The internet floods us with lists:
Five Reasons to Buy the iPhone 13 Pro
Three Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from the Avengers
Ten Productivity Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Entrepreneurs
Topics churn through tweets, posts, and links and then cycle through again. It’s obvious these lists are effective and popular, but why? Leaders and managers are time starved. Our attention spans are often short, and we’re distracted and in a hurry. Lists are concise and a quick read.
But more than that, lists provide us with tangible plans and ideas that are doable. We suddenly have a starting point, and we’re compelled to do something. We may not implement all ten productivity tips, but we might try one. As leaders, we probably don’t sit and ponder what we have to learn from the Avengers, but a shortlist of three handed to us: we’ll give that a quick read. We like lists because they’re short and they give us the highlights—the important stuff.
What if we applied the list approach in how we assess and track employee job satisfaction? It might make the process less daunting and more doable. Managing talent requires time and diligence, and often the most common misstep is not being in synch with our employees and what’s most important to them. Leaders are busy, and people are complex. It takes time to learn what motivates people and what they value the most in their careers.
The Million Dollar Question
Take the guesswork out and simply ask your employees: What three factors are most important to your job satisfaction?
Pose the question with a few suggestions, such as a flexible schedule, the opportunity to manage people or projects, money, training, travel, or education. Ask employees to prioritize their top three and give them time to think about their responses.
At one company, three entire departments cited a flexible schedule as the most important factor to their job satisfaction: starting the workday earlier or later having a four-day work week. The notion of a flexible schedule quickly became a hot topic across the company. Two managers presented the pros and cons of flex scheduling to human resources and the executive team. They vetted the policy and procedures needed to support flex schedules and implemented them fairly quickly. Most employees had voiced this as the single most important factor in their job satisfaction, and the company made it happen. If you know the expense associated with retaining top talent, you can quickly calculate that the ROI came out ahead on this one.
Other top threes that surfaced were more oriented to individuals than groups:
- Employee #1 wanted the opportunity to manage people. He was close to earning his MBA, but he had no management experience. He knew there weren’t open management positions, but he wanted to start a dialogue about possibilities.
- Employee #2 was already a manager of people but wanted project management exposure and experience. She came prepared with suggestions of where he could plug in as a resource.
- Employee #3 requested technical training from a professional organization and bulleted out how he could recycle this training back into the company.
- Employee #4, a veteran manager, wanted to visit the company headquarters in another country and provided the business logic to support the request.
Sometimes, the budget was impacted, but in most cases—it wasn’t. The Conference Board, a business think tank, reports that in companies are planning on record high payroll budgets to award raises in 2022. Organizations are desperate for retention and attempting to money to fix “the Great Resignation,” but studies show that employees prefer flexible schedules and workplaces where they are valued and their wellbeing is prioritized—over pay raises.
Making the Top 3 Work for You
Taking the time to engage your employees speaks to how much you value them. Documenting their top-3 motivators provides you with a high-level dashboard for their professional development, and this dashboard creates vision and direction for you—the leader. All of this works together to create a high-performing, employee-centered culture.
Can you make every wish come true? No.
Even if you’re able to hit one out of three for each employee over the course of a year, you’ll see a notable increase in loyalty, retention, energy, and productivity.
I have the list, now what?
- Keep the drivers in mind when conversing with other leaders during strategic and budget planning processes. This is your opportunity to be proactive and collaborative with your leadership team and to pair talent with the company’s needs.
- Touch base on opportunities and possibilities with your employees as soon as they arise.
- Engage your employees in the process. You’ll find them motivated and willing to do the legwork and work with you in creating a business case.
- If one of the top three can’t be met, let the employee know, so you can both move on and invest your energy into pursuing what’s doable.
Like any aspect of talent management, a simple list is only the starting point and can create complex work for leadership; however, if people are truly at the heart of your company’s culture—ask the question and do the work. The results will surprise you.