As we head toward Labor Day, let’s evolve the conversation around the employee experience to one where work is treated as a relationship as opposed to a contract. Data tells us that for employees to innovate and grow, they must be emotionally connected to their work, leaders, and peers – similar to relationships with family and friends.
How does an organization even start to reframe its relationships with employees? The first step is to give your employees the freedom and autonomy to do their best work. What does that freedom look like? Here’s my take:
- I can challenge the status quo without fear. I can walk into my leader’s office and tell them my thoughts, and they will listen. Even if they disagree, they will respect me enough to hear my ideas and opinions. My views do not need to be implemented, but I would like to have my voice heard.
- I can be myself. I can bring my whole self to work – including all the messy human complexities of emotions, logic, commitment, passion, creativity, and so much more.
- I can make mistakes. If I make a mistake, I can learn from it. When I am scared of making mistakes, I hide errors and will not take risks.
- I am paid equitably for the value I provide. Period.
- I have a voice. When I talk, people do not interrupt. I can express my opinions. People look at me when I speak to them. I am not ignored or given the silent treatment when I bring up new ideas.
- I am safe. I need to feel safe at work. I should be free from any anxiety associated with health or bodily harm.
- I am treated as a human. I am not micromanaged or bullied.
- I am recognized for the work I do. Receiving recognition for a job well done is essential to my motivation. Positive reinforcement helps me do my best work.
- I can learn. There are many opportunities for me to learn and grow. Don’t put me in a box. Allow me to step up to new opportunities and projects, even if I am not an expert.
- I can manage my time. Time is the most precious commodity. Freedom means giving me the autonomy to choose the place and time I work. Yes, I need to attend meetings and respond to issues, but unless there is a business imperative, allow me to work from home and in the hours that work for both me personally and the organization.
- I do not have to be perfect. I spend so much time at work checking and rechecking in an attempt at perfection. But this comes at the cost of getting products to market quickly. Perfection is the enemy of innovation.
- I can have some fun. I spend most of my waking hours at work. For me to be productive and love what I do, there needs to be some lighthearted moments.
- I am always told the truth. Even if I am not happy with the truth, my leaders and managers are authentic and honest with me. Yes, I can handle the truth.
- I can provide input into cross-functional projects. There are specific projects that I would love to be part of, based on my skills and growth goals. Allow me to have input into the projects I am working on, even if they are led by a different department.
- I do not feel invisible. When you walk by me in the hall, please just say “hello.”
- I can determine how my work gets done. Make sure I understand my goals and give me the right tools to succeed without micromanagement. Give me the autonomy to meet the goals, and the results will surprise you.
- I can give feedback. Feedback is one of the most challenging aspects of developing and learning. However, I want to be able to provide feedback to my managers and leaders without fear that it will be held against me.
- I can be part of something bigger. Let’s treat work as a relationship versus a contract. Characteristics of a relationship include trust, acceptance, communication, support, and reciprocity.
Most of us want to love our work, feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves, and have meaning in what we accomplish. When this happens, you will earn the loyalty that allows your organization to grow and win over the long term.