Festival of Obvious Ideas #5: Be nice to your workers
Hear us. Trust us. Reward us.
That’s the simple plea from white collar Australia in response to a simple question: How would you get your workplace working better?
Over at news.com.au we’ve been running what we somewhat exuberantly called the New Work Project survey. In the few weeks it’s been running, we’ve received 25,000 submissions from all corners of the country and in all walks of life.
We’ve heard from public servants, miners, accountants, teachers and lawyers. We’ve even had an archaeologist, a cartographer, an estimator (although we can’t guess how many), a fabricator (but we assume he’s making it all up), a hardship officer and a pimp (we should introduce him to the hardship officer, because we all recognise that ain’t easy).
There are average workers, high-earners and very high-earners. There are office newbies and industry veterans. You name them, we’ve heard from them.
And what they’re telling us is clear: no-one is talking about game-changing paradigm shifts or blue-skying it or cross-divisional synergies. They’re not even talking about first principles or unique sales propositions or diversified revenue streams.
Instead, there are three rules to follow to create a happy workforce: talk to them, let them work, reward that work.
Here are a few individual responses to speak for the many:
”listen to staff comments” … “allow more roundtable discussions with all employees” … “encourage people to speak their mind”... ” use logic, not process, to dictate how we operate” … “stop micro-managing” … “make people pay a fee to hold a meeting”... “give me incentive payments” … “let staff be rewarded with extra time off or extra pay” … “have a more creative environment”
That last quote is worth pausing over. Employees aren’t just thrusting out their hands and demanding more cash as a reward for hard work. Well, not all of them anyway.
Just as important for all, and more important for some, is the idea of a creative dividend to their efforts. Many want to feel involved in the decisions being made, others want room to create the job they want to be doing.
And some want to have fun while they earn a living. One in three respondents said they didn’t mind thinking about work outside of office hours, while the same proportion said they left work behind as soon as they stepped outside the office. One in 10 said they loved their job, while only one in 10 said they felt like they could not escape it.
So to most of our respondents, work is either a positive part of life or just one small section of it. They don’t need management jargon or the seven secrets to success, they just want to feel part of the process and to enjoy coming to work.
So the best thing bosses can do is simply to listen to them. They’ve earned it.
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