Managing Employees

How to Lead Your Employees to Top Performance

If an employee's job satisfies his or her needs, the employee responds more favorably to the job. This may happen, for example, when an employee is given the responsibility for managing the office on his or her own, and is recognized for doing it well. Or it may occur when a sales representative is assigned full responsibility for developing new business as well as maintaining existing customers in a territory and is recognized for the accomplishment. Such employees tend to take their responsibilities seriously, act positively for the firm, and are absent from work only rarely. The key point is that when a job satisfies needs, the employee may bring greater commitment to the job. Some needs common to all individuals are basics like food, shelter, and security for the future. Normally a fair wage level and a feeling of security that the job will continue, tend to satisfy these needs. Such needs, however, can be satisfied in most jobs today, and they do not alone evoke heavy commitment by employees to your firm.

Other needs must also be satisfied. Most of these are related to:
a. The firm's personnel practices such as complaint handling or vacation scheduling
b. Working conditions
c. Supervisory practices such as discipline, or the way instructions are given, and
d. Total compensation, including benefits practices.

If what the firm provides in any of these aspects is seen by the employees as much poorer than what other firms in the area provide, dissatisfactions will result. On the other hand, improvements above an acceptable level generally do not bring about greater employee commitment in the long run.
For example, total disregard for employee complaints (personnel practices) can lead to serious problems for the firm. When employee complaints are handled well, serious problems tend to be precluded from developing but there is no major gain in deep employee commitment to the job. What then does bring about a serious commitment to the job and firm?
There are five factors that generally cause a deep commitment to job performance for most employees.
These are:

  • The work itself - to what extent does the employee see the work as meaningful and worthwhile?
  • Achievement - how much opportunity is there for the employee to accomplish tasks that are seen as a reasonable challenge?
  • Responsibility - to what extent does the employee have assignment and the authority necessary to take care of a significant function of the organization?
  • Recognition - to what extent is the employee aware of how highly other people value the contributions made by the employee?
  • Advancement - how much opportunity is there for the employee to assume greater responsibilities in the firm?

These five factors tend to satisfy certain critical needs of individuals:

  • One need is the feeling of being accepted as part of the firm's work-team.
  • Another need is for feeling important - that the employee's strengths, capabilities and contributions are known and valued highly.
  • A third need is for the chance to continue to grow and become a more fully functioning person.
  • If the kinds of needs just described are met by paying attention to the five factors previously listed, an owner/manager will have taken significant steps toward gaining the full commitment of employees to job performance. To do this, several practical strategies can be used, such as:
  • Establishing confidence and trust with your employees through open communication and the development of sensitivity to employee needs
  • Allowing employees participation in decision-making which directly affects them
  • Helping employees to set their own work methods and work goals, as much as possible
  • Praising and rewarding good work as clearly and promptly as inadequate performance is mentioned
  • Restructuring jobs to be challenging and interesting by giving increased responsibilities and independence to those who want it, and who can handle it.

Good Delegation
One practical way to work on these strategies is to practice good delegation.
Simply defined, delegation is the granting of authority and independence to another person to complete a project. It must be understood that with the authority to do a job, comes the responsibility to get it done.

A manager who practices good delegation automatically also makes use of the strategies which bring greater commitment on their part.

A second benefit of good delegation - one not related to the personnel functions - lies in the opportunity it gives you to spend more of your time on important work which you cannot delegate.
For all these reasons, delegating work and responsibility can be very beneficial to you and for your company. But to be effective, delegation must be used with some caution. Before delegating a project, you, as the manager, must first answer two questions:

1. To whom should projects be delegated?

2. What kind and how much work and responsibility can be delegated to this person?

It is important to understand that delegation involves projects which include significant decision making. If your employee is not given the responsibility to make decisions, it is not delegation. The assigning of routine and repetitive work does not bring the benefits which delegation can bring and therefore is not part of the strategy for achieving a climate that brings greater commitment by employees.

Work assignment, even though the employee is asked to perform a specific task as assigned, also has the potential to add to the positive climate - when it is fair and takes employee preferences into consideration This, obviously, is difficult to do all the time, but if employees are given as much of a voice in deciding who should receive non-regular work assignments, good ones as well as undesirable ones, then these assignments are likely to have a beneficial impact on morale.

Delegating work to an employee who is not ready to accept the responsibility can have two negative effects:

1. The job will not get done or not be completed on time.

2. The failures that result from ineffective delegation will have an understandably bad effect on the affected employee.

When delegating, it is good to always remember that effective delegation of work is not giving up all your authority. The delegate should have a fair amount of freedom, but the manager must retain some control. This will insure that the project is satisfactorily completed.