Most companies like to think they have their finger on the pulse of employees. But the fact is, when it comes to what employees want from their work experience – recognition, respect, trust, fair pay and a flexible schedule – many employers are clueless. There are many common misconceptions employers have about their employees.
Shakespeare wrote extensively about the seven deadly sins that define basic human instincts. And if Shakespeare were running a human resources department in the 21st century, one of his PowerPoint presentations would likely be the “Biggest Misconceptions” employers have about their employees.
The Seven Misconceptions certainly won’t rival lust, envy or wrath, and they’re far from being deadly. But failure to understand employees – which can easily be achieved with employee satisfaction surveys – can result in the downfall of the company’s bottom line.
“In today’s cost-conscious business environment, where the average pay raise is 3.85%, employers have to think outside the box,” said Marcia Rhodes, a spokeswoman for an international association of human resource professionals located in Arizona. “In order to attract, motivate and retain talent, they need to communicate non-monetary rewards such as flex time, telecommuting, on-site fitness classes, and other work-life perks that don’t cost the employer much, yet mean a lot to the employee.”
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Rhodes points out many of the needs commonly discovered when employee satisfaction surveys are conducted by companies like Texas-based National Business Research Institute. Along with uncovering employee wishes, survey results are often a window into the soul of the missteps employers make when relating to employees, like the 7 Common Misconceptions outlined in the following:
- Myth: Money Is the Motivator
- Fact: Everyone goes to work to make money and having more is always nice. While money pays the bills, buys the groceries, and covers the Hawaiian vacation, it doesn’t get to the core of why people go to work. There are many different reasons for working, with the most basic instinct being that it gives people a sense of fulfillment. Others are motivated by the sheer fact of helping others, accomplishing goals, or in some cases, loving what they do. “Employers believe that talented workers stick around mainly for pay and the benefits package at the company,” said Craig Taylor, Senior Vice President of Marketing at a Florida-based talent management company. “Those same valued employees, however, report that what they want most is a boss they can trust, one who builds their self-esteem, and treats them fairly.”
- Myth: A Hands-Off Boss
- Fact: On the surface, it sounds good. The manager leaves the employee alone all day while sitting in the office until it’s time to go home. Much like directing a movie, the boss is the director of his or her employees. Failure to provide command and control at the job leaves employees feeling stranded and unproductive. And every employee satisfaction survey will tell company leaders that little or no feedback will leave workers with that underappreciated feeling.
- Myth: Employees Just Don’t Care About the Company
- Fact: Many employers think their staffs aren’t too concerned whether the company thrives or not, as long as they continue to receive a paycheck. In fact, it’s critical for worker morale that they feel proud of their company and of what they do. In a recent poll published in the Wall Street Journal, more than three-fourths of workers said they are personally motivated to help the company succeed and were willing to put in extra effort to make that happen. The report also said that workers remain engaged in their company’s success if the employer provides “strong leadership, advancement and development opportunities, and a sense of control over their work environment.” “Numerous employee surveys have shown that ‘line of sight’ is critical to employee motivation and engagement,” said Rhodes. “When employees can see the impact they have on things such as customer satisfaction, quality, sales or profit, they feel valued and are motivated to be even more productive.”
- Myth: Treat Employees Well and They Will Remain Loyal
- Fact: It’s certainly easier to retain employees that are paid well, cared for, and respected for what they do. But loyal? There was a time when employees started a job and retired from the same company 30 years later with a gold watch in hand. Those days are long gone. Employees understand that mobility and versatility are important in today’s competitive environment. Employers expect employees to be enthusiastic and loyal, but when the slightest downturn hits, the first option for many employers these days is to hand out the pink slips. The message to the employee is that “you’re expendable,” which makes the notion of loyalty and commitment a pipe dream.
- Myth: Simple Touches Don’t Make a Difference
- Fact: With personal incomes stagnant over the past few years, creative thinking to boost employee morale has become a requirement. Some employers tend to underestimate the impact simple pleasures can have on unmotivated employees.” Employers often miss the importance of empowering front line managers and supervisors to be flexible in how they treat employees,” said Taylor. “Allowing an employee to leave early on occasion or to adjust the work schedule to accommodate a reliable worker sound logical, but too often are trumped by ‘company policy.'” Employers need to encourage and facilitate a strong bond between supervisors and employees and let leaders be flexibility experts, thereby contributing to worker satisfaction, productivity, and retention.”
- Myth: Immediate Boss Must Be the Problem
- Fact: When workers are unhappy, company management tends to point the finger at the immediate boss. But employee satisfaction surveys continually show that large percentages of employees are positive about their immediate boss. The problem lies one step above, in middle management. Middle management is typically a dumping ground, as senior managers put the pressure on that area of the corporate structure to make tough decisions. When that happens, the immediate boss must communicate middle management’s decision to the rank-and-file. It’s a formula that constantly puts middle managers in the role as villains.
- Myth: Work Environment is Secondary to Pay
- Fact: The prevailing wisdom among many managers is that it’s not how you feel; it’s how fat your paycheck is. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Employee surveys consistently show that the quality of the workplace has the most impact on the psyche. The relationships with co-workers, superiors, and even the workplace surroundings are all factors that influence absenteeism, morale and, ultimately, how long they will remain on the job.
Dr. Jan West is a member of the American Psychological Association, and she has authored numerous articles and publications about surveys, training, and employee and customer satisfaction.