Employees’ wish list: 7 important (and free) things bosses can offer

Communication is crucial to validating and inspiring your colleagues, and clarity and sincerity are at the heart of those interpersonal exchanges.

7 things employees want

What do employees want?

The answer varies by employee, but research by a multitude of organizations reveals a collective “wish list” every boss should know.

Here are some of the most sought-after wishes and those that come up most often as unmet:

1. Take action on employee suggestions. The action might be to loop back with the employee to share appreciation for their thoughts and help them understand why you are or are not implementing their suggestion. The action is closing the feedback loop, which can be as worthwhile as implementing a suggestion an employee has. Either way you’re saying that what they shared was valuable. This will motivate them to offer more suggestions in the future.

2. Recognize their work, and show appreciation. Say “thank you” for a job well done. Reinforce specifically the behaviors you want to continue to see. At a two-way communication training recently, a woman asked whether she ought to reward and recognize someone on her team for “just doing their job.” Absolutely. Jobs don’t inspire and motivate people; leaders do.

3. Offer less BS and more humanity. Enough beating around the bush, or worse yet, “spinning” of messages. Employees want to know what’s happening—and why—in a direct way. Tell them what you know when you know it. Don’t wait too long after getting key information to communicate.

4. Empathize with them. Pause and imagine how they’re feeling. Show that you hear them, and validate their feelings. The payoff is an employee who knows you care; at the same time, you gather information that’s useful to motivate that employee.

5. Listen more. Stop talking so much. Ask for input and feedback. Employees are more likely to support things they help create. Stop the monologues and talking at them; have real, two-way conversations.

6. Set clear expectations. People rise to the expectations set for them. Many problems in business are caused by a lack of understanding of expectations or a misunderstanding of what’s needed and expected. Have you developed and articulated your expectations?

7. Show employees you care (in a genuine way). Find out what’s essential, and remember crucial milestones that are important to employees.

Best of all, everything on the above wish list is free.

David Grossman is founder and CEO of The Grossman Group. A version of this post first appeared on The Grossman Group Leader Communicator blog.


2 Responses to “Employees’ wish list: 7 important (and free) things bosses can offer”

    HH says:

    I thought this was going to be an article about the things that actually make employees happy, such as more flexibility with their hours, opportunities to work remotely if the job allows for it, letting them cut out early before holidays. Recognize how hard they’re working. Don’t make them pay for coffee. All of these things are easy to do and cost little to nothing, but pay massive dividends in making employees feel appreciated and valued.

    We get a lot of praise, but it feels like empty words now without other shows of appreciation. Getting the occasional relief in the form of working remote, short days, flex time, etc., would mean so much and truly makes an employee feel seen. I’m not sure how going over expectations, when they are already sky-high, is supposed to make me feel awesome.

    Bill Van Eron says:

    I agree with HH as we see through most leaders giving lip service. I expected more from Ragan too as this shows little inflection to why leaders fail to transform to the 21st century requirements, as well as why 70% of all employees feel emotionally detached at work I offered to help Ragan but they too seemed trapped in corporate status quo versus advocates for greater business humanity. Here is just a sample of what is missed below:
    1. Take action on employee suggestions. True open dialog requires a culture committed to trust, inclusion and accountability at the top. Employees stop making suggestions where most cultures are closed, internally focused.

    2. Recognize their work, and show appreciation. Show you are open to shared leadership and success as the management model that has greed and control is still in play. Create a better learning system and a MBO enablement as starters.

    3. Offer less BS and more humanity. Everyone sees through BS. All respond well to greater humanity. Humanity guiding technology is better than the digital addiction that erodes soft skills at a time when they are crucial. Call my robot to learn more.

    4. Empathize with them. Not just employees. You have to resonate with your full stakeholder relevance ecosystem as I did for HP & others to achieve yet unprecedented outcomes.

    5. Listen more. Not to analytics that stalk customers. Listen and see through a conscious design lens & my unique agile systems thinking to get past the usual corporate agenda’s, slow, anal processes to invite new thinking so your brand grows around earned trust & relevance, as I did from 1990 through 2001 for HP. Get past short termism and get more right brainer’s on board. I accounted for over $100B in new revenues my last 12 years at HP. They’d be #1 had I stayed but they only rewarded engineering management.

    6. Set clear expectations. That was true decades ago. Today most leaders fear change as disruptive, and more so they lack vision. Do as I did – define the ideal or highest outcomes and be that champion all turn to.

    7. Show employees you care (in a genuine way). Let us show you the purpose & path and you show us the money. I enjoyed great values-based relationships with HP Founders Bill & Dave, then Ned Barnholdt who led Agilent. But too few of the leaders that took their place had their soul and regard for objectivity and truth, values, trust and contagious relevance, as we so consistently delivered.

    WE are at the forefront of a new world where leaders invite challenge and help with core assumptions. Where employees who experience inclusion, a purpose they & markets care about, and earned trust will account for even greater people-powered organizations. You want to train people, make sure they care about how what they learn can shape a higher value/ Look at attributes vs outdated, limiting job descriptions. Up and away!!

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