Leadership: Here’s what employees want from you in 2013

Employees knew the salary and the compensation package when they were hired. They applied for the job, so presumably, they knew what the work entailed.

What else do great employees want? How do managers keep terrific employees? As it turns out, at all levels, employees want leadership. Real leadership fosters a vibrant working environment, and encourages employees who want to show up to perform at their peak potential.

Respect. From the boss, from their co-workers, and from the organization as a whole, employees want respect. This is the most common answer when employees are polled. People want to know that their opinions are heard, that their contributions matter and that the people they work with value them as individuals with unique skills sets and abilities.

Helpful Interaction. Feedback is critical, and positive feedback is extremely critical. Great feedback from managers makes employees feel more motivated, not less. If every time an employee meets with their supervisor they get negative comments, they perceive those meetings the same way grade school kids are sent to the principal’s office. They dread the appointment and as a result, productivity decreases. Remember, most people dwell on negative comments far more than positive reinforcement (think of all of the feedback you have ever received — it is easier to recall the negative feedback), so managers must be careful. How managers communicate with employees determines whether their people work cooperatively for the goals of the organization, or just work for a paycheck.

Efficiency. A common frustration is that the organization wastes employee’s time with senseless meetings, ineffective training, and outdated processes. When you schedule a one-hour meeting, it probably costs each employee at least two hours. Why? People have to work around that specifically scheduled time. They need to be reminded of the meeting, so they add the meeting to their calendar, then they have to remember that they have a meeting, and then they have to physically get to the meeting. There is an opportunity cost associated with every gathering and it is usually far more than what organizations realize.

Working for Greatness. People want to know that the work they do is meaningful. People need to believe that they are working with others to contribute to a higher purpose. Intrinsic motivation stems from the belief that what we do matters. Employees need to believe that the work we do is more than just collecting the means to earn a paycheck.

Personal and Professional Growth. Most people need mental challenges to stay enthused and they need the ability to stay current in their jobs. Jobs are evolving. Relevant training helps people perform their roles better and prepares them for better jobs with more responsibilities and higher salaries in the future. Employers should actively help their superstar employees develop and move to their greatest potential, even if that means their employees move on to another company. Today’s job conditions and opportunities mean that movement is expected, however, employees who feel as though their organization helps them grow and be successful are more likely to try to stay within that organization.

Loyalty up and loyalty down. Employees need to know that the organization backs them up when they make mistakes or run into difficult times. When managers sincerely help employees through rough spots, the loyalty they engender is priceless. Tough times create uncertainty, and employees value the people who help them when they need the help the most.

Strength. Employees want strong leaders who make the right decisions, especially when the decisions are tough.

Horizontal Connections. Real leadership matters at all levels of an organization. Great managers work to encourage leadership that works across functional structures, meaning that teams and peers work well together. Great leaders facilitate horizontal as well as vertical leadership. Smart bosses know that influential leaders exist in all areas, not just in the boardroom. Workers who exert their infectious abilities both up and down the hierarchy as well as throughout their peer levels are esteemed and recognized.

Employees today crave interaction, spheres of influence, and the opportunity for growth. Smart managers realize that hiring the right employee is not enough. They also need to cultivate the workers and workplace for the best possible motivation, focus, and productivity.

Mary C. Kelly, PhD is CEO of Productive Leaders.