The reality TV show ‘Undercover Boss’ offers an entertaining way of getting to know your employees. The big boss dresses up as a new employee and works along with experienced members of staff to find out more about the team and this side of the business. While it is meant to be fun and light-hearted, in reality, it is a creepy attempt at driving distrust and fear in the team.
It also begs an important question: Why would a manager have to disguise themselves to find out how employees truly feel and think about the company? Indeed, while it may be tough to get to know everyone personally as the CEO of a big company, there should be other structures in place to ensure that people in the team can be known, recognized, identified, and supported.
So, what can businesses do to know their employees without needing to go undercover?
Prepare custom badges
Put yourself in the shoes of a new employee who’s starting their shift for the first time.
“If you’ve got any questions, you can ask Susan,” the person at the reception desk told them when they arrived. They nod. It sounds simple enough, but if none of your team wears a name badge, how is the new employee ever going to find out who can help them?
The team might argue they don’t need badges because they’ve worked together long enough. Yet, for the new employee, it is an obstacle that can be tough to pass. Introverted personalities often feel isolated through the process.
Name badges serve more than one purpose:
They ensure that customers and newcomers can easily identify their interlocutors.
They are a crucial part of a recognition program, ensuring that everyone in the team can be addressed equally and fairly.
They are instrumental in bringing new talent on board, making them feel welcome and part of a team.
Business performance management programs are designed to help companies prioritize areas that can drive growth, including employees’ skills and productivity. Employees can benefit from the introduction of a performance management program that can streamline their workday and help them stay maximize their skills. Businesses that rely on performance programs also pair it with an individual training program that can bring the company’s performance to the next level.
The process of identifying different factors that can influence each employee’s performance, from redundant operation to lack of knowledge, delivers an individual growth plan that recognizes and builds the value of each employee.
Performance tracking can be a fantastic tool to build a connection with individual employees, helping them make their marks within the business and bring the company forward at the same time. It also provides insightful feedback about your team’s strengths.
Run background checks
You don’t want to picture the worst possible scenario. But when you hire new talent, you need to make sure you know exactly who you are bringing to the team. Background checks are essential to:
- Ensure applicants have the necessary certifications and degrees for the job
- Validate that they have the relevant experience
- Verify their criminal background
- Make sure they have the right mindset for the business culture — using referrals from former co-workers and managers
Background checks are required to protect your business reputation. But they also help employers get to know their employees better. It isn’t uncommon to pair background checks with psychometric tests, which can help paint a picture of an individual’s behaviour, ability, and personality within the workplace. For employers, these tools are vital to building a reliable, strong, productive, and trustworthy team.
Indeed, the recruitment process is designed to find the right talent for the business. Therefore, it is necessary to decide on essential criteria that are relevant to the business. After all, it is easier to get to know people that have common values with the rest of the team!
Establish trustworthy and honest communication paths
What kind of manager are you?
The traditional, conservative manager type assesses their authority from the top. Traditional managers are respected, but they are also feared in a vertical hierarchy model.
Hyper authoritative managers are the type to lead through fear only. They do not waste time sorting out challenges in the team, as it can be easier and quicker to get rid of lesser performing members and replace them with new talent. They can keep their team in the dark when it comes to business news.
Emotional intelligence managers, on the other hand, focus on empowering employees through training and honest communication.
Each management type has its merits, depending on the industry sector and the team you work with. Indeed, an authoritative manager plays a crucial role in an old-fashioned, image-driven business. They can also lessen stress levels in the team by sharing only strictly necessary information and keeping other business decisions uncommunicated.
However, when it comes to getting to know employees and building long-lasting relationships, emotional intelligence leaders are best suited for the task. They create a safe environment where employees feel confident sharing their concerns and thoughts.
When communication barriers are removed, employees and managers can engage more openly. It creates a safe platform for individual personalities, dreams, aspirations, and skills to bloom. It’s not anymore Brian, the IT guy. It becomes Brian, the tech-focused IT specialist who is teaching himself new coding languages to streamline the business infrastructure.
By understanding what drives employees forward, the business can also design a strategy that utilizes their strengths for growth while reducing employee turnover rates.
Bringing health matters forward
Healthcare covers tend to be part of the standard employment offer. Yet, too many businesses fail to address healthcare problems in their day-to-day routines. Health insurance covers are not enough to build a strong and focused team. Employers must also increase awareness of specific health conditions among their employees.
Mental health issues are a frequently overseen problem within the workplace. High stress levels, anxiety, depression, and loneliness can drive high turnover rates, increased sick days, and put employees at risk. Businesses must learn to make the health conversation an integral part of day-to-day operations, so co-workers and managers can act quickly to help employees.
Knowing which employees are more at risk in difficult situations can make a big difference in the long term. More often than not, individuals who experience depression, debilitating stress, and high anxiety are more likely to put their health at risk and quit. It takes no more than a question to show that you care. Asking someone how they are or if they need help is more than enough to show that they don’t need to go through hardships alone.
Not every employee will show how they feel. Being observant and knowing people well enough to spot suspicious behaviours can be crucial to managing mental health within the team. But people can still miss signs. Therefore, it can also be helpful for managers to introduce an open-door policy, where people can come and talk without fear of being judged or ridiculed when they are going through a difficult situation.
There is more than a matter of preventing high turnover. Acting early can also ensure employees in need can receive mental health support, which can prevent long-term complications, social isolation, and even suicide in extreme cases.
Understanding employees’ input and expertise
Employees do not stay forever with the same company, even in an ideal scenario. Some may choose to retire. Others move away to follow their relatives. Employees on maternity leave may decide to spend more time with their families. Some are forced to step down for health issues. There could be a variety of reasons why a business loses talent, and they are not all related to voluntary resignation.
But what happens when an employee stops working for the company? What happens to their tasks? Gaining a full overview of each employee’s responsibilities, skills, and operational input can make a big difference in maintaining normal business functions after their departure.
Nobody wants to discover months after content manager Helen went on maternity leave that the business overlooked some of her jobs.
“I’ve noticed our Twitter account has been inactive lately. Many customers reach out on Twitter, and nobody answers.”
“Who’s in charge of Twitter? Was it Helen?”
“I don’t know. We should sort it out.”
“What’s the account password.”
“I’m not sure. Only Helen knew it.”
It may sound like an extreme situation, but it happens a lot more frequently than you’d think. Even when employees prepare handover notes, these often get ignored when the business fails to recognize the role of the employee. The sooner you know and understand individual contributions in the workplace, the better equipped the business is to replace skills as they go.
In conclusion, it’s time businesses ask themselves how well they know their employees. Employees are a vital asset to everyday operations. Therefore, you can’t afford to miss out on opportunities to recognize their expertise, their health issues, their contributions, their skills, their identities, and their influence.
Knowing who your employees are is at the core of business growth, brand reputation, and profit strategy. Ultimately, your employees fuel the business operations and presence. Not knowing who they are and what they can do is the equivalent of driving a car with your eyes shut. You are likely to crash into the first obstacle.