Your mom doesn’t work here… are we parenting or managing employees?
As I move about among my peers in human resources, entrepreneurship, and management, there are common experiences as it relates to finding and keeping great employees. The chief complaints seem to be that people want a job and don’t want to work, people embellish their skills and can’t perform to the level of their resume, or people have so many personal issues or lack the basic skills to function in the workplace. It feels like parenting: having to tell employees what to wear, how to act, clean up after themselves, how to work and interact with others. If a company is going to excel in the marketplace these pursuits are the least of their concern, but has alarmingly become a greater priority than desired.
What are some of the qualities an employer expects and needs in employees today?
1. Strong work ethic
Employers want employees who can — and want to — work hard to achieve the company’s goals. The desire to go above and beyond has lessened in today’s workplace among some employees, or has it? In many cases, people are discovering work life balance and maintaining firm boundaries around their personal time and interests and their work. Could it be because they saw where it didn’t really pay off for them or their parents? The term ‘latchkey kids’ came about because of the increase of divorced parents and working parents whose kids had to fend for themselves until their parents got off work. While these children benefitted through other ways, such as a great quality of life, the quality of relationships suffered. Many younger people do not want an employer to suck the life out of them so that they can’t enjoy life outside of work.
Does that mean that you don’t give your all on your job? Not at all. Most have been contracted to give eight hours of work a day in exchange for a salary. The least that can be given is focused, committed work during that time without managers feeling like they are a mom or a dad, chasing after employees to do work properly or to do it at all.
Progressive workplaces are looking for passionate members for their team. Passion gives focus, drive, motivation, and commitment to the work at hand. Passion pushes people to do more, to challenge themselves, to strive for greatness, and to do what it takes to succeed. My personal mantra is that I am my own competition. Sometimes I can be a bit too hard on myself as my own worst critic, but it also pushes me to study harder, stay up later, do more, and stretch myself to be a thought leader in my field.
Organizations must, however, make room for passionate people. Why do they leave? They leave because of environments that treat them as if they are being led by parents through micromanaging, shaming, over-disciplining, and not developing talent.
3. Skilled and trainable
Employers need people who are skillful and willing to learn. One of the challenges at work today is finding people who can do what their resumes say they can do. Equally, employers seem to also be challenged to compensate skilled people based on market value. This has created a workplace dilemma: hiring less skilled people and developing their talent in a timely fashion, along with being able to retain those persons once they begin to grow and elevate.
In addition to skill and being able to do the required work, employers are also looking for trainable people. People who are stuck in old ways of doing things, old habits, and old mindsets find it hard to assimilate into new environments.
“Graduates need skills like how to run a meeting, how to write succinctly, to ask great questions and be deeply curious, engage in teamwork and have an ownership mindset instead of a victim mindset.” — Kristen Hamilton, CEO.
4. Emotionally intelligent
This must be one of the most difficult areas facing managers today: employees’ ability to know themselves, express and manage their emotions well while being sensitive to others, and managing workplace relationships effectively. Workplace conflict due to insensitivity to others, or a lack of maturity in their actions and responses to direction and feedback, is commonplace. Too much of managers’ time is spent on corrective feedback or refereeing disagreements. Employees must remember that teamwork, while critical to achieving results, can only be done well if each person becomes an evolved, mature person, taking personal responsibility for their beliefs, actions, habits, and growth.
The workplace is not a place to be babied and inappropriate behaviors tolerated. It is a place where everyone should learn to collaborate, create, and play together. The rules haven’t changed; it’s just a bigger sandbox. As many a parent has said: if you don’t want to be treated like a child, don’t act like one.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, and mentor who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. For comments, queries and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.