Share the Love: 5 Ways to Show Employees You Actually Care About Them
It’s Valentine’s Day. School children are passing out cards to their classmates, romantic partners are giving and receiving presents, women are continuing to give “Galentine’s Day” cards to their BFFs, and brands are, well, publishing sappy blog posts. Not us, though. This post will not be sappy. You’ll see.
Valentine’s Day is a day of excitement and mystery, but also sometimes disappointment. You might not know this, but Valentine’s Day is a somewhat popular day for couples to break up. Really! There’s even a wiki explaining how to end a relationship on this particular holiday. As if February weren’t cold enough already!
Why is Valentine’s Day such a day of disappointment? Sometimes it’s because someone can’t be bothered to offer the smallest sign of affection on this day of all days. At other times, it’s because someone tries to make up for a year of taking another for granted, but does so with such a shallow, meaningless gesture, it’s insulting. Gifts, no matter how expensive, don’t atone for 364 days of indifference or toxic behavior.
See? Told you we wouldn’t be sappy.
In truth, relationships take work. Constant work. And that’s true in employment too. But, let’s be honest, employment relationships aren’t exactly designed for long-term commitment. They typically begin with an at-will statement—an acknowledgment that the relationship can be terminated by either party for any reason or no reason at all. Can you imagine starting your friendships and romantic engagements with such a declaration? I mean, yeah, it’s technically true, but formally declaring it wouldn’t go over well. It’d be like an emotional prenup.
And like inattentive partners, a lot of employers don’t do the work necessary to sustain a healthy, mutually advantageous relationship with their employees. They’re then confounded when employees inevitably cut ties and move on—or, worse, stay and put in lackadaisical work. These employers may try encouraging employee engagement with gym memberships, well-stocked fridges, or office parties, but their efforts receive a cold shoulder. Perks and benefits can make a great relationship even better (and a company more competitive), but they can’t fix a broken professional relationship any more than flowers can mend a broken heart.
Bottom line: You have to work to show employees that you care—about their success and about them as people. According to a LinkedIn report, employees who feel cared for at work are 3.2 times more likely to be happy at work and 3.7 times more likely to recommend working for their company. Here are five ways to care for your employees:
1. Talk to Employees About What They Need
Let’s not romanticize the employment relationship. Employers and employees don’t come together for the fun of it or out of a selfless desire to help the other party . They come together out of necessity. You need your employees, and they need you. If one of you stops needing the other, the employment relationship ends.
Money is an essential need for both of you, but it’s not the entirety of your respective needs. Your employees may be looking for professional development, new challenges, new skills, or opportunities to make friends. The best way to discover what keeps your employees employed is to ask them! Then build the relationship around meeting those needs.
2. Maximize Freedom
No one likes to be in a relationship with someone who’s overly possessive of their time or attention. That goes for work too. Micromanaging and overly surveilling employees feel stifling and controlling, not caring. These actions say, “I don’t trust you.” Not the kind of message you want to hear from your boss (or see on a candy heart).
Workers who feel constrained and distrusted are less likely to stick around. And if they do stay, they’re likely to feel frustrated, perhaps even resentful. Neither attitude inclines one to do their best work. Instead, empower your employees with real control and freedom over their work lives. Figure out what decisions they can make for themselves at work. For example, can they set their own schedules? Determine where they do their work? Decide how best to accomplish a task or achieve a goal?
3 Prioritize Safety
With health and safety on most people’s minds, there’s a big demand for work that’s physically and mentally safe. Most employees don’t want a job that puts them in danger of getting a serious illness or causes them psychological harm. Workers need to feel safe, and they’re leaving jobs where they don’t. Make sure your employees feel safe—physically and psychologically. Listen to any concerns they have and do what you can to address them.
Feeling safe is even more important in industries where physical risk is a part of the job. These employees need to know that safety isn’t a matter of checking a box. Demonstrate your commitment to their wellbeing. Don’t just comply with OSHA; use their guidelines as the minimum and set your own standards. Your employees should know that you want them to go home safe every single night.
4. Give Employees Time
Perhaps the most important way you can show employees you care about them is to give them time to care for themselves and those they care about. Employees may need a moment to breathe or a day to regain their peace of mind, and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for time to take care of themselves. Paid time off makes it possible for them to heal, recharge, or assist a family member without having to worry about a smaller paycheck. When the option to occasionally function at a medium (or even slow) pace is built into performance expectations, employees can more successfully avoid burnout or breakdown.
5. Pay Employees Well
In the business world, we invest in what we value. If we want employees to feel valued, we have to invest in them. That means paying them well. Granted, most businesses don’t relish the idea of paying employees higher-than-usual wages, but there’s good reason to believe that increased pay is a good investment, especially for people in traditionally lower-paying jobs. When people are preoccupied with bills, debts, and other forms of scarcity, they tend to be less productive and make more mistakes. But, when scarcity isn’t taxing their mental bandwidth, employees are able to be more productive, make fewer mistakes, and increase business profitability. They’re able to give more of themselves to the relationship and feel rewarded for doing so.
That’s a happy thought! And, maybe, even a little sappy.
Before you go, we’re conducting a nationwide survey of HR to identify key trends, challenges, and opportunities. By taking this 20-minute survey, you’ll get early access to the results! We’re looking for input from anyone who touches HR, including HR leaders, executives, practitioners, as well as general managers and business owners with HR responsibilities. Click here to get started! And happy Valentine’s Day!