For the past two years, we have all looked at the evolutionary processes in the workplace that were prompted by the Great Resignation. Take flexible work arrangements, for example. They are now the norm in many industries that used to argue that jobs couldn’t be done remotely. However, one outcome of the mass exodus of workers has yet to be explored and explored: how to make workers feel like their work matters.
Do employees care if they are progressing in some way? According to research, yes. Of those who quit their jobs in 2021, Pew research center found that 63% cited no path to progress as a reason. In other words, they had no way of achieving their goals at their company – so they left hoping to find new employers who wouldn’t hinder their growth.
If you are a leader, you have to pay attention to such numbers. Even if your team members seem content and don’t quietly quit, they can still feel like they’re spinning. In that case, they may not be your team members much longer.
Instead of risking avoidable exhaustion, consider adopting the following management strategies. Each one is designed to make your workplace a space where employees can name, claim and exceed their personal goals.
1. Recognize and accept that everyone has different goals: Tonya Towles, founder and CEO of The PCS Pro Team
You already know your personal goals as an entrepreneur, CEO or manager. Just don’t assume that all of your employees share your goals. That’s a big mistake, but it’s one that many high performers make. What makes it so potentially disastrous? You’re dangling from the wrong carrot and don’t realize your employees are uninspired until it’s too late.
Tonya Towles, founder and CEO of The PCS Pro Team, admits it was eye-opening to realize that her team members didn’t share her big goals. However, she has used this realization to improve the way she leads others. “My mom had an expression,” she explains. “‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.’ Not everyone’s satisfaction or success is the same Remove the bias from what you think is a good cause Who wouldn’t want to make a million dollars I was surprised when someone told me they didn’t.
The best way to find out your employees’ goals is to ask. Of course, as a boss, you may not have time to do this with everyone. Ask supervisors to talk to their direct reports about personal goals. The more you know, the more you can help everyone around you grow.
2. Let team members make mistakes: Melanie Clark, CMO at Abstrakt Marketing Group
Have you made many mistakes in your career? Naturally. We all have. That’s how we make discoveries. Those of us who are lucky don’t repeat the same mistakes twice. And those of us who are really lucky end up with companies where mistakes go unpunished.
How do you make sure your team members know that tripping is okay? Melanie Clark, CMO at Abstrakt Marketing Group, has an answer: Provide support so employees feel comfortable stretching. “From emphasizing the importance of risk-taking to encouraging team members to speak up and take responsibility, we’ve been able to develop a work culture that rewards ambition and creativity,” says Clark. “When I first took on my role, I knew it was up to me to set the tone. We had to be willing to take risks and serve as role models for our teams. That meant they were encouraged to take ownership of projects. It also meant providing support when things didn’t go as planned.”
The thing is, you can’t say to your employees, “We support you to go for your goals,” if you don’t let anyone fail. Victories are great, but failures can become the stepping stone to greatness. Everyone has heard that Thomas Edison’s journey of inventing light bulbs was a slow, tedious process of experimentation. The reason was simple: Edison knew that to get closer to his goal, he had to break a few eggs (or spheres!).
3. Reach out to employees to revisit their goals: Kelly Knight, integrator and president at EOS Worldwide
Are you still focused on achieving the same goals you had 10 years ago? Five years ago? Last year? Probably not. So try not to fall into the trap of thinking that your employees won’t change their goals either. They will – and won’t necessarily tell you if you don’t ask.
That’s why Kelly Knight, integrator and president at EOS Worldwide, ensures that all managers have a quarterly check-in with their team members. The meetings allow both parties to ensure they are on the same page. “Listening to your teammates during this conversation is imperative,” Knight notes. “They want to feel heard and valued. Give team members the space to be honest about their goals and professional dreams. This builds trust. Once trust is built, there can be more openness to explore how that person is working toward their goals.”
It’s okay if you notice employees are reluctant to talk openly about what they want to achieve on their first check-ins. Give them time. If they see it’s safe to say, “I want to be a manager,” or, “I’d like to learn the skills to move to a different department,” they’ll open up. And from there you can help them flourish.
4. Show employees how their innovation, creativity and hard work can pay off: Suzanne Bates, general manager at BTS Boston
Do you regularly give pay raises? Promotions? If so, do they occur occasionally, or is there a structured path for employees to follow to move up the ranks? Suzanne Bates, general manager at BTS Boston, believes that one of the crucial ingredients in motivating employees to set and achieve goals is to show them how they will be rewarded once they reach various milestones.
Bates says her company’s “clear, globally aligned performance and promotion criteria that are transparent to everyone” has been a huge reason team members have had personal success. “Within the criteria are many developmental goals that give people the opportunity to demonstrate competence through critical experience and exposure,” explains Bates.
Now is the perfect time to map out this kind of “success ladder” at your company. When employees can see where they stand, they can see what they need to do to make progress. Because you design the framework of this ladder, you can be sure that it aligns with the overarching goals of your organization. Everything connects and everyone wins.
Each of your employees has multiple personal and professional goals. As an employer, you are able to herd and guide them to their North Stars. And your reward will be more satisfied employees who feel good about their contributions.