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What do Employees want? To be Heard and Respected!
Five Lessons Learned as a Human Resources Training Manager
“I can’t seem to get anything done because I constantly have to babysit my staff!” “All they (employees) want to do is complain about everything.” “Sometimes I wish I could just slap them on the back of the head just like Gibbs does on NCIS.” “They’re all just a bunch of whiners…” These expressions and various forms thereof, are commonplace by managers and supervisors in some organizations where there is a traditional hierarchy of “us” versus “them” between employees and management.
In many of such situations, managers will conclude that their employees need some type of training to shape them up. The most common requests are for communication or time management classes. When such requests were sent to me when I was a training specialist/manager, I would follow-up with the manager requesting the training to conduct an in-depth training needs analysis. After my meeting with the manager, I would either follow through with a survey or conduct a focus group and in some instances just have some casual conversations with various employees to validate that the training being requested would address the problem. In some cases the training requested was appropriate and in other cases it was not.
In over 18 years of conducting needs analysis and engaging in discussions with managers and employees I have learned some lessons I’d like to share with you.
The Five Lessons Learned
- Employees need to vent without fear of repercussions.
- Management does not always have the “right” or best solution to a problem.
- Employees want input for setting their goals.
- Employees are more willing to participate in training when upper or senior managers take the lead.
- Employees do not accept or support a “new” initiative at face value.
Employees need to vent without fear of repercussions. Some employees have a difficult time expressing their concerns or viewpoint to their manager especially when the employee believes the manager may be the cause or contributor to the problem. In my experience, what usually happened when an employee would “vent” with me is that (a) they felt better just getting it off their chest and letting it go, or (b) could now address the issue directly with their manager, or (c) request mediation to resolve the issue.
Management does not always have the “right” or best solution to a problem. Sometimes managers do not have all the necessary information to make the right or best solution for resolving a problem. Conducting proper needs assessment will provide in-depth data to address the root cause of a problem and thus provide the ability to prescribe a more effective solution. Additionally, employees tend to be able to offer genuine solutions to a work issue as they are closer to the problem and have ideas for resolution.
Employees want input for setting their goals. Whether the goals are for personal development or monthly sales objectives, employees want to provide input for setting the goal. Many times employees feel that their manager may not have the whole picture of their particular situation or related factors that could prevent them from succeeding. Employees realize that their manager has the final say but would feel much better if they knew their concerns were at least being heard.
Employees are more willing to participate in training when upper or senior managers take the lead. One common sentiment I almost always hear at a training workshop is, “this is great information, is my manager getting the same training?” Second most common is, “I hope upper management is participating in this training, they need it as much as we do.” Sadly, many times managers are not participating in the training, partly because of the false assumption that as managers they already have the skills taught in the training workshop. They usually don’t.
In the training workshops where both employees and management participated showed a higher degree of support for making improvements back on the job. Both employee and manager had the same foundation in which to make changes and “walk-the-talk” together.
Employees never accept or support a “new” initiative at face value. Depending on the organization’s culture, various initiatives are viewed with suspicion by employees. Primarily because past initiatives were merely “flavor-of-the-month” programs that employees just needed to wait-out to see it fade-out. Employees don’t want to put a lot of energy and effort into something they believe is eventually going evaporate. And employees will especially not accept or support an initiative that they believe is a sinister method for management to get back at them for whatever reason.
Rolling out a new initiative requires constant communication pre- and post rollout. Additionally, the more employees are involved in the development and subsequent introduction of a new initiative, the greater the chances of success.
The main theme from these five lessons is for managers and employees to engage in effective communication practices. Participate in a dialog where active listening takes place and valuable feedback is given and received. Then when all is said and done, for all to demonstrate genuine respect for one another, after all managers are employees too!