In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, it is essential for employers to effectively leverage the skills and talents of their employees. Listed below are five elements that have proven helpful in achieving this goal.

Get Everyone Focused on the Same Goals

First and foremost, it is essential that everyone at the company is focused on the same goals. Concentrating everyone’s energies in a single direction can create tremendous efficiencies and greatly increase the organization’s ability to achieve its stated objectives. Just like a dozen people paddling a canoe, it works a lot better when everybody is pulling in the same direction. Setting a straight course with clearly defined objectives and communicating a clear message to employees is one of management’s most important responsibilities.

Encourage Employees to Share their Ideas

Once management has established and communicated a clear set of goals, they should encourage employees to contribute ideas and suggestions regarding how best to accomplish their stated objectives. In this regard, it is helpful for management to recognize that each worker is an expert in their own area, and they should solicit worker inputs as to how their particular operation can be improved. This can be achieved by informal solicitations or by establishing teams of employees within each specific area to identify opportunities for improving productivity, quality and performance.

Promote Candid and Open Conversations

One of the key characteristics of a productive work environment is the ability for management and employees to have candid and open conversations. When employees are fearful or guarded with their supervisors, many good ideas fail to surface and potential opportunities for improvement are never realized or implemented. Creating an environment of mutual respect and trust, where people can agree to disagree, is the responsibility of the supervisor. Unfortunately, while many supervisors are technically proficient in their given area of expertise, they receive little to no training regarding how to create a positive work environment or facilitate an open exchange of ideas. In today’s world, supervisors need to act more like coaches and facilitators rather than the old school shop foreman.

Focus on Team Versus Individual Performance

When improvements are implemented in a given area it is helpful to recognize the group as opposed to just one or two individuals. Group recognition reinforces the team concept and encourages all employees to contribute. Recognizing just one or two contributors within the group can, in some cases, prove to be counterproductive as it may create unintended resentment within the team. Just as it is helpful to celebrate team success, in those instances when problems arise it is helpful to address it as a team problem; reinforcing the idea that we are all in this together. Of course, there are times when employees need to be addressed individually. In those instances, it is helpful to remember the old adage “praise in public and reprimand in private”. Reprimanding employees in front of others unnecessarily humiliates the individual, which often creates long-lasting resentment.

Have Fun and Celebrate

Let’s face it, work is hard. It can be demanding, frustrating, and at times can prove to be tedious. Too often most managerial communication with employees centers on problems in addressing negative issues. While this is understandable, it is all the more reason why management should look for opportunities to celebrate successes, which are too often taken for granted. Having conducted focus group sessions with employees for many years, one of the most common complaints is that their manager is quick to criticize when things don’t go well, but they receive very little, if any, credit for having things go well. Celebrating successes can range from a simple “thank you” to bringing in doughnuts or pizza as an expression of gratitude. These simple gestures can go a long way as they serve to remind employees that management values their day-to-day contributions and underscores their importance to the organization.

Hutchison Group Can Help

The above article was written by Cameron J. Hutchison, President, and Founder of Hutchison Group, Inc. With over 30 years’ experience, the Hutchison Group is a highly regarded management consulting firm focused on all aspects of labor and employee relations; helping union and non-union employers improve productivity, teamwork, and performance. For more information about Hutchison Group and our management consulting services, reach out to us at your convenience.