Many Silicon Valley “unicorns” and other big businesses alike have come under fire for the way that they interact with their employees. Given that employees are one of a business’s most valuable assets – if not their most valuable one – this attitude is backwards.
Employees are at the frontline with customers and carrying out the mission of your business (when you have one). Here are 6 ways that business owners can establish great relationships with employees to the benefit of everyone, including the business.
1. Share your vision
A well-considered mission statement plays an integral role in the success of a business, but you can’t keep it to yourself. While some companies update their mission statements annually and share them on their website, you may choose to keep yours steady and private. However, you should make sure that every employee understands and supports the business mission over the short- and longer term.
As your employees go about their daily work, the company’s vision can plant the seeds of creativity in their minds. Rather than just fretting about a cumbersome task, they are more likely to come up with solutions that support your mission of increased productivity, while also improving their jobs.
2. View errors as learning opportunities
Employees often remain silent when there’s a chance that their suggestions won’t turn out well. When you encourage your team to make suggestions, you have to make it clear that you respect their vision and don’t expect perfection.
Even when the implementation of ideas goes sour, you need to applaud creative efforts. Then, work with them to figure out what went wrong and decide if a few changes might convert ideas from lemons to lemonade. Employees won’t experience anxiety when you collaborate, like they may when you reprimand them.
3. Solicit help in good and bad times
Every business owner wants the team to see them as a wall of strength, but they don’t recognize that the ability to ask for help is far from a display of weakness. Even when you have to make cutbacks to get through a rough patch, team involvement makes those changes more palatable, while helping to resolve difficult issues.
Would your team prefer to hear that you are dropping the product that they make or prefer to learn about profitability issues that they might be able to fix? Let them know about your concerns sooner rather than later. Since they are closer to the process, they may have ideas on how to cut costs or increase efficiency without affecting the product’s quality. If you can make that product profitable, there is no need to drop it from your line.
4. Mentor, rather than train
A trainer teaches employees; a mentor forms relationships with them. The end result is the difference between people who know steps versus those who can think for themselves when the steps occasionally go awry.
Clearly, employees need trainers to learn how to operate high-tech equipment or run software. But, when it comes to doing their jobs, real value comes from mentorship. Explain the specifics of what they need to accomplish, but give them a voice in determining how to get there. This forms a partnership that can lead to the development of future leaders in your company.
5. Develop awareness of attitudes and activities
You make the best connection with employees when you take the time to learn about what they’re doing, along with their individual interests, personality traits and generally what makes them tick. You can’t form a true partnership without this type of connection, which allows for mutual respect and the desire for all team members to do their best.
6. Encourage service to others
If you employ Millennials and Gen-Xers (and if you don’t, you will soon), you probably already know that they typically have a keen interest in social and community service. Many companies focus part of their mission on sustainability and other important issues, which can create a sense of employee pride.
But, charity begins at home. While you can attract employees through your company’s social efforts, you should also realize that your employees probably have a propensity for helping each other, as well.
True partnership is not just between you and each employee; it extends to relationships between all people in your company. When you encourage employees to help each other — even if it means going outside of their traditional job descriptions — you harness their natural social service instincts. In short order, co-workers become allies.
Create a partnership with your employees. Engaged partners create unparalleled business strength.
Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at www.CarolRoth.com. She also has an action figure made in her likeness.