate what I do.
Reality? We should be able to get up in front of a department or a group and give a 2-3 minute spiel on each of our employees, along with a pat on the back and a “good job” recently completed projects or tasks.
And – here’s the kicker – we should be able to do it EVERY DAY…
And then we should do it.
Starla Eleson is the Retail Training and Development Manager for Cabela’s, Inc, The World’s Foremost Outfitter. Her work includes the design and management of customer service and leadership training programs and curriculum. Cabela’s boasts 30 retail stores in the US and Canada, and was recognized as #11 in the 2008 Customers’ Choice Awards, announced by the National Retail Federation in January of 2009.
Starla also works as an independent consultant, specializing in sustainability planning, strategic planning, communications and change management, primarily for small business and non-profit agencies. She is the mother of three lovely young ladies, and shares her Sidney, Nebraska, home with Thor, the wonder dog.