Most employees are committed to helping their companies succeed, suggests the American Psychological Association. In fact, an APA survey of employed adults reveals that 72% of 1,714 respondents were “motivated to do their very best for employers”. However, two in five workers reported feeling stressed out during a typical workday, and only 48% felt they were fairly compensated.
The top five stressors identified were (1) low salaries; (2) lack of opportunity for growth or advancement; (3) too heavy a workload; (4) long hours; and (5) uncertain/undefined job expectations. As a result, 28% of respondents reported they intended to actively seek out a new job in the next year.
Workplace culture matters and turnover is hard for both employees and employer. During my tenure as publisher of In Business magazine, IB was nominated for the Wisconsin Psychological Association’s annual “Psychologically Healthy Workplace” award, given for sustaining an authentic, transparent, fair workplace. To be considered for the award, corporate values must be fully embraced by management. After 360-degree interviews with customers and vendors, and lengthy one-on-one interviews with staff, IB won the top award given. Here, then, is proven advice to address the concerns raised above.
Low wages: Say what you’d like to do but admit honestly what you can do: tie compensation to company performance. Get real with employees and state a goal, which ideally is profit sharing instead of entitlement raises. All staff members can earn annual bonus of x% if the company reaches goal revenues of XYZ. Since the bonus is a percentage of salary, it is meaningful, clear, and fair.
Lack of opportunity for growth or advancement: Train today for tomorrow’s opportunities. Who would benefit from management training, a marketing class, or an online computer course? Who might attend an industry conference? Your company will grow or people will leave, offering opportunities for reshuffling – with training. Example: IB’s part-time receptionist ($15/hour) became the events manager ($60,000 annually) in two years because we gave her training and the opportunity to grow the division. Reconsider aptitude and look for opportunities to promote from within. Ask employees what their ideal job would be and if possible and practical, put them on a cross-training plan to achieve it.
Too heavy a workload/long hours: Managers must understand the invisible assembly line that exists between Point A (a customer’s order) and Point B (fulfillment) and ensure that the most efficient processes, technology and staffing plans are put into place to achieve it at a reasonable profit margin. Asking people to do more with less is shortsighted; instead, ask them to do less with less. Delete time wasters or unprofitable lines. And note that too heavy a workload will be the elephant in the room without meaningful one-on-one opportunities to give staff the opportunity to offer feedback.
Unclear job expectations: A new employee is provided a job description. After a year on the job, I asked each employee to write their own job descriptions, and we then compared it to the hiring document. Surprising, what tasks people assumed because they like doing A, B or C, or what was delegated to them because co-workers don’t like doing X, Y and Z. After this exercise, come up with a mutually agreed-upon, realistic job description.
While management is often regarded as a behind-the-scenes activity, fueled by unknowable agendas, it can be most enjoyable and productive when it’s transparent and fair – reinforcing the company’s brand standard with a respectful workplace culture.