The single most important thing employees want

IMG_0584The fifteen year old boy sat quietly while his father described how the teen needed to be more pleasant, to do his chores, to put down his smartphone when speaking to adults, etc.

It was a conversation that had occurred a number of times before. When the father finished his list of issues, the teen asked, “Dad, is there anything I do right around here?”

Most of us remember being on the receiving end of those conversations when we were younger. We might even realize that we’ve delivered those conversations to teens in our lives! We humans have a strong tendency to judge other people for doing things wrong more than we validate other people for doing things right.

Business leaders have the same human tendency. When I speak around the globe, one of the questions I ask is, “How many of you get enough praise on the job?” On average about 10 percent of audience members raise their hands. These players are doing good things at work, but nobody notices. Too few leaders praise or encourage.

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If you want a powerful, positive, productive work culture, it starts with the most important thing employees (and all humans) want: authentic care.

Employees know if their leaders are self-serving or are in service to employees and customers. They see it in their leaders’ every plan, decision, and action.

When a leader genuinely values his or her employees, it’s obvious in the way those employees are treated, in every interaction. The servant leader listens, learns, thanks, laughs with, trusts, and encourages team members, every day. In that caring environment, employees are much more likely to stay with that company, to proactively solve problems, to praise and encourage each other, to serve customers kindly, and to work cooperatively to meet the company’s goals.

Here’s an example. I traveled to the Dominican Republic recently to keynote Mercado’s “Best Companies to Work For” conference. The event was held at the Embassy Suites hotel in Santo Domingo. I spoke to hotel general manager Leonardo Ramirez about his company’s employees and culture.

Leonardo is a servant leader. When the property opened in 2014, he realized he needed to attract and retain talented, committed employees who felt cared for and valued. If he and his leadership team could create that environment, excellent customer service would follow.

Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are miserable. One recent study estimated annual hospitality turnover at 30 percent, more than double most other industries.

Leonardo goes above and beyond to demonstrate authentic care for hotel team members. When the hotel was being painted at the end of construction, Leonardo arranged for the paint crews to go to team members’ homes to paint the inside and outside of their houses – at no charge to the team member! A plaque was placed on the exterior, noting that this was the home of a proud Embassy Suites team member.

Team members are provided with sheets, pillows, and blankets from hotel stock. Team members have free wi-fi at work – and are trusted to use their smartphones to communicate with family and friends so long as that doesn’t interfere with their work responsibilities.

Each year, Leonardo asks team members to share a personal goal for the year. The crew sits around the pool, discuss their personal goals, and write them down for Leonardo. One woman’s family is remodeling their home and struggled to fund the concrete blocks needed. Leonardo had a pallet delivered to her home, at no cost.

Team members work hard for Leonardo and for their peers. The photo above shows a team member ensuring that all tableware in the conference ballroom was lined up exactly across all tables. They work together because they feel cared for.

The Embassy Suites hotel’s turnover rate is 1.5 percent. That’s remarkable in an industry where 30 percent is the norm.

Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance. Demonstrate authentic care in every interaction – and demand the same from all team members.

How do your leaders demonstrate authentic care for team members? How often do leaders praise compared to chastising? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Chris Edmonds Photography. All rights reserved.

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