5 Proven Ways to Protect your Employees from Bears2 min read.
Millions of years ago, when our ancestors were prey to much larger animals, they formed protective groups. To be a member of that protective group, you had to contribute something. In other words, you had to add value.
If you didn’t, the fear was you’d be ostracised by the group and left to fend for yourself until you met your demise at the paws of one of the many wandering wild animals, like a cave bear (the clue is the name), the uber toothsome ancestor of the modern grizzly bear.
Let’s fast forward and apply that to a modern-day work setting. We’re often taught to detach ourselves from emotion at work, in a reach for something resembling ‘professionalism’, but the idea that we can do so is a fallacy.
When we feel like we’re not being listened to or when our contributions are dismissed, it diminishes us. We feel our sense of self slipping away. In those moments, the threat of the grizzly (or his vicious throwback) seems as real as ever – the primal reflex is beyond our control.
When you consider that a person’s value was once a matter of life and death, it’s obvious why it’s so important for us to feel that we are uniquely contributing to the success of an organisation; it’s in our genetic make-up. And that’s why it is imperative that companies foster an environment where employees feel seen, heard and appreciated, thus creating a safe space that organically nurtures and retains talent.
According to a recent study, over a third of people would take a pay cut of $5,000 a year to feel happier at work. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
But finding happiness and fulfilment at work can feel sometimes feel like chasing rainbows.
What does workplace happiness mean to you? What does it look like? How does it feel?
I recently asked these questions to some friends and colleagues and, as you’d expect, I received a wide variety of answers. For some it meant being part of a close-knit team and feeling like they were contributing positively to society, for others it meant a sense of real autonomy over exciting projects or enviable salary and benefits.
However, regardless of age, job role, or industry, the one idea that threaded through every conversation, was the importance of feeling valued. Where other motivations may differ, when it comes to whistling while you work, the basic drive to feel cherished is something we all have in common.
So how can leaders go about cultivating a strong sense of appreciation in the workplace?
Five ways to Make your Employees Feel Valued:
1. Encourage open conversations
Ensure communication from leaders is clear and frequent. Ask lots of questions and provide a platform for employees to give honest feedback.
2. Take action
Don’t just give a thumbs up and hide the feedback in some dark corner of the filing cabinet. Be proactive. If there are suggestions for improvement, make simple changes where you can. If more work is required, start plotting a path to change. The best way to encourage people to continue communicating with you, is to show that you’re taking it on board.
3. Reward effort along the way
Don’t wait until a project has finished to thank colleagues for their hard work, ideas, and time. Strike while the iron’s hot and you’ll give people the incentive they need to keep up momentum on important projects. Cake is optional, but encouraged.
4. Introduce a colleague-to-colleague appreciation initiative
This could be shared on a Teams channel, an office noticeboard or in a group meeting. Lead by example by regularly adding to it and be as specific as you can when highlighting how an individual’s contribution has made a difference.
5. Have empathy
When we see people devaluing others’ ideas or thoughts, it’s often because they’re trying to find value in themselves. In these scenarios, be empathetic, be inquisitive, treat them with respect. They’ll feel the value they sought through devaluing you, leading to a base of trust – which is at the heart of every successful relationship.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any method you can use to help people recognise how their personal qualities contribute to business success, is a way to help them realise their value, maximise their potential and eventually become loyal ambassadors for your employer brand.