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Building Employee Interest

Building Employee Interest

 

One undeniable fact of business life is that employees who like their jobs not only get to work on time, they also work more efficiently and more productively.

To many managers, however, the idea of creating “love of job” in an employee’s heart may seem impossible. Actually, building job involvement—call it “loving the job” or “being interested in work” if you prefer—may not be that difficult. To start with, consider these five steps as a practical course of action.

  1. Regard involvement-building as a fresh challenge. You will strengthen your approach immeasurably if you can put aside past ideas or efforts. Look on the assignment as a brand new area to work in, a new kind of structure to build, with new tools designed for the task.

     

  2. Treat it as a one-to-one situation. Don’t allow yourself to be intimated by the question, “How can I get my employees to love their work?” Viewed that way, the complexity of the job becomes overwhelming. See your target as a single individual. “How can I get George to feel better about his job?” Now you have a situation you can deal with. When you finish with George, you can turn your attention to Pete, Mary, Sheila, Ed and Chuck.
  3. Don’t overlook department-wide factors. Even though it helps to think about your goal as a one-by-one undertaking, you will have many opportunities to work toward a favorable outcome while you are implementing general departmental policies. For example:
    • People are supposed to enjoy their work—and do. Despite some testimony to the contrary, most people say they like their jobs, at least in part, and most jobs are likeable to some extent.
    • When an employee comes to you with a gripe—”I don’t want that Acme job; it’s a pain in the neck”—you can respond: “Sorry to hear that. Let’s look it over and see what can be done. You know, I’d prefer to have you like what you’re doing, as much as possible…”
    • Perhaps you can eliminate certain unpleasant elements in the job. Every job is susceptible to improvement. In the course of your reconsideration of work methods, put high on your priority list the objective of eliminating or minimizing the unpleasant, dirty, depressing parts of a job. For example, Harry Black knows that the members of his staff detest the weekly routine of preparing sales call reports. Although he has repeatedly explained the importance of the reports, continuing complaints finally persuade him to turn his attention to the problem. Once he does, he realizes that the reports could be simplified by substituting check-off items for the usual essay-type answers. The revision of the form takes a great deal of the pain out of preparing the reports.
  4. Toss the ball to those you want to get involved. In both large and small ways, you can enlist the participation of employees in making their work more satisfying. Get them in on the act at every turn, beginning with their basic assignments: “Lee, is there any other job you would rather be doing here?” or “Is there any change in routine that you would like to make?”
  5. Be an expediter. Finally, make yourself available to the people in your department—and be sure to let them know you are available—for purposes of job updating and improvement. Undoubtedly, some of the changes that employees suggest will involve cost and policy considerations. Some will be downright impractical. But by letting your people know you are willing to take the time to consider their ideas and suggestions, you further ensure their job interest.

Don’t Cry Wolf
Most managers have been guilty at one time or another of setting a deadline ahead of when a project was really needed. The early date provides a cushion in the event of a crisis and, if they can deliver before schedule, they look good.

But such luxuries can exact a price. If a project goes through the chain of command, with each manager demanding an especially early delivery date, the deadline soon becomes yesterday. The person at the end of the chain is placed in a tough spot and the whole project is likely to suffer from a bad start. Cynicism sets in.

Don’t let this happen. Don’t put your people on the hot seat just to give yourself a comfortable cushion. If you cry wolf when it is not necessary, when a real crisis hits, no one may listen. Don’t demoralize your people with false alarms.

Time for a Change
Some people’s lives are so crowded with entrenched routines that they can barely see over the tops of the trenches that they inhabit. The result is that they miss a lot of new experiences, learn little and risk growing smug and old-fashioned.

Here are a few questions you can ask your-self if you’re unhappy with your routines.

  1. Am I limiting myself to too few friends, while neglecting other interesting people?
  2. Do my routines need to be inflexible? Could I ever take a different route to work? Would it be fun to lunch at a different place? Could I go to sleep and wake up at different times, and still get to work on time?
  3. Do I belong to any clubs or other organizations simply out of habit?
  4. Do I serve on any committee that has outlasted its usefulness, from which I derive no benefit and to which I contribute nothing? Should I look for a new forum in which to invest my time and abilities?
  5. Am I unintentionally neglecting some part of my life—such as music, theater, literature, travel, hobbies or sports—that could be personally rewarding?

