Diverse business people in a team

People Are The
Most Important Asset Part 2

Employee Expectations

I have spent my entire career working in the upstream oilfield environment and have found people to be a critical success factor in every segment in which I have worked. In Part 1, I commented on the reasons why people are the most important asset. In order to retain employees as an asset, it is important to meet employee expectations. Surveys of employee satisfaction and expectations continually report that salary is not the number-one concern of the majority of the workforce. Areas of higher concern include job satisfaction, career advancement, challenging work, and being respected by peers and supervisors.

Employee expectations include a number of topics, many of which can be measured. These include:

Diverse business people having a meeting

Performance Reviews
Employees want regular and honest feedback on their performance and ways to improve. If done properly, reviews will motivate them to do better, so that they are more valuable to the organization with the resulting increase in responsibilities, pay, and career growth. Both employees and supervisors will benefit from a review process that identifies areas of improvement, as well as specific training that will bolster the employee’s performance in the coming year.

Everyone wants to be part of a successful group or organization. Success can be measured in many ways, including financial performance and achieving goals. It is important for management to set measurable goals and then to celebrate success on an ongoing basis. These can include achieving financial success, sales/production targets, successful project completion, and safety goals among others. Employees do not always expect monetary rewards, but they do want recognition of achievement as individuals and groups. I once led a small start-up group in a larger company who had monthly lunch meetings for status updates. We had desert if the group made a profit. People went by the lunch set-up before coming to the meeting just to know the expected outcome, desert or no desert, and many still comment on that “reward” as a motivator.

Fair and Equitable Policies
While employees generally look for the “best deal” that they can get from a company, they are more concerned that the policies be equitable. Fairness is usually not an issue with written policies, but it may be of more concern in the unwritten rules of a company. Unfair examples that I have encountered include varying policies for overseas personnel; flex policies that some personnel cannot participate in due to no fault of their own; and drug testing that is not applied to all levels in a company, or for which the penalties are enforced for certain groups and relaxed for others. I learned long ago that when the situation is not well defined, “ties should go to the employee.”

Warehouse engineer worker working at industrial container yard

Pleasant Work Surroundings
While employees would like to have luxurious offices, new equipment, and the latest computer software, most workers understand that the company has financial limitations. However, many companies tolerate work environments that are not conductive to productive work or do not meet basic employee needs. This includes very small work spaces or offices, outdated computer equipment, and lack of facilities in which to take breaks or lunches. Many facilities would benefit significantly from simple improvements such as a coat of paint on the office walls, improved lighting or better cleaning service.

Many employees still feel that they have not been empowered to take on more responsibility. This might be due to supervisory micromanagement or strict company regimentation and policies. Most employees are looking for the opportunity to demonstrate that they can operate on their own, and they would like to be given decision-making opportunities where appropriate. Policies that encourage this kind of thinking include flextime, assignments with specific goals but without detailed instructions, and encouraging continuous-improvement teams for specific issues.

Career Growth
Almost all employees are concerned about their long-term career growth, as well as their day-to-day responsibilities. Any company that can show its employees how they can increase their responsibility, position, and pay will be much more likely to retain good employees. It requires management’s ongoing effort to identify employees with the potential to take more responsibility and to develop plans to reveal that potential.


Training Opportunities
Almost all employees feel that they can benefit from more training. When taking on new roles in past positions, I intentionally met with all employees, either individually or in small groups. I asked each of them to tell me the things that they liked most and disliked most about the company. The number-one dislike by a large margin was lack of training. This was due to a number of reasons; including the fact that almost half of the employees had been with the company for less than a year. However, even those that had been there longer felt that they needed more training for the specific software that they were using, or needed a better understanding of the products that were being developed, manufactured, and delivered to the customer.

Quality of Life
Employees want their employer to be sensitive to their personal activities. This includes family time, religious and community groups, hobbies, and other outside interests. Policies such as flextime and encouraging use of earned vacation are well received by employees.

Obviously, all employees would like more compensation. This can be in the form of paycheck, bonus, benefits, stock options, and so on. The important thing is that the employee feels his or her compensation is reasonable for the services provided. In addition, equity needs to exist among employees of similar responsibilities (not necessarily age or experience), and employees need to feel that the pay structure throughout the company is fair.
It is not uncommon today for employees to feel that their senior management is taking too big a piece of the pie. One solution to this concern is to include more employees in bonus and stock option plans, particularly those based on company performance. A company does not have to give the highest compensation in its industry to keep good employees, but it must provide acceptable compensation along with the items listed above.

People can make all the difference in a company’s success. By meeting employee expectations and motivating them properly, management can overcome almost any deficiency from limited facilities, working capital or products. Every company should make serious efforts to meet employee’s needs and desires in a cost-effective way to continually improve company performance.

Part 3 will offer strategies to prove to employees that they are the company’s most important asset.

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