It’s hard to find good help these days. Employees just aren’t loyal anymore. Why can’t they just do what I tell them to do. We often hear these complaints within our organizations. But this isn’t exclusive to corporate America. Educational facilities have the same employee challenges that other businesses experience. In fact, in our ed tech world, some of these challenges may run deeper because of the training necessary to get a staff member “schooled” as a technician, designer, or installer of equipment and projects for which there is little or no formal schooling.
How can you encourage employee engagement without compromising the rest of your team? How can you get more long-term productivity and loyalty out of your staff?
Discover what motivates (your) people: Discovery can be hard work and time consuming. But since your departmental productivity and project timeliness rely on your team, discovery is a worthwhile journey. Motivation isn’t always money. It could be growth potential, professional development opportunities, vacation time, a defined career path, recognition. Whatever “it” is, understand that it can be highly individualized. Don’t just observe your employees but ASK them what is important to them. Listen, outline, and then act on it. Motivating people is an ongoing process that should be revisited regularly.
Offer guidance: So often I hear that managers and supervisors don’t delegate work because “it’s easier for me to do it myself than to show someone else how to do it.” Well, you didn’t absorb through osmosis the knowledge necessary to perform that task. You were in one way or other given the opportunity to learn. Be secure enough in your hiring decisions (or if s/he wasn’t your hire, then your employee) to give guidance and allow that person to learn. The opportunity to learn is powerful (see #1). But don’t let the employee flounder- offer guidance without taking over the task. Do not remove the responsibility from your employee. But remember that you have built an armory full of experience and it is your responsibility to share experiential guidance with others.
Give direction and be direct: Similar to guidance, but not quite since guidance can be subtle. I am telling you to be direct in your instructions and expectations. Understanding your expectations is a powerful tool for your employees. This also means that you may have to critique their work. This doesn’t mean to attack their progress. It means that in order to be confident in handing off future projects to your team members, you have to be fair and detailed in your feedback. Critique isn’t negative, it is a tool.
Allow for personalized progress (AKA autonomy): So this may seem to be in opposition to being explicit in your direction and expectations, but keep in mind that your employees are not YOU. Your employees are individuals and while they may not perform tasks in the same way you do, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be just as efficient or effective in their own way. In fact, keep an open mind. Their experiences and processes may actually teach you something- and you should always be willing to learn and evolve in your leadership. Additionally, the ability to have some autonomy in the process creates a sense of project ownership. Project ownership= empowerment, diligence, determination and even motivation. Pretty powerful stuff.
Co-develop a path: Exceptional employees do not want to stay in the same role. They want to be challenged and know there is something more than an annual 3% raise (does that even exist anymore?) Going back to motivating people- discover what the employee wants in 1, 3, 5 years. Figure out a way to get him/ her there. Even if that means, dare I say it, your team member grows out of your organization! It is worthwhile to invest in your employee’s movement; the results will be increased productivity, exceptional support and leadership that you can rely on. Invest in professional development opportunities, training or relevant certification for your staff. This is a form of compensation that doesn’t cost you a lot, but becomes highly valuable to your team members.
Maintain a culture that supports engagement and expectations: Culture is a big reason why people stay with or leave a team. Not everyone will fit your departmental or school’s culture. That’s ok. Whatever culture you have developed that is working for you, be consistent. If you hire a rockstar and s/he doesn’t fit, do not change your culture for an individual. You will lose the support of the rest of the team you have spent valuable time building. Sometimes a rockstar comes with unreasonable riders.
There are just as many reason why employees aren’t loyal to companies as why companies aren’t loyal to employees. And it usually boils down to leadership: If you invest time and effort in your employees, they will invest time and effort in you.