Managers sometimes tend to regard employees as assets for generating profits rather than as humans who come to work with emotions, personal goals, and a desire for interpersonal relationships. Human resources departments can play an important role in helping to humanize the workplace and ensure that employees feel engaged.
Last year, the Gallup Employee Engagement Poll showed that fewer than one in three employees in the United States is engaged and thriving in the workplace. This does not stem from laziness or a lack of desire to engage. Instead, employees reported that they feel unsupported and even disempowered at work, which may stem directly from the feeling that they are being treated as resources rather than as individuals. Such disengagement can severely impact a company’s bottom line. People who feel like they are cogs in the wheel will show up and do what is expected, but they will not seek to be the innovators that can propel a company forward.
Employees who feel actively engaged and supported by their managers in the workplace will develop a connection to the company. These individuals will want to see the company succeed and will go above and beyond to make that happen. Managers typically want to hire these types of individuals. The catch-22 is that while these people understand their value and refuse to become cogs in a machine, this is how many managers will often treat them once they become part of the company. Human resources professionals should see themselves largely as liaison between managers, executives, and employees to ensure that everyone feels engaged and supported. Importantly, human resources professionals should try to serve as advocates for employees.
In essence, human resources professionals are needed to humanize the workplace. When the human resources department functions in this way, it can dramatically increase a company’s bottom line. Employees will become more productive and self-motivated. The following tips can help human resources departments to identify strategies for engaging both employees and managers in this way:
Engage employees with personalized feedback.
Employee engagement is the primary key to humanizing a business. Virtually all managers would recognize the importance of feedback, but there is a major difference between generic and personalized feedback. In an effort to develop its team into one homogenous and effective machine, one popular restaurant group required managers to only recognize contributions, as opposed to the individual contributors. While the goal was to recognize the importance of the contribution, the unspoken corollary was the devaluation of the employee. As a result of not thanking employees by name, they quickly began to feel unfulfilled and devalued as individuals. Ideally, managers should go a step beyond by thanking employees and mentioning something that was particularly valuable or helpful about their accomplishments. Recognizing the role that employee achievements play at a macro level can help them to understand how what they do benefits the company. As a result, employees will feel more connected to the company.
Rewards should involve more than monetary compensation.
Many companies seek to achieve goals by offering financial incentives. Executives may offer bonuses or raises to people who perform especially well. As a result, the work is completed more quickly. However, people may subsequently tend to grow distant from the work. In other words, they work for a paycheck rather than because they have a passion for the work. While monetary incentives should not be dismissed entirely, rewards should also be personalized and represent an investment in the individual. When managers recognize the particular strengths of each employee that allowed the job to be completed efficiently and provided more opportunities for developing that skill, the goals of the individual and the company can align more closely. When a company supports an employee’s growth, the company in turn benefits from it and the two evolve together.
Ask thoughtful and genuine questions.
The best way to learn about employees and their personal interests and goals is simply to ask them. Too often, this tip is not followed. Managers may ask employees questions about the progress of a project, but this type of inquiry does not recognize the humanity of the employee. Instead, it treats the employee like a machine. Instead, managers should ask employees what parts of their project have proven most challenging or where complications may have arisen. Managers may also want to ask about what went particularly well for employees as they worked on a project. These sorts of questions will elicit key information about the progress of a project while also recognizing the personal impact of the work on the employee. Questions that are thoughtful and that dig beneath the surface can make employees feel valued while also giving managers important insight about their strengths as employees.