15 Apr

People not employees

People are complex. What is it they say, “There’s nowt so queer as folk”. We’re all different and we can all be a bit…different…

Continually pleasing one person is hard. Trying to please everyone seems like an insurmountable challenge. It’s not. It depends how you approach it.

Give everyone the same thing, you’ll get a heap of collective lukewarm, mediocre, middle of the road, beige, neither here nor there, wishy-washy, average and indifference in return.

It applies to everything you do as an organisation.

The way you say thanks, for example.  Think mass email to staff thanking for great work.

How you as an employer perceive this = saying thanks to your staff for good work to keep their peckers up after sweating blood for you on a project and crying themselves to sleep at night.

How they perceive this = you’re ticking a box, it’s not heartfelt, it doesn’t highlight individual contribution (or non-contribution…) and it’s the equivalent of a microwave lasagne. Bland, unappetising, unsatisfying and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Thanks for the thanks, we would rather you hadn’t…

Treating employees as individuals has never been more important. Knowing them. Really knowing them. Knowing what their strengths are and highlighting them. Acknowledging their weaknesses and finding ways to develop and support them to turn weaknesses into strengths. ‘Getting’ their personality enough to know their passions, interests, life outside the organisation and the skills they have which aren’t part of the job, all of which might just set them apart as someone who ‘would be good to do this…’, or ‘would be good to do that…’.

When we feel valued in the workplace for not only the work that we do, but the person we are, great things start to happen.

People begin to feel part of something warm, happy and connected. Like a family. Too many employers talk about their family culture and for many of them, they are bang on the money if they’re referring to The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch or The Simpsons with their ‘family culture’ but if we’re going for all out ‘Waltons’ here, the focus of the employer needs to be on the individual rather than the collective because that’s what builds a good, healthy, happy family culture in the workplace. 

And if you look at any (well functioning) family, the happiest families are where everyone gets what they need. As individuals. They won’t get it all the time and the emphasis there is on need rather than want. Parents have to split their time between children, listening, reacting, giving, supporting, developing, caring, building and identifying that child’s particular needs. Every single person in the world is different and we all have different levels of confidence, intelligence, independence, ambition, sensitivity and our interests are all very, very different. Rarely is it about the material stuff. Most families can’t afford to give children everything they ‘think’ they need – real needs are met in other ways and it is no different for organisations.

You will have a budget for your employee benefits initiative. You can’t afford to make every benefit available to everyone at the same time. You’ll probably want to build your programme over time but here’s the thing…

By getting to know your employees as individuals, you can build your employee benefits initiative cleverly, within your budget AND offer each and every one of your staff some of the ‘softer’ benefits. The things that cost you nothing. Package both of these together, you’re on to a winner.


Because you’re not trying to be all things to all people.

You’ve done your research and built a menu mix of employee benefit options (that will cost you money) wide enough for people to take what they need AND you’re giving them the attention, the praise, the inclusion, the empowerment and the respect (none of which cost you any money) to offer a really strong reason for employees to stay part of your family or knock on your door in the first place.

One of the best CEOs I’ve ever worked with had lunch with his staff, in the canteen every day. He got to know the people who worked for him and the people who worked for him got to know him. Another company I worked for had a drinks trolley that went round the office at 4pm and you started your weekend wind down with your colleagues, sharing successes (because even if it’s been a bad week, there’s always something…) ending the week on a happy note. These things cost next to nothing, or are completely free but they make the different between a ‘great company to work for’ and a ‘company’.

Think about how you can get to know your employees as people.

Not as employees.





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