How to Get Workers to Love their Jobs

Thoughts of love are in the air around Valentine’s Day, but Cupid’s arrow may be absent from many workplaces this year as employees feel anything but gaga over their jobs or employers.

Overloaded and overstressed from the economic downturn, many workers are now starting to consider leaving their current positions as the job market improves. Like spurned lovers, these employees are ready to pack their bags and make employers sorry they didn’t treat them right.

So how can employers rekindle the spark with workers and get them to fall in love with their jobs and their companies all over again?

The key, say career experts, is taking steps to show the employee that the company is not a selfish significant other. By offering career development to an employee, the company can prove its commitment to helping the worker grow and thrive in the relationship.

That can generate such fondness, experts say, that workers are likely to embrace their job commitment wholeheartedly and start being more productive, innovative and loyal.

Without it, employees are likely to view an employee as a slimy frog they have to put up with until their prince of a job comes along.

 

Watch them grow

Beverly Kaye, co-author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go,” says there must be constant “mini conversations” with workers about how they’re developing their careers, focusing on lessons learned and how they can be applied to their professional growth.

“You cannot wait for the annual performance review. Managers hate doing career development, and do it badly,” she says. “So employees end up thinking it means nothing and it’s just an exercise.”

She says a better way to handle career development, for example, is for managers to use daily opportunities to have career conversations with a worker. For example, an employee may say she lost sleep over a presentation that actually went very well. Instead of the manager simply offering “Good job!” she should agree that the presentation went well, but then ask, “Why did you lose sleep over it?”

That gives the employee a chance to voice her doubts over her presenting skills and the manager the opportunity to support the efforts the employee made to overcome her jitters and do such a good job. The conversation also gives the manager an opening to offer feedback and connect it to how those skills relate to the employer’s bigger strategic picture.

“I just wish more managers would learn to say, ‘And what did you learn from that?’” Kaye says.

Career development is the “way to an employee’s heart” and the desire for challenge is something expressed by workers of every age, she says. She adds that workers who are “bored silly” or have the “blahs” about their job won’t stick around for long and certainly won’t push for innovative or creative ideas.

“We often say that you own your own career, which makes some managers say, ‘Oh, good. Now I don’t have to bother,’” she says. “But more companies need to hold managers accountable for career development.”

What can managers do to drive employee engagement through career development? Kaye offers these suggestions:

  • Talk about the big picture. Ask questions like: “What is the most significant change you’ve seen in our industry?” or “What are you going to need to do to maintain your edge and pursue your career goals?” We have a saying: “A question a day can keep the talent to stay.”
  • Always be interviewing.  Making queries such as “What bores you?” and “What skills do you appreciate in others that you don’t always see in yourself?” offer a good chance to always learn about the employee and create a picture of where career development needs to go.
  • Discuss the career ladder. Many employees don’t understand that career growth may include lateral moves or even downgrades to get the experience they need. Employees desire challenge the most – help them understand that it can come in many forms.

Finally, Kaye says that the only way managers will begin to build career development for workers into their daily routine is if they also are being given career development feedback from senior leadership.

“Its’ simple: Stuck managers stick people,” she says. “They’ve got to be able to see their own options to be able to offer them to others.”

What are some other ways to keep employees engaged?

 

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Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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