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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the February 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
How to Win Your Workers’ Hearts
<B>Neil Rist has been with the Manchester Group,
a career counseling and outplacement firm with offices at 5 Independence
Way, for 17 years. Long stretches of hiring euphoria during that time
offered Rist, a senior consultant, plenty of opportunities to jump
ship. But he stayed put. Why?
"My employers understand what my skills and strengths are, and
communicates that they appreciate them," says Rist. "They
give me the latitude and respect of being a professional, and a lot
of freedom to do my work." That kind of respect, he says, is what
many of the individuals he counsels seek.
"A lot of people really want the ability to participate,"
he says. What’s more, Rist’s clients, many of whom are in the pharmaceutical,
marketing, or finance industries, respond to work that "resonates
not only with what they know, but with who they are."
A way a manager can make the fit, says Rist, is to inquire about what
an employee has achieved. "He’ll talk about what matters to him,
where he had satisfaction, and what he is proud of." Also, don’t
restrict the conversation to the job. Pride over reaching fundraising
goals for a charity, coaching a team to a state championship, or completing
a marathon can provide valuable information.
After discovering an employee’s talents, use them. People who
are using all of their talents on the job are so happy in their work,
says Rist, that they tend not to mind — or maybe even notice —
when they’re working long hours. What they may notice, however, is
a resounding silence from management. "People want appreciation
and recognition," says Rist. "They want an acknowledgement
of a job well done. If someone can communicate what an employee’s
strengths are, that’s a compliment." A manager who takes the time
to do this shows that he has been paying attention, that he knows
the employee, and that he is tapping into the things that make him
unique. Going right to the core of the employee’s self worth, this
insight can be worth far more than material gifts of any kind.
Rist, a graduate of Fairfield University (Class of 1966) who holds
a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, spends
his days listening to what professionals and executives, many of them
downsizing victims, liked about their former jobs, and what they hope
to find in new jobs.
Money is a motivation for many, he says. Bonuses and raises are not
everything, though. He is finding that a desire for flexibility, and
for a satisfying lifestyle, can trump monetary inducements.
A facet of lifestyle that is increasingly riling the folks is commuting.
The opportunity to work from home — at least on an occasional
basis — can be the "gift" that creates loyalty. Family-friendly
management policies can be another. So great is the desire to maintain
and nurture family ties, says Rist, that he is seeing people who will
not consider relocating. These are the employees whose loyalty will
deepen if their managers find ways to give them flexibility in meeting
<B>Joan Rose, who has a private career counseling
practice in Lambertville, is finding, like Rist, that employees have
work/life balance on their minds. "Although," she says, "you
never really have balance; it’s a juggling act." Helping their
workers to keep all the balls up in the air is a prime way that managers
can earn loyalty.
"Flexibility is key," says Rose, who spent two decades coaching
managers before opening a private practice to help individuals in
career transition. "I have a client who travels a long distance
to work. His manager is allowing him to work at home one day a week.
It made such a difference!"
In Rose’s opinion, "money is not the key motivator." The reason
employees give themselves wholeheartedly to their jobs is that their
manager knows them, and cares about them.
A manager can get to know his employees through informal chats. Over
time, he may learn that a worker’s son is often sick in the winter.
Then, suggests Rose, he might say "`How can I help? Would it be
easier for you to come in an hour later for a couple of weeks?’"
This type of consideration puts employees in a position where they
want to give back.
But what if an employee does not want to mix his home life with his
work life? "The manager has to respect that," says Rose. "That’s
part of knowing his employees."
Rose, a Miami native who holds a master’s degree in counseling from
Loyola University, points out that there are workaholics who live
to work and have no desire for the flexibility to attend to their
family or friends, or to any outside interests. But she is finding
that most people, especially post 9/11, are saying "I want to
be happy in my work and in my life." On Valentine’s Day —
and throughout the year — the manager who helps make this possible
is worth his weight in chocolate hearts.
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