As CEO of Fishbowl Inventories, I am often asked questions about how to run a successful technology company. From organizational culture to project management, I have learned a lot during the past fifteen years and would love to share what I have learned.
Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of the “Ask Dave” series on forbes.com. This first article is a response to an insightful question from Mari Machado, who works in healthcare:
“How do you balance creating a motivating and supportive environment for your staff while still meeting the bottom line and not overspending?”
In our continued quest for excellence, we will try nearly everything, from Ipads to exotic trips to bonuses, to motivate our employees. At Fishbowl, incentives are common, and motivation is high on our list of priorities. But, over time, I’ve realized that there is a distinct difference between motivation tactics and establishing a long-term supportive environment.
While you can motivate someone for a time, establishing a supportive organizational culture with an equally supportive management is the foundation upon which long-term employee satisfaction is based.
Here are six keys to consider that will help you create a supportive environment for your employees while improving the bottom line.
1. Remember, employees are human beings, not resources.
While motivation aims at getting an employee to do something, support runs much deeper. Synonymous with “caring,” being supportive means caring about the overall employee — not just his or her performance at work.
“The 20th century viewpoint that believes people are a means to an end has run its course,” said Shawn Murphy, CEO of Switch and Shift. “We are seeing employees refusing to play by the tired rules from the previous century. They are leaving jobs to start their own work. They are leaving companies that treat them as a finite asset in hopes of finding someplace where they are valued.”
A supportive work environment recognizes an employee’s desire for work/life balance, honors promises of flexibility and reinforces the trust relationship between manager and employee. When CEOs openly respect employees as more than simple work resources, employees will not only reach a high level of performance, but they will remain with the company longer.
2. Acknowledge achievements after the fact
Rather than focusing heavily on the motivational incentives, establish a set of clearly defined goals. Then celebrate when those goals are met. Celebrations for a job well done can be more powerful than the usual carrot on the stick.
Recognizing employee achievements helps to create a positive organizational culture and also encourages employees to excel in their jobs. As Cleverism.com notes, when someone receives praise, he or she will automatically try to give the same level of performance and even improve efforts further.
3. Give employees autonomy
Part of building a supportive foundation is learning to trust that your employees will use their workday hours to accomplish their goals.
Research from Tel Aviv University published in Psychological Science reported that “even the least powerful employees will commit to finding ways to make their organization more efficient if given the autonomy to make decisions and execute the improvement measures they find most useful.”
By creating a strong sense of autonomy, employees will feel empowered rather than micromanaged.
4. Include families in business
Nearly every employee hopes to have a reasonable work/life balance, so smart CEOs will allow flexibility during normal workday hours to better accommodate family events that arise, such as doctor’s appointments and school-related activities.
According to the Sloan Center on Aging and Work, employees are more productive and engaged when they are able to balance work with other demands on their lives. Physical and mental health improvements are also correlated with workplace flexibility.
If your employees need to work from home for a few days because their children have the flu, give them the support to do that.
5. Treat employees like family
In 2017, most employees will spend approximately 240 days of the year on the job (considering two weeks for vacation time). At a minimum of 8-hour days, at least 1,920 hours throughout the year are spent with co-workers. In fact, Financial Juneteenth reported in 2015 that half of full-time American employees spend more time at work than they do with family.
Contrary to a 2014 Harvard Business Review article that states a business is a team, not a family, it is safe to say that employees and co-workers quickly become like family. These family ties and corresponding support system are something to consider when building a growing company and hiring potential long-term employees.
6. Remove fear
No one got ahead in business by always looking in the rearview mirror. After all, a car’s windshield is larger than the rearview mirror for a reason. What lies ahead of you, whether on the drive home or on the pathway of your career, is always more important than what is behind you.
“Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation,” said Amy Rees Anderson, an entrepreneur and angel investor. “Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned.”
As CEOs, we need to create an environment where employees are not constantly checking their rearview mirror, looking to be judged on their past speedbumps. Instead, create a supportive environment where employees can try and fail without fear. They’ll surprise you with their innovative ideas and abilities.
If you want to make your company strong, don’t look to fleeting motivational incentives that yield diminishing returns. Instead, build a supportive company culture that recognizes employees as human beings, not resources, celebrates success, allows for autonomy, strengthens family ties at home and in the office and allows for mistakes. This strong foundation will be built to last.
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Would you like to know more? You can follow my weekly Forbes.com columns (where this originally appeared) on life, leadership and entrepreneurship here.
You can learn more about my company, Fishbowl Inventory, by visiting our website here. I look forward to hearing from you.