If you want to attract and retain great employees, it pays to be a great boss. Here are some simple expectations that the best employees have of their bosses:
1. Be consistent with meaningful communication.
Smart employees want clear expectations and communication when it comes to what’s expected of them. The No. 1 problem people cite with their bosses and managers is a lack of communication. If you can improve your communication skills and create a culture of open communication with your team, you will go a long way to creating an environment where the best employees will be happy.
2. Give recognition and praise.
Across the board, most people like to feel appreciated in their job. According to Entrepreneur, 65 percent of employees would be happier if they got more recognition at work, whereas only 35 percent say they would be happier if they got a raise. If you can build a routine of recognition and praise, you will encourage your best employees to be happy at work — and therefore stay. Don’t worry too much about awards or rewards; words go a long way.
3. Provide feedback, mentorship, and training.
The best employees want to improve and grow, and crave a development and mentorship role from their managers. Watch for opportunities to teach, to provide additional support, or to invite the right training for your employees. Making individual development a part of every job description is an excellent way to encourage and retain strong employees (and help them get even stronger).
4. Create a work culture by design.
Good bosses find ways to foster a sense of community at work. Great bosses build that culture intentionally. A big part of that is finding and attracting the right team members — and making sure that the wrong ones move on quickly. Nothing can hurt morale of your best employees more than feeling like they’re supporting a poor team member. Culture design is also about making sure those team members are in the right roles, the ones that make the best use of their particular talents and skills.
5. Create a safe space for failure.
Employees who trust that their failures will be met with constructive feedback and support are more likely to think creatively, work outside the box, and come up with innovative solutions to problems. It’s important to foster a sense that you succeed and fail together as a team, so that no one is thrown under the bus. If people are too busy worrying about losing their job to take chances, you’ll never get their best work out of them.
6. Provide strong leadership and a clear vision
The captain must steer the ship. If leadership doesn’t know where a project or company is headed, how can the employee know? This isn’t just about action steps or deliverables, either, but a clear vision of the department or company’s future that you can communicate to your employees. The best employees feel more confident when they feel that someone is steering the ship competently.
7. Hold yourself and others accountable
Many bosses hold their staff accountable, but the best hold themselves accountable as well. This means adhering to the same guidelines you set for your employees and taking responsibility for both team successes and failures. If your employees feel like you have their back, no matter what, they are much more comfortable and confident in their jobs, and will produce better work and stay longer.
8. Demonstrate good problem solving
Employees need their boss to be consummate problem solvers. You need to be able to not only spot a problem before it becomes a catastrophe, but brainstorm successful and innovative ways to fix it. When an employee comes to a manager with a problem, he or she needs to have confidence that they will get the help they need to fix it.
9. Avoid micromanaging
Learn to understand the art of delegation. One employee once told me that the best bosses have “fired themselves from their previous job” — meaning that they don’t interfere in the day-to-day and minute-to-minute workflow or processes. In essence, learning to delegate instead of micromanage is about trust, and the best employees want to feel trusted, and thrive in that environment.
10. Be an effective decision maker
Sometimes the worst position an employee can be in is when they are waiting for a decision from above. Effective bosses must be effective decision makers. You cannot vacillate over every tiny decision. Being able to make decisions quickly and decisively — and then take responsibility for the outcome (see number 7) — is an important business skill, especially when managing others. The more quickly and effectively you can make decisions, the better your employees can implement them, and that makes employees feel more efficient and effective.
11. Put people first
A great employee is going to want to find a job that fits his or her lifestyle and work/life balance needs. The best bosses understand that there must be a balance between the company or client’s needs and the needs of his or her employees. You must be willing to listen and talk about any issues an employee may be having and understand that a happy employee is a more productive employee.
12. Manage up, down, and sideways
Managers are expected to manage the people below them on the corporate hierarchy, but the best bosses also have ways of managing their superiors and coworkers on behalf of their team. This might mean effective communication, managing expectations, and requesting help in a timely manner. This sort of support is key from an employee’s perspective, who may not have any direct contact with those other partners.
13. Be honest
There’s nothing worse than a boss who says one thing and does another — and nothing will make a great employee start looking for a new position any faster than being lied to. Just as managers must trust their team, employees must trust their boss to have their best interests at heart. It’s always going to be in your best interest to be honest with your employees. (This is also a great way to ensure that they want to be honest with you.)
14. Be dedicated and balanced
The very best bosses I’ve seen are passionate about their work; they live and breathe their jobs and strive to do the best work possible. Yet at the same time, they have lives outside of work. They understand the need to balance family and work or play and work. And they set a good example of how to do that for their employees. Employees want to know that their outside lives are understood and valued because they can see that you value life outside the office as well.
Some of these expectations may seem obvious or commonplace, but I would challenge you to really look within and make sure that you’re demonstrating these qualities regularly with your team. If you are, you should have no trouble finding and retaining the best employees in your field.