Motivated, happy employees equal better work culture, better retention, and eventually a more profitable company. It is not rocket science. It is basic. Yet, so many companies and managers glaze over the basics, and this is even more common in technical organizations.

After speaking informally to people aged 22-52 about what they REALLY want from their managers on a day-to-day basis, I have seen some common threads:

  1. Verbal appreciation – You may think that giving employees a nice paycheck will be enough, but it only goes so far. Most people are working hard all week, and when managers give them a “Nicely done on that client meeting”, or “Good work on getting that deliverable out”, or “Thanks for putting in those extra hours, I appreciate it!” – THAT goes a long way.
  2. Specifics – When it is time for the big fat performance review, be SPECIFIC. Whether it is good or bad feedback. Saying “You negotiation skills need improvement” pales in comparison to “When you had to do the tough negotiation with XYZ client last Fall, I remember you had struggled with getting all your backup research in place. What can we do to improve that?” See the improvement?
  3. Regular feedback often – I am not opposed to an annual performance review, but I AM opposed to doing it annually ONLY. Feedback has to be regular and has to happen frequently. Would an athlete ever get feedback once a year, and be expected to improve their game? No. Athletes are coached right away when their form is not right, when their technique is lacking, etc, so that they can pivot immediately and improve constantly. So why are employees expected to be performing at their best constantly when they are only given feedback ONCE a year?
  4. Have their back – People want their bosses to have their back. Whether it is going up against a tough client, explaining poor financials to another department manager, or any other ‘sticky’ situation. Employees should be expected to do their job independently, but just knowing that their manager has their back if they fail makes a huge difference.
  5. Entertain new ideas and let them run with it – There are a LOT of hidden talent in most teams / companies. And chances are, these talented people have ideas on how to make the department run smoother, or make processes more efficient, or make the company more profitable/inclusive/innovative. Hear them out. Constantly asking for new ideas and giving them the resources and space to run with it, keeps motivation high for those highly talented workers.

These are some basic things that employees REALLY want from their managers, so that they can stay motivated at their work.

Amongst the myriad of options available in today’s world where companies compete for the best and the brightest, what are you doing to make sure you are nurturing your organization’s top talent?

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