What Employees Want From Their Leaders!

I have heard many leaders say from time to time, “It’s never enough; employee expectations are too high; we must be all things to all people.” At times, I must admit I have had similar thoughts cross my mind. But, when you get right down to it, research has found that employees have very few — but nonetheless, critical — expectations from their employer/leaders. Additionally, we all tend to want the same things from our work experience, regardless of position or demographics.  We want:

  • To be kept informed;
  • To be involved/engaged (to be asked for input);
  • To be recognized for our contributions; and,
  • To have opportunities to grow and develop (I have added this one based upon my own experience and years of employee survey feedback)

Let’s look at these one by one.

To be kept informed. Let’s face it, no one likes to be kept in the dark, not knowing where they stand, not understanding how their role ties to the overall corporate objective or worse still, never being told why the company is making a change or decision. Communication is clearly a leader’s top priority. I have found over the years and see this in my coaching practice today, that an employees’ ability to cope with change is directly proportional to a leader’s ability to communicate and support employees through the change process. Keeping employees in the loop — even if it’s just to say, “There is no new information at this time” — is fundamental to being a successful leader.

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To be involved. It’s been proven repeatedly that asking for input/ideas from employees is a tried-and-true success formula. And yet, so many times we rush to make decisions and overlook this important stage, leaving employees to feel left out of the decision-making process. Not all decisions can be shared, and that is ok, but leaders will benefit from engaging employees in those areas where shared decision making makes sense and where building the decision/solution from the ground up adds tremendous value. The best ideas come from the business owners in the field and the best leaders take time to listen, engage, and ask for input on a regular basis.

To be recognized. Recognition and positive enforcement is highly valued and appreciated by all.  Leaders who make a habit of sincere recognition in both formal and informal ways not only help create a positive success culture but also serve their own purposes by turning the recognized employees into role models for others to emulate. Keep in mind that recognition should be available for everyone at every level in the organization. We learned this years ago, when we received feedback that some employees felt that only salespeople were being recognized regularly. We immediately changed this and looked for ways to ensure that everyone had an opportunity for recognition.

To have opportunities to learn and grow.  While not all positions have clear upward mobility options, there are always ways to offer individual learning opportunities. Whether it is from job rotation opportunities, job shadowing, online education resources, external courses, in house reading libraries, online knowledge communities, industry association involvement, lunch and learn events, webinars, or just sharing best practices within the organization, there are numerous ways to enhance learning opportunities and something to meet everyone’s talent budget. Sometimes just having the opportunity to hear from and connect with subject-matter experts, tenured employers or senior team members will fill this gap. Taking an interest in creating learning organizations changes the dynamic of the workplace, and the organization feels alive with possibilities.

To any leader looking to improve overall engagement, you don’t have to look any further than committing to deliver on these four basic requirements and you will succeed. None of these need to cost much, and all can be delivered in any business cycle, in any private enterprise, or in any public organization. All of us as leaders can commit to delivering in these four areas.

One last note, when developing your communication narrative, don’t forget to speak to these four key areas to reinforce your commitment to delivering on these fundamentals wants.

Sandra Hokansson