There has been a sea change in recent years regarding what employees expect of their employers. Whereas they were once quite content to work themselves to the bone for a paycheque, the landscape has shifted, particularly among Millennials. Employees desire more understanding, more security, more assurance, and more love.
Attracting and retaining talent is tougher than ever, perhaps love is the answer. Employees who feel like they are valued and appreciated by their employers are not only more likely to remain with the company for longer but are more likely to go above and beyond for you. Perhaps more importantly, however, they will be happier. Indeed, 71% of employees who feel their managers actually know them and can name their strengths to feel engaged and energized by their work.
With that in mind, perhaps now is the right time to examine your own managerial approach and ask yourself if you’re showing your team enough love?
Love in the Office
Of course, when we’re talking about ‘love in the office’, we’re not talking about a sordid romance. We’re talking about the kind of platonic love that engenders a deeper connection between team members and team leaders; the kind of love expressed through gratitude and support that has lasting power and a very unique energy.
Former Army Colonel Joe Ricciardi - who boasts a Ph.D. in values-driven leadership - believes that workplace love falls into three key areas: intimacy, passion and commitment. During his dissertation research, he found that employers who genuinely cared about the personal lives of their team members and were dedicated to the wellbeing of others made their employees feel more “loved.” And if they felt loved, team members were more motivated to deliver better results.
Colonel Joe’s theory, however, represents a rather streamlined approach. For our money, building and displaying authentic love for your team is a little more complicated. There are a number of elements that must be explored in order for workers to feel truly engaged and for business leaders to make sure they are showing their team the right kind and the right amount of love.
Hard and Soft Skills
Management requires a delicate balance of hard and soft skills. Most leaders will already have the more job-specific hard skills mastered, but when it comes to the more general interpersonal soft skills - the skills that affect your relationships with your employees - your mileage may vary. There are three key soft skills that any manager wishing to show off a little more love in the workplace will need to develop - teamwork, leadership and communication.
Teamwork involves building real rapport and becoming more of a team player; moving away from micromanagement and learning to trust your team. Leadership, meanwhile, is about understanding the difference between being a leader and being a manager; mentoring and inspiring team members to do their best work whether you’re right there cheering them on or subtly guiding them from the sidelines. Communication, finally, means learning how to speak to people; not at them. It’s more about listening than speaking, which can be difficult to master, particularly if you’re a naturally bold person.
Of course, knowing how and when to be a friend and be supportive is also essential for keeping your staff engaged, but you also need to know when to be a boss. Some leaders might find it difficult to find that balance, but having a good handle on your soft skills should stand you in good stead.
Modern employees desire not only clear and achievable career advancement goals and opportunities for progression, but the opportunities to learn from you. A survey by Workforce 2020 found that a combined total of 65% of employees cite opportunities and training as key motivators, so give the people what they want. Build a clear path to progression and offer your employees access to personalised training and development resources that will help them achieve their goals.
Also, be available for them when they have a question or favour involving their career. Using your expertise to mentor team members is one of the most profound ways you can demonstrate support. Empower your team members too, by asking them to take on extra responsibilities. This shows them that you have faith in their abilities and that you value what they bring to the business.
Profiling and Onboarding
The recruitment and onboarding processes are absolutely vital when you’re trying to make a lasting impression on your team members. Stumble at those first hurdles and it will be that much harder to earn their trust, and if they don’t feel favourably towards you, feeling genuine affection for them - and showing off that affection - will be that much harder in the long run.
Personality profiling in recruitment is a perfect way of making sure that you’re recruiting based on team strengths. You won’t end up recruiting the same person over and over again and will instead end up with a team of different personalities, all with different goals and outlooks. Having a team built of different personalities means you’ll be better equipped to treat them as individuals and nurture the unique benefits they bring to the whole team.
Psychometric profiling is far more accurate and useful than it once was and the science has a number of applications for the hiring process. The insights gleaned from these tests don’t exist to put employees into boxes, but to give employers a more specific understanding of each prospective hire’s individual motivations and strengths; knowing which muscles to work, which to avoid and - most importantly for our purposes - knowing more about them on a fundamental level. The more you know about them - their goals, ambitions and personalities - the more you’ll be able to support them throughout the onboarding process and the more affection you’ll be able to nurture.
