“Wants our business to be successful”
“Looks for ways to help instead of waiting on me to tell them what to do”
“Someone with similar values who cares about the mission of our team”
These are all descriptions business owners use when asked to describe their “dream” employee.
Yet, too often, business owners feel stuck with employees who fall very short of these descriptors. You may find yourself with a couple of good employees plus a number of employees show up, do some work, but don’t give it their all. In fact, there’s a word for this—“presenteeism.” These are employees who punch the clock and collect their paycheck. They wait for you to tell them what to do, then do a mediocre job with what you have asked of them.
As an owner, your relationship with these employees is based on a transaction. They work, you pay them. They work harder, they may get a raise. The next business down the street decides to pay $1 dollar more per hour, so your employees leave to work for your competitor. You find yourself beating your head against the wall. You can’t afford to pay more than you do. So, what can you do?
The problem is that money only goes so far as a motivator. And, money does not build loyalty. Many business owners are dismayed to offer top pay, only to find loyalty lacking among their employees, performance still falling short, and turnover continuing to remain high.
In fact, various surveys have revealed many employees feel “used” by their employer, perceiving their employer is only using their time and skills to meet the goals for the employer and stakeholders, with little regard for the well-being of the employees.
What if you could have a very different, and much better, relationship with your employees? What might happen if you positioned your business to be in the business of helping your employees realize their dreams? Imagine capturing the hearts of your employees, so that they know you have their back, as they look out for yours.
In The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly describes exactly what happened when a janitorial business plagued by extremely high turnover did just this. Although the story is fable, the process described by Kelly is legitimate and likely to be quite effective in reducing turnover while increasing employee commitment, loyalty and engagement.
Many business owners and managers coach employees on their performance, but if that’s the extent of your coaching, you are missing out on a significant opportunity to increase their engagement and loyalty to your business.
Take the opportunity to ask your employees, “What is your dream?” Offer to support them—through their work with you—in achieving their dreams. Most likely, their dreams will surprise you. You may find their dreams are quite achievable, but they may not know how to access the support and resources they need to achieve their dreams. They may lack knowledge of certain life skills.
In The Dream Manager, Kelly describes employees who bought homes, took vacations, started their own businesses, started college savings for their kids, and more, all with the support of coaching provided to them through their employer. In turn, engagement increased, turnover dropped considerably, and morale improved dramatically.
You may be wondering, “But, Sabrina, what if I do all of this to develop my employees and then they leave?” This is great! If you get a reputation for developing your employees and you support them in taking the next steps in their career, you likely will become an employer of choice in your area, with an abundance of qualified, motivated applicants seeking you out. Now, that would be a good problem to have!
Where to start? Keep this simple. Start with your best employee and see where it leads. Take him or her to coffee. Ask ,“What are your dreams?” then be quiet and listen. Congratulations, you are starting a new chapter in the life of your business!