Resource: A stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.
Do you notice anything strange in that definition? Think about the function of ‘staff’ compared to the other examples; everything else is an inanimate object, whereas ‘staff’ are the people that drive everything.
The problem with applying the word ‘resource’ to people is that people don’t work the same way as inanimate objects; a host of influences can affect their productivity and output. And while it is necessary to measure productivity and track teams numerically via graphs, timesheets, and diagrams, it doesn’t mean employees can be treated as though they are nothing more than a number.
All good managers know this, of course, but putting knowledge into practice is a process. Luckily, these best practices will ensure you’re treating staff like the complex human beings that they are.
Here’s how to approach the ‘staff’ piece of your resources with finesse.
Show off your soft skills
According to Gallup’s 2017 survey on employee engagement in the American workplace, “70 percent of employees aren’t working to their full potential, and they’re slowing economic growth.” Of this 70%, 52% aren’t engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged. This means they’re actually working against their employer’s interests; they negatively influence their coworkers and drive business away.
The kicker in all this is that the ingredients for employee engagement are pretty straightforward; people are motivated to work when:
- they feel valued,
- their work matches their skill set, and
- they have a certain degree of control over how they work.
Anyone responsible for resource management should focus on matching individual staff with work that compliments these factors.
This is where the importance of managerial soft skills come in — skills like high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy, and active listening. Every team interaction is an opportunity to learn more about each team members strengths, work preferences, interests, and current feelings about their work.
Get to know what inspires your team, and you’ll soon be able to match work, rather than simply assigning it.
Open up the lines of communication
Avoid work silos at all costs! Keep your team engaged with plenty of attention and feedback — not only from you but from each other.
Collaboration has been proven to encourage flexibility and improve accuracy and motivation, so don’t enforce a heads-down policy — at least not all the time. Encourage employees to talk, bounce ideas off each other, and approach managers with questions or feedback both in person, over email, and via your team chat app — if your company has one. The more communication and feedback, the better.
Show your team you value them
Remember, appraisals needn’t be kept to bi-annual meetings. Show your team you value them with regular feedback and praise. This could be as personal as writing a glowing email and cc’ing a few important leaders, or as simple as a quick ‘thank you😊’ over chat.
And don’t save praise for the finished product: encourage a culture of self-validation by praising effort, even if the effort ends in failure. It’s important to show employers you value the journey as well as the results.
If you need to give feedback of the negative variety, having a good understanding of the different types of personalities within your team or organization means you’ll know how best to navigate different communication styles at work and deliver that feedback in a way most suited to the recipient. That way they’ll be more open to the feedback, which keeps possible demotivation to a minimum.
Keep on top of your team’s progress
We’ve all had a manager who seems to have no idea what we were working on. Maybe they’re overallocated to too many projects, or their priorities just aren’t focused on the work we’ve been tasked. Whatever the case, problems quickly arise when managers aren’t able to provide guidance, feedback, or praise. And this obviously shows the employee that their manager isn’t valuing their work or time.
Unfortunately, this is very common: even the best project managers are guilty of this from time to time. With so much going on, things can understandably slip.
The simplest way to mitigate this situation is to use project management software that helps you easily track schedules and progress at a glance. By staying on top of progress, you can both show your team you care and provide more informed guidance. Plus, you can use insights from each project to identify personalized opportunities for growth in each team member.
Try a bottom-up approach
The top-up approach is what we traditionally see in businesses: one person, or a small team of people at the top, make all the decisions. Each decision is then filtered down to the lower status employees in the form of tasks.
The bottom-up method flips this on its head and allows employees to shape decisions at every stage. Rather than having the manager make all the scheduling, budget, and delivery decisions on behalf of their staff, staff play an active role in planning.
While the top-up approach makes the decision-making process faster, it also makes projections far less accurate. And it makes staff feel unempowered to make decisions and fix problems on their own.
When it comes to staff, your resources are only as good as you treat them. Show your team you recognize their individual skills and motivations, and not only will they perform better, but they’ll also be happier and more likely to stick around to continue doing great work for you.
When your team members feel valued, useful, and empowered, they’ll be unstoppable.