Toot Your Own Horn
The world being what it is, modesty is not always the surest road to success. Sometimes you have to let the world know exactly how good you are. You do this by telling your boss and coworkers about your department’s accomplishments—how a tricky production problem was solved, how a tough customer was satisfied, how a crisis was averted.

Mention it when you can—in casual con-versation, over lunch, in the car pool. You can get your message across tactfully if you share the credit and cite facts to back it up.

And when someone sends a compliment your way, don’t blush, dig your toe into the dirt and mutter, “Aw shucks.” Say “Thanks” or “We worked very hard to accomplish that”—whatever is appropriate.

“Little” Things That Sap Energy
Perhaps the fundamental characteristic of an efficient manager is energy, for without it the best intentions are thwarted. When you are tired, you cannot think, plan, judge, communicate, create or do anything else very effectively. While it goes without saying that good health is a necessity, an often overlooked corollary is: invest your energy in those things that are important to your job and avoid those that aren’t.

Among the nonessentials that too many managers allow to drain them are:

Anxiety over the distant future. Plans must necessarily be finite in time. There is no point in worrying past a certain date on the calendar because too many imponderables may be introduced by the passage of time. From experience, you should have a feel for how far into the future you can look with any realistic hope of affecting it. Past that point, forget it.

Regret over the past. There is even less point in dwelling on what has already occurred. You goofed? Who hasn’t at one time or another? If you have learned something from your mistake, it hasn’t been committed entirely in vain. Remember the lesson; forget the rest.

Doubt over the present. Many decisions deal with relatively unimportant matters—who should attend a meeting, whom to copy on a memo, when a good time for vacation would be. Save the agonizing for the few truly big decisions you are called upon to make.

Suspicion of others. Some people, particularly ambitious ones, see plots and counterplots where none exists. As a rule of thumb, it is safe to assume that the people with whom you work do not lie awake at night dreaming up ways to do you dirt. What you suspect others of doing may be a better index to your own character than to theirs.

Tips for Better Letters
Omit irrelevant material. No need to rehash—letter readers have their own files. If your letter is explaining something, avoid trivial details.

Get to the point—fast. Your opening sentence should tell the letter’s purpose.

Avoid gobbledygook. No one will think less of you if you stick to plain, universally understood English.

Write as you speak. Most letters would be vastly improved if they contained some short, even one-word sentences; and some change-of-pace punctuation like semicolons, dashes, question marks.

What Do You Know About Your People?
The more you know your people as individuals, the better job you can do of appraising, coaching, and placing them in jobs suited to their abilities. But can you tick off the strengths and weaknesses of every person reporting to you? If you are not sure, try finding out the answers to these questions:

Skill level. Sometimes an employee will develop skills to a barely adequate level and stop there. He or she may need help or incentive to increase proficiency. Ask yourself if the person needs additional training.

Work quality. This is related to the individual’s level of skill, but quality also depends on other factors, such as motivation. Is the person’s work accurate, thorough, consistent? Or must it often be done over? Do errors impede the efforts of others?

Productivity. Appearances can be deceptive here. Don’t confuse activity with accomplish-ment. What counts is actual work produced.

Sense of responsibility. Having people with a sense of responsibility makes life a lot easier for a manager.

Judgment. The only employee who can score 100% in decision-making is one who doesn’t make any decisions. But the individual in any sort of responsible position must have more hits than errors to his or her credit.

Creativity. Even if his job is not creative in itself, a worker with creativity will find a way to use it. Ask yourself if the worker is inventive and imaginative. If so, try the person in a position where he or she can make the most of these talents.

Initiative. Know which of your people possess initiative so that you can channel it where it will produce the greatest results? An employee whose job doesn’t give him or her scope for initiative will either become disgruntled—or an ex-employee.

Response to pressure. Does he or she meet deadlines? Can the person produce in an emergency? Or does he or she fall apart at the seams?

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