What employees actually need from managers

What employees want and what their bosses think employees want.

Finding and retaining good employees can be one of a business’s most difficult challenges. Blame for employee turnover is often placed on the employee’s lack of commitment, laziness, poor work ethic or little respect for authority. However, some of this may be attributed to the large gap between what employees need from their managers and what managers think their employees want.

In 1946, the Labor Relations Institute of New York published the Foreman Facts. This survey ranked what employees want and what managers think their employees want. It may seem that a survey completed 70 years ago is irrelevant in today’s world, but this study has been replicated more than five times. Each time it has surprisingly wielded the same results.

The top three things employees want from their managers is to feel appreciated. They want to feel “in” on things and experience sympathetic help with personal problems. Managers assumed their employees would rank these three as their eighth, tenth and ninth most important need, respectively. These three are the most drastic disconnections but managers also did not correctly rank a single one of their employees’ needs. Managers ranked the top three as good wages, job security and promotion or growth opportunities. This separation causes a great amount of friction in the workplace and results in a loss of performance, productivity, morale, recruitment, and ultimately affects the bottom line.  

Managers need to be present in the workplace. It is difficult for managers to offer appreciation if they are stuck in their offices or are removed from their employees. A simple and sincere “thank you” goes a long way to in showing appreciation. Recognition systems can be established to create a culture of appreciation and will go beyond a one-off “thank you”.

To provide employees with a feeling of being “in” on things, managers must create a transparent decision making process. Constantly making decisions behind closed door decisions without seeking input from employees leaves them frustrated and feeling out in the cold. Although, it is unrealistic and unnecessary to involve employees in all decisions, the reasoning for the changes still needs to be articulated and communicated. Creating a culture of employee involvement will help generate an engaged and committed workforce.

Personal problems in the workplace can create a messy situation, so many managers urge employees to leave their issues at the door. However, it may be impossible to completely drop all personal issues and trying to do so may actually create a larger problem. As a manager, it is a fine line to walk but it’s important to take the time to ask questions and understand what is going on in an employee’s life before jumping to disciplinary action. Creating a space for employees to deal with personal issues can lead to a more loyal employee.

Maintaining an awareness of employee needs is vital to a happy and healthy workforce. One of the benefits of listening and understanding employees’ needs is that it may not even affect finances. Creating a culture of appreciation, inclusion and empathy doesn’t necessarily equate to bonus, promotions and increased salaries. Meeting the needs of your employees will drastically benefit all aspects, while disregarding them can lead to the demise of the business. Employee needs must not be ignored.  

For information on marketing, managing, or starting a food, agriculture, bio economy and natural resources business, contact the Michigan State University Product Center at www.productcenter.msu.edu or 517-432-8750. Michigan State University Extension Innovation Counselors are available statewide for free business counseling.

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