I’ve been managing employees since I graduated from college. At the beginning, I stumbled a lot. I was only recently a kid myself and my insight into how to treat people was still developing. But, I’ve learned a few things over the years and my skill at managing people has improved considerably, resulting in a work environment that is better for everyone, including myself.
1. Treat Your Employees Like Individuals
To the extent possible, treat your employees like the individuals that they are. You hired them for the unique skill set each brings to the company, so don’t forget that. Not all methods and management styles will work for all people. I have a particular employee who is brilliant but shy. I’ve determined that he responds best to a particular style of communication, which I try to use during our discussions. Take an interest in your employees and value what they consider important. This may mean occasionally helping out an employee’s family in a time of need.
Bottom line: Don’t treat your employees like mere cogs in the machine.
2. Help Employees Grow Professionally
We all feel better when we are learning and growing, right? So give your employees opportunities to expand their knowledge base. Send them to conferences and seminars. Give them access to on-line tools to help them learn a bit more about their field. Try to create opportunities where employees learn from each other. In our mentoring program, senior and junior team members are paired with one another. Programmers routinely work on teams to not only enhance the quality of the final work product, but also share their unique knowledge base with less experienced programmers.
Bottom line: A stimulating work-place is the end goal. No one wants to feel like a hamster on a wheel.
3. Give Your Employees Opportunities to Learn from You
Time is money, right? And yet regularly investing some time in your employees can pay off as well. Share what you have learned over the years and don’t patronize your staff. Set a good example. Follow through on your promises and keep your word. Consider the reason you may have left your last job. Was it possibly because you didn’t receive enough feedback or one on one time from worthwhile mentors?
Bottom line: Be like the Godfather, supportive and accessible (but without the mafia in tow.)
4. Give Them the Freedom and Resources to do Something Big
Trust your employees to create something great. Once expectations and goals have been set, I try to step aside. SCRUM methodology requires that I don’t clip wings, but give programmers the freedom to try out different solutions and possibilities. In most cases, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
Bottom line: Give bright people breathing space!
5. Constantly Surprise Them
Just as your employees can surprise you with solutions to work challenges, so too you can surprise and delight them with the occasional perk. We regularly arrange outings for employees to interesting destinations and the monthly dinner out at a trendy restaurant has become routine.
Bottom line: A good surprise now and then communicates to my staff that I appreciate hard work and will reward them for it.