Helping Employees Get Their Needs Met
When employees see their needs being attended to by their employer, they’re much more likely to contribute. Reciprocity is a cornerstone of the human condition (as is fairness).
Dear Team Lead
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a rut, feeling tired and like you’re in the same mundane daily routine? You may even recognise many members of your team feeling the same way, as they lack enthusiasm in their work. What can you do as a leader to help your team get their zest back through self-fulfilment and a purpose-filled life?
Regardless of industry, sector or job type, leaders and employees can all agree on one thing: 2021 has been a year of change and uncertainty. According to national statistics, job vacancies in the UK are at a record high, with employees across the world joining the ‘Great Resignation’ (a term so common that it now carries its own Wikipedia entry).
But amongst all of the charts, statistics and official data, there are much more human reasons for this shift: reasons that are deeply personal to every employee who hands in their notice. Over the past eighteen months, many employees have had a chance to really reflect on their working lives – to figure out exactly what they want from their job, and how they might be able to craft a lifestyle that serves them on a more ‘existential’ level. In short, many employees have decided – mostly subconsciously – to reflect on their needs, and have begun searching for purpose, fulfilment and meaningful work, to name but a few common needs.
But this trend – towards greater meaning, purpose and fulfilment – doesn’t have to conclude with a resignation letter and a career change. It’s possible that employees can see their needs attended-to, even met, within their current role, and leaders can choose to take responsibility for supporting this process. Here’s how:
Show Understanding of the Importance of Needs
When it comes to motivating and inspiring employees, forget official policies and company handbooks for a moment. Start, instead, with your own behaviour. Are you conscious of your own needs? Are they being attended to by the company? Met, even? How does getting your needs attended-to affect your motivation to lead an effective team? How would you define your own needs, and how does that interact with the work you do? Answering these questions for yourself first will give you a firm foundation from which to help others.
Facilitate Opportunities for Surfacing Others’ Needs
Think about the regular opportunities you have to bring your team together. Instead of small-talk or generic ice-breaker exercises, could you introduce a needs-surfacing element to your gathering? This could be as simple as opening up a discussion about your own needs, or even the needs of the company or its Core Group. Or encourage employees to share their experiences about when having their needs attended to, or attending to the needs of others, has had an impact on them. Or, if you wanted to broaden the discussion out, you could share case studies, experiences or testimonials involving your clients, customers and users. This can be a difficult task for employees who aren’t always exposed to the eventual impact of their work (for example, those in non-client or non-consumer facing positions). Sharing the positive impact of every employee’s contribution to their own and others’ needs can be central in strengthening a sense of organisational purpose.
Readjust and Redefine Roles
Many leaders will be familiar with asking the typical catch-up question: “So, how do you think things are going?”. But this shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. It might be the case that an employee enjoys the role and the culture, but feels a need to focus on a specific aspect of their work, or a specific element of their job. As much as possible, leaders should encourage employees to lean into their needs – this might mean opening up opportunities for employees to deepen their knowledge in a particular area of interest, given that need. Other examples of this “role flexibility” include allowing employees to take trainings or courses related to e.g. their needs for skills development, or refining job descriptions to focus in on an individual employee’s needs. There are numerous opportunities to tailor, readjust or recalibrate roles to fit an employee’s needs. And the payoff? Increased employee loyalty, motivation, engagement, and trust in the company.
It can be easy to lose sight of the most important element of this question: the personal fulfilment of each employee. Of course, the company’s needs – success, goals and objectives – are important, but ultimately, the company is made up of individual human beings, each with their own needs and hopes. By balancing the needs of the individual employee with those of others – including those of the company – and meeting employees on a personal, human level, we are far more likely to end up with a team of motivated, committed, purposeful people. And, of course, this is what makes an organisation ‘successful’ – not just in terms of external output, revenue or reputation, but in terms of supporting the employees who work for its success.