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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

outside obligations.

<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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