By now this is a mainstream topic but I figured one more article with just my opinion wouldn’t hurt. The good thing about stuff like this becoming popular is that it can only bring benefits: if you’re investing in your people you should be seeing results…unless you’re investing the wrong way. There is such a thing as a poor investment and if you are indeed investing in those who work for you, you should be as careful (if not more) as if you were investing in yourself.
What does making a good investment in people mean then? Basically: you’ve listened, you’ve paid attention to their needs and you’ve set an action plan that will make them happier and more productive. Or so it should be.
Here’s a few tips, all of them personal as they are based on my experience. My goal has always been make people comfortable and happy at work.
Ask them: what do they need? It’s so simple it hurts but I’ve seen that most of the times an investment of this type fails is because the manager or responsible for the investment just didn’t ask his or her employees what they needed or wanted to get. They know better than you and yes, they might ask for weird or silly things sometimes but the more you ask the more they will answer and eventually you will be able to pick those things that make sense.
Simple things are big. You will be surprised on how simple things make your employee’s life easier, like paying for their food once a week (“Taco Tuesdays” and “Breakfast Burrito Fridays” are indeed, a thing). Put whiteboards in every conference room and buy tons of color markers for them. Give everyone a plant, the kind everyone can take care of or just create a green space within the office, add more natural light if possible. Bring better coffee.
Don’t force them. Behavior changes are hard to produce. People does not like being pushed and told what to do, at least not directly and they won’t collaborate if they feel manipulated. If you’ve asked them what they need and want, you can go ahead and tell them what you need and want and find a common ground with them. Use that common ground to build something with them. Make them feel part of the change and they will gladly help as they know it can only be good for them.
Remember your Company policies and culture. Even if you are after a big cultural change you should not over do it. If they ask for more games for the break room, you should not go ahead and order 10 pool tables just because they asked for them. You are an employee too or even if you own the Company, there is a limit to your expenses. Don’t go big unless your budget allows you to and even then think twice. It’s not about making your work a theme park but rather increasing productivity after all.
It’s not about you. You should not try to be the “cool guy” here. Don’t compete with other managers as parents would over a child after a divorce. It is always about them: how to make them more comfortable, how to increase productivity by making them happier at your workplace. It’s never about “hey, my manager is so cool he got us jetpacks for free!” (though how cool would that be eh?), but rather about them telling others how cool the Company is and how happy they are there. Your ego has nothing to do here.
Size matters. Contrary to what you are probably thinking right now, whatever you do for them does not need to be big to matter. The size that really makes the difference is the one they are looking for. If it’s the little things they care about (like you remembering their birthdays), then go small. If they are expecting a big thing and you’ve gotten funds and sponsors for that, then make it happen. Never exaggerate, just give them what they want as long as it’s reasonable.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. They make a choice to be there and work for you. Never take them for granted but rather thank the ones that stay, the ones that pick you or your Company to work for. In a way, you owe them to do the best you can for them, but don’t let them confuse that with you having a real debt with them. You don’t, unless you’ve promised things which you haven’t delivered of course. Don’t promise things that you know won’t happen. That won’t help anyone.
Remember that every time you invest on them you are investing in yourself and your Company. They will pay it back. You will notice it when they smile, when they thank you and when they reject an offer to work somewhere else.
Your investments will always pay up as long as they are true to what your team needs, even if sometimes they don’t quite know what that is.