An increasing number of companies are shifting their approach to employee wellness by offering more comprehensive wellbeing initiatives that take into account not only physical fitness but also emotional and mental health issues, social connectivity and more.
With research by Willis Towers Watson finding that a healthy, happy workforce can reduce costs by as much as $1,600 per employee - due to a reduction in both days off and general productivity - wellbeing initiatives are a potentially powerful and cost-effective way to show your employees that you care.
It might feel more natural to look outwards and focus on the customer-facing elements of the business, but in the last decade, a greater number of businesses have been looking inwards too; specifically at company culture. A cohesive company culture is about more than just the company values and is generally earned through incremental brand equity gains.
Cultivating an authentic business culture can not only help attract and retain talent but can make your employees feel more comfortable and accepted by fostering a shared belief in the same goals and the same ideals. Your team is more likely to feel loved and appreciated if they actually feel like a team, and a common company culture can help nurture those warm, fuzzy feelings of ‘belonging’ in which real workplace love can thrive.
Of course, building and maintaining a genuine culture is always going to be easier with a smaller operation. As the business scales, the real test will be whether you can manage that culture so it evolves in parallel with the business itself.
The Social Aspect
With work friendships boosting employee job satisfaction by 50%, the social aspect is key to cultivating a happy and productive workforce. Any authentic, loving relationship begins with people getting to know one another on a personal level but this shouldn’t be confined to normal business hours. To show that you’re as committed to your team’s personal goals as you are to their professional ones, you’re going to need to spend some time with them outside of the office and cultivate a more open and social workplace.
Make yourself available to your team members socially and let them know that you’re there to assist them when they need you. It can be intimidating to approach management, so letting them know that you’re open to discussion and to social engagements is half of the battle. A good working relationship is about so much more than just getting along and tolerating each other; it’s about using the workplace as a foundation for developing genuine trust and possibly even friendship.
Perks and Benefits
Whilst it might once have been all about the salary, businesses now understand that there is more to attracting and retaining top talent than simply throwing money at them. 95% of employees will consider a job’s perks and benefits before deciding whether or not to move on elsewhere, and there are now so many potential perks for the average business leader to choose from.
In a landscape where our jobs are no longer simply there to keep us fed and clothed, but are a genuinely fulfilling part of our lives, employees will expect certain benefits that go beyond the quarterly bonus and the occasional day off - however, 88% of employees surveyed by Justworks did admit that paid time off was important.
With so many avenues to explore - and so many other businesses exploring those same avenues - it’s important to be creative with your perks. Specifically, tailored benefits are more likely to make your employees feel that you genuinely know them and know what inspires them. Creative agency HZDG, for example, hired a personal trainer to come into the office twice a week to hold a free boot camp, whilst Daniel Pirestani, the CEO of medical translation firm InDemand Interpreting, gives a selected staff member each month the keys to his Porsche Boxster. And what better way to show your employees that you love them by trusting them with one of your most prized possessions?
A perk doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, as long as it shows that you’ve put some genuine thought into making the personal and professional lives of your employees a little better.
Whilst this might feed into the company culture discussed above, the employee experience is a little more specific and relates more to how the office feels and the experiences that your employees have with you and with each other. The actual aesthetics of the office can come into play here. The look and feel of the office might not dictate the mood of an employee, but if the office feels more like home, employees are more likely to open up to you and allow a more personal connection to flourish.
Internal communications is also a major aspect of the employee experience. In 2016, insurance firm AXA found that a rift had developed between management and the bottom line. In order to re-energise their employees’ connection with the company, they distributed bespoke Valentine’s Day cards amongst the staff, asking them for one thing they liked about working for AXA and one thing they’d change. This is a prime example of leadership stepping in to get creative with their internal comms in a manner that encourages engagement and could lead to genuine growth.
Love is All You Need
When it comes to nurturing trust and building a team that will go above and beyond for you; love is always the answer. Whilst the stick might motivate us to change, the carrot will motivate us to stay and employee retention is one of the major challenges affecting business leaders today.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to share the love and really push the boat out. However, as anyone in a long-term relationship will undoubtedly tell you; love cannot be faked and it should not be reserved for just one day a year.
The love that you build and share with your teammates will not happen overnight. Don’t force it and remember to work on your soft skills, and true workplace love will find you in the end!