People are experiencing a level of stress never seen or imagined in the past. We call on employees more than ever to effectively balance their work life with increasing economic, health & safety, family, cultural, and political challenges.
How can supervisors help their employees perform at their most productive level amid all the stressors in our lives? How can supervisors maintain consistency in their approach to managing their employees? What benefits can be derived for a business when supervisors display a thoughtful, positive approach toward managing their employees?
Here are three things I’ve learned from managing employees for success in the workplace and business overall:
- Develop a professional but empathetic approach.
Employees must feel safe in their workplace. Safety is not just physical, but emotional.
A supervisor who listens to employees and shows empathy toward them helps to create more confident, productive team members. I found that by taking time to get to know people—hearing about their experiences and challenges to their work performance and helping them problem-solve—goes a long way to inspire confidence on the job. Increased confidence leads to feelings of accomplishment and job security. Supervisors must also be empathetic and flexible when employees voice concerns about personal or family issues which impact time spent on the job. Good problem-solving skills are needed in situations like these.
Employees must be treated equally. It is important that all employees receive the same orientation and training. This sets the stage for the expectations which will follow, making it clear that the same rules apply to everyone. Supervisors must then be consistent. Any show of favoritism or discrimination creates a time bomb just waiting to blow. Employees generally have a long memory and most times are keeping a score card. Employers should also be very familiar with both state and federal labor laws as well as Fair Labor Standards.
Employees must be seen as people deserving dignity and respect. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In order to lead the people, you must love the people.” Supervisors should not display an attitude of superiority. This makes their employees feel as if they are less deserving. Good supervisors know that loyal staff members are their most valuable asset in any business. Therefore, staff should always be treated with dignity and respect.
- Don’t just lead, run with the pack.
Employees benefit from having a supervisor who is willing to work alongside them, giving guidance and direction face-to-face. Even virtual meetings are better than zero face-to-face contact. Working alongside supervisors helps employees become well-trained and oriented toward the mission, values, and objectives of the company. Well-trained employees therefore become more invested in the success of the company.
Have an “open door” policy for employee concerns or complaints. Show employees that you take their concerns seriously by working to solve any issues as quickly as possible. Remember, employees who become disgruntled many times have not felt validated in their concerns. Reports show that employees who have not felt their concerns or complaints heard are often the ones who go to extremes, such as bringing lawsuits or even violence to the workplace. Frequent face-to-face contact and direct interaction with employees also allows supervisors to get to know their employees and evaluate both their performance and level of sincerity toward the job.
Know the value of the employee handbook. Employers should always make sure employees are well-versed in company policies. Therefore, the company’s employee handbook should always be kept up-to-date, and any changes should be reviewed with all employees. Employers should make sure to have a written statement from all employees regarding their receipt of the handbook and review of any company policy changes.
Apply disciplinary measures equally. This can be a very tricky area to navigate, but as stated previously, no hint of favoritism or discrimination can be involved. Infractions of the rules and measures used to discipline should be outlined in the employee handbook and followed to the letter for all employees. Supervisors should be careful to document any infractions of the rules in the employee’s personnel file, along with a record of meetings or counseling done with any employee. Include a written statement documenting that the employee was present for the meeting, even if they do not agree with what was said to them.
Clarify the company’s policies regarding pandemic protocols for everyone. The employee handbook should be up to date regarding what measures the company has enacted for health and safety protocols during this pandemic. Review these measures thoroughly with all employees, and take swift action towards employees refusing to follow these protocols. Be sure to lead by example.
Organize meetings with experts. Experts can make scientific recommendations to all employees and answer any questions they may have. Trainings can take the form of videos, review of scientific findings and statistics, and hands-on demonstrations. Document this training in each employee’s personnel file.
Have consistent qualifications for employee promotions. Employee promotions are another area that causes concerns or complaints among employees. Again, fair treatment is paramount. Protocols regarding this should also be detailed in the employee handbook. You should document qualifications such as productivity, work performance history (as reflected in employee evaluations), willingness to go the “extra mile,” and longevity in the employee’s performance evaluations and retain the documentation in their personnel file.
- Empower employees to visualize a bright future.
It’s important to give employees benefits and an opportunity for growth with any company. Companies that do not create a clear vision and path toward advancement in various ways (even beyond compensation) should not expect good employees to continue working with them. Companies with little to no benefits and low wages are those most often with high staffing turnovers, inadequately trained staff, and poor staff performance. A high turnover rate leads to poor customer service and satisfaction, which leads to customer loss and ultimately business deterioration.
Keeping up with and providing competitive salaries can certainly be a challenge for nonprofits, as we rely on grants and contracted and donated funding which are often insufficient for the level of service required. While we don’t in any way endorse paying nonprofits wages lower than the work demands, nonprofits should explain these limitations to employees upon hire and emphasize them during orientation. Employees should know and understand that the agency’s mission is to provide valuable services which are people-driven, as opposed to profits-driven. Being well informed allows staff to determine whether the job is a good fit for them. Salaries alone are not the driving force behind keeping good employees who care about the nonprofit’s mission.
Finally, running a business and/or managing employees requires an ongoing commitment to demonstrate professionalism, a great judge of character, appropriate behavioral modeling, sharply honed critical thinking skills, and delegation abilities. But most of all, it means you have to know yourself, especially your limitations. It requires walking a delicate balance of evaluating risks verses rewards.
I have learned that if supervisors stay involved, interactive, supportive, and empathetic toward their employees, the nonprofit and the community will gain positive rewards. Businesses grow and prosper when people work well together. I have truly learned a lot about people in my years of managing employees, but one thing is consistent: People want to be treated with dignity and respect—and they want to be valued as contributing members of the workforce and society.
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Harriet B. Harris is a Licensed Practical Nurse of 40 years, Certified Professional Life Coach focusing on health & wellness, Certified Career and Vocational Coach, and author of Being Smart About Your Health—A Black Person’s Guide to Better Health & Longer Life in America, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
She is the Executive Director at Circle of Support, Inc., a private, nonprofit agency which she began in 1998. Its mission is to assist and inspire people to move forward.
Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.