Sunday, August 26, 2012

Help Your Employees Grow and Grow Your Bottom Line

Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles I've written for Bluestone Coaching on using positive psychology in the workplace. I will be posting the rest of the series weekly.

Here’s a riddle for you:  Why is an employee like a plant?  The answer:  both need the opportunity to grow.  If you want a seedling to produce a beautiful flower, you must help it grow, by providing it with water, sunlight, and rich soil.  In the same way, you must help your employees grow if you want to grow your bottom line.

A happy employee is a productive employee, and a recent Gallup survey found that employees work best when certain basic needs are met.  Meeting these needs is called “employee engagement,” and it can lead to increased profits, employee retention, and customer loyalty.  The fifth rule of engagement is to identify your employees’ talents, and help them grow.

When you want a plant to grow, you must find out what it needs to thrive.  Some plants need sunlight; others prefer shade.  Some need a lot of water; others need very little.  Employees are the same way:  each employee is different and possesses different talents he can use to grow and progress in the company.  Identifying your employees’ unique talents will allow them to do what they do best, and keep your office working at peak efficiency and productivity.

A great way to identify your employees’ talents is through regular progress reviews.  Meet with each employee individually and discuss their accomplishments.  It’s important to focus on the positive in a progress review, to help your employees understand their own talents and how they can help the company.  Don’t try to change your employees by only focusing on their weaknesses.

Ask each employee what parts of his job he enjoys most, and find out why.  If he loves working with customers, he may thrive in a customer service role.  If he likes supervising others, perhaps he’d make a good manager.  Understanding your employees preferences is key to helping them progress to roles where their talents can be most beneficial to the company.

Of course, progress reviews aren’t the only times you can uncover your employees’ talents.  If an employee does an excellent job, don’t just give him a compliment, meet with him to talk about it.  Discuss his methods and thinking processes while doing his job.  This can help you understand the areas where he can best use his talents, and also help you improve office procedures using his ideas.

Donna Deming, a professional business coach, suggests that one fun way to help bring out your employees’ talents is through a “lunch and learn” program.  Organize weekly lunch meetings where employees can train their co-workers in their areas of expertise.  An employee who is an expert at a new software program can demonstrate how it works.  An employee who speaks a foreign language can teach conversational basics.  An employee with excellent grammar can provide guidelines on formatting memos.  You can even offer programs which aren’t job related, like an amateur photographer providing tips on taking better vacation photos, or an employee who loves to cook teaching easy recipes.  Make each program voluntary, and provide a free lunch for those who attend.  A “lunch and learn” program will not only allow employees to share their talents, but will also help educate and train other employees.

Once you’ve identified your employees’ talents, help them grow by discussing their options.  Make sure all of your employees know about advancement opportunities within the company, and what they require.  Donna Deming suggests creating a company web page listing career paths for employees in each department.  List all of the skills required for each role, so employees’ know what they will need in order to advance.  An old fashioned bulletin board is a good low-tech option.  When new positions become available, inform employees through an e-mail or memo, so they have the opportunity to apply.

It is also important to discuss employees’ advancement goals in progress reviews, then regularly check their progress.  If an employee’s goal is to become a manager, make sure he knows what is required for the position, and help him acquire the necessary skills and training.  Check in monthly to see how he is progressing toward his goal.

Different plants produce different flowers, when they’re given what they need to grow.  Help your employees grow through employee engagement, and they will produce a beautiful garden, full of higher profits, better employee retention, and greater customer loyalty.  For more information about using positive psychology in the workplace, visit http://www.bluestonecoaching.com.

Donna Deming is a board certified life coach based in New York City, with an expertise in applying
positive psychology in the workplace.  She works with small businesses to design a personalized
program to increase and sustain employee motivation and dealing with conflict.  She may be reached
at 917-463-4414, or visit her website at www.bluestonecoaching.com.

References
DeMaio, S. (2009, June 24).  How to Identify Your Employees' Hidden Talents.  Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/demaio/2009/06/how-to-identify-your-employees.html
Gallup, Inc. (2012).  Item 11:  Talk to Me About My Progress.  Gallup Business Journal.  Retrieved from http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/514/item-11-talk-to-me-about-my-progress.aspx
Reh, J.F. (2012).  Learn at Lunch, A Program To Help Employees Grow.  About.com.  Retrieved from http://management.about.com/od/trainingsites/a/LunchandLearn.htm

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