NASTD 2013: Empowering IT Workers Starts with Respect

Employee engagement hinges on this key attribute that everyone must give to get.

Think back to your first day on the job. If you’re like most, you probably felt a bit anxious but also excited and enthusiastic, says Dr. Paul Marciano, an author and president of human relations consulting firm Whiteboard.

Speaking at the NASTD 2013 Annual Conference in Charleston, S.C., Marciano shared his experience of arriving at a new job only to find that his boss was out of town. An unenthusiastic secretary he had previously met failed to recognize him, then dumped him in a corner desk. Two dead ficus trees graced the area. “I should have taken this as an omen that this was not a place where plants or people could thrive,” he said.

Marciano’s instincts were spot on, and he left that position as soon as he could go on COBRA. While extreme, this anecdote illustrates that employees can’t thrive in an environment where respect for others is lacking. In many cases, those eager new employees eventually become ones that watch the clock or slump over their desks waiting for the day to end. Their sense of engagement has been slowly chipped away.

So how can IT leaders maintain that sense of engagement or move the needle back in a positive direction? According to Marciano, inspiring, motivating and engaging leaders hinges on one key attribute: respect. After all, people once dueled to their death, countries go to war and gang members kill each other when they perceive a lack of respect.

Marciano offers seven key drivers to guide behavior and retain staff. They are as follows:

  • Recognition: Acknowledge others’ contributions. Do this not just for your staff, but in all aspects of your daily life. Marciano once penned a thank you note on his restaurant check and made the waiter’s day, who happily shared it with his own boss. It costs nothing to show appreciation or utter those underused words, “thank you.”

  • Empowerment: Provide employees with the resources they need to be successful. For example, don’t simply promote the best techies, but give them the tools to be good managers.

  • Supportive Feedback: If the first an employee hears about a performance problem is during an annual review, managers aren’t doing their jobs. Just as a good coach brings players to the sidelines, provide team members with regular and ongoing feedback throughout the year.

  • Partner: Foster a collaborative working environment and work with other departments to find solutions for how they can better meet their goals.

  • Expectation-Setting: Establish clear performance goals and hold employees accountable. “The primary reason that expectations aren’t fulfilled is people don’t know what they are in the first place,” Marciano says. “When we give people really clear goals, they can go toward that goal.”

  • Consideration: Demonstrate thoughtfulness, empathy and kindness. After Marciano’s staffer mentioned her wedding anniversary, Marciano put it on his calendar. When the date rolled again the following year, he gave her and her husband a gift certificate to a local restaurant. “You would have thought I had given her a car,” he says, sharing that she said her own husband barely remembers the date.

  • Trust: Demonstrate faith and belief in employees’ skills, abilities, and decisions. “Nothing suppresses discretionary effort more than micromanaging because it conveys that people don’t know how to do their job,” Marciano notes.

Many organizations list respect as a core value but don’t walk the walk. Marciano encourages, “It starts with you.”

Aug 27 2013