The title of this blog is a well-known axiom in the hospitality and services industries, where SGEi was founded. For a long time, we’ve used this phrase when working with clients on their customer service and customer experience, helping their employees focus on building relationships for better customer outcomes.
Over more than a decade, our focus has shifted, as we’ve learned that the customer experience cannot change for the better if the employee experience sucks. This service axiom has changed in our minds, and we now use it much more often to refer to the relationships between leaders and employees. Your employees don’t care how much you know about anything – in your business or out of it – until they know that you care about them as people.
We recently completed our 2022 Culture Report, the results of a survey seeking information on just what today’s workforce wants out of their jobs to have a great experience and be motivated to retain at a higher rate. The research clearly suggests that good leaders are the most important factor in employees deciding whether to stay or leave their current role.
We have been researching company culture for more than 10 years and have found that managers account for approximately 71% of how employees feel about what they do and whom they do it for. Our current research has indicated that a manager’s ability to care for their staff is crucial to that feeling of being positive. Here are some questions to consider if you want your staff to know how much you care.
Can your employees bring you anything at any time? This is often referred to as the open-door policy (ODP). The ODP may be the most disappointing management “must-do” idea throughout the years because it is often not easy for a manager to drop everything and listen to what an employee has to say at any time. Instead, you need to have the discipline to schedule conversations with your team either proactively or reactively. Having a set time each day for open office hours is a good proactive solution; to ensure this time is productively spent, you may have to start by inviting people into your office instead of waiting for your people to come to you.
Once you’ve covered the “at any time” part, the easier part of this question should be that an employee can bring anything to their manager. However, this is often not the case. We hear from many employees that their manager is unapproachable, especially when there is bad news when they try to give them feedback about something the manager did or said, or when they want to talk about something not work-related. When a manager reacts poorly at the moment an employee needs to speak to them, it indicates they do not care, and the employee will quickly stop bringing things to their attention. To show your employees how much you care, you need to be approachable and open to your employee's feedback.
Do you know the passions and priorities of your staff? Employees feel their manager cares when their manager tries to understand what is most important to them outside of work. Over the years, we have recommended a best practice to many managers that they should ask every employee: “What/who are the three most important elements in your life?” Often, this answer revolves around family, hobbies or interests, pets, sports teams, health, or personal growth. Knowing what is most important to each employee allows you to engage in meaningful conversations, which go a long way towards helping employees feel you care.
Do you take the time to understand your employee's points of view? In recent years, we consistently hear from employees that they want their manager to be willing to look at things from their point of view and understand why they may think or feel a certain way. Empathy is a necessary leadership trait. It comes from your ability to listen carefully, ask clarifying questions, put yourself in your employee’s shoes, and validate their thoughts or feelings.
In addition, when an employee is presenting their thoughts, you need to give the employee your full attention without distraction, observe any non-verbal cues, listen to their tone of voice, and be willing to look at what they have to say objectively and without bias. Remember, this does not mean you have to agree with everything an employee says. However, you do need to be willing to take the time to listen for understanding, not just to respond, which is a strong indicator that you care.
Are you vested in your employee's career? The next suggestion to demonstrate that you care about an employee is to take an active interest in their career. Taking the time to learn about someone's career aspirations and then helping and supporting that person to get closer to their goals is a great way to show that you care.
The reality is that most employees will leave you at some point, and it’s important to recognize that they have career aspirations beyond their current role or your company. But don’t let this be an excuse for not helping someone follow their dreams. Having a discussion with a person about ways you can help them learn a new skill or grow in their role can either keep them around longer or encourage them to share their positive opinion of you as an employer online. Either way, you haven’t lost anything by helping your employee grow – in fact, you’ve most likely gained a better worker in the meantime.
Do you respect your employees? The final suggestion to demonstrate that you care has already been covered in a recent blog, but I don’t want to avoid re-emphasizing it here. Listening to your employees, recognizing their talents and effort, and giving them feedback with the intent to help them all demonstrate that you care and should be incorporated into your daily management routines.
As a leader, you must demonstrate how much you care about your employees. Until you do, your team will not care how much you know.