Empowering Your Employees

By Andres Lares

Summer brings warm weather, vacations, and often new employees for your company. As you recruit new talent at any level, from interns to college graduates, you will assuredly face the same challenges every manager encounters: how do you motivate your employees to achieve maximum potential? And how do you evaluate which workers have the staying power for the long haul?

The millennial job-hopping stereotype does seem to play out again and again, it’s true. But it doesn’t have to. And even if it does play out, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As a business leader, it just makes those two questions of motivation and staying power even more critical. What many managers fail to consider is that hiring a new position is a two-way conversation. It is the pairing of a company with a specific need and a fresh employee with their own vision and needs. Sure, needs change over time for all of us, and businesses today are adapting in more ways than ever before, but at the end of the day these challenging questions are still a fundamental, simple negotiation.

As with any negotiation, the challenge of motivating your summer employees – at all levels – will come down to how you prepare yourself, how well you understand the other party’s needs, and which goals you can set, together.

Understand the Changing Employee and Workplace

It’s undeniable that the workplace has changed tremendously in recent years. Technology has obliterated the rigidness of a consistent 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. This can enable flexibility and empower employees with a more personalized schedule, but it can also create managerial headaches regarding trust and accountability. You can safely assume that many of your new potential summer hires may be seeking this. Why do I know this? Because I’m experiencing it at my business, Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

Recently, we’ve started to see an interesting dichotomy develop between the motivations of recent hires (often younger team members) and those who have been on-board with us for many years (often senior team members).

Our younger employees desire an environment more personalized to them with a balance of autonomy and direction paired with a positive, supportive culture. In other words, they want it all! Meeting these expectations can be a challenge, but we do our best to find common ground. Goal setting, along with expectations for accountability, make this possible for our new hires. For us, it ultimately results in a more productive, committed worker.

Our more senior workforce prefers a structured workday (punch-in and punch-out) mentality and have very little deviation from productivity between days. Consistency in work environment and style equate to consistent levels of motivation and commitment. Often, this is a much simpler thing for us to provide, but we don’t always get the ardent passion and flexible working hours out of this group.

Empower Your Employees

To motivate your new hires, you need to empower them. In 350 B.C. Aristotle determined that people are motivated and influenced by pathos, ethos, and logos. This still holds true. By starting with yourself and your approach to this demanding and ever-changing work ecosystem you can build a platform for success. Take a moment to reflect on your expectations so you can be honest with yourself about which policies are flexible and which ones cannot budge. Focus on three key areas:

  • Establishing Your Credibility. A team needs leadership, and leadership requires the right amounts of vision, direction, and trust. You need to effectively demonstrate (1) where you’re going and (2) how you’re going to get there. Be open to questions and feedback and invite new hires to imagine ways they could best contribute to that vision. Let them be creative. Be transparent and lead with your actions as well as your words, draw on experience and reference it throughout.
  • Engaging Their Emotions. People make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. The culture you create needs to breed positivity and block out negativity, while still allowing room to be expressive. To foster this positive energy, get to know your employees, learn what they value (e.g., autonomy or direction), and try your very best to deliver this. Remember, positive feelings stem from fulfillment; allowing your employees to help set their goals to achieve your vision can inspire them and fill them with purpose.
  • Energize with Logic. Millennials constantly want to know “what’s next for me?” So, meet them there. Frequently and effectively discuss and demonstrate their position within the company, the areas for growth, and challenge them to reach these with clear guidelines on the way based on your knowledge of the business. Beyond the technical aspects of the job, be open to rational discussions about policies and areas to improve. If logic and reasoning don’t justify an intern needing to complete their tasks in the office, be open to remote work. But if the job demands interaction with other employees, help them see the reasoning behind a policy. In short, avoid arbitrary answers like, “because that’s just the way we do it.”

Keep This Handy

There isn’t a magic formula for motivating and finding the right fit for your business for the long haul because every employee is different and so are their motivations and desires. But know that every single employee at all levels has the capacity to contribute and make a difference. How well they are set up to do so is a function of your leadership. Here are two rules of thumb to consider as you move on.

  1. To successfully motivate someone, understand what they value the most. It may be autonomy and transparency for some or learning skills and mentorship from others. Whatever it is, deliver to your best ability.
  2. To find employees who could carry your company’s mission for the foreseeable future, you need to be in the moment with them. Rather than trying to actively seek those who may be bought in for the “long-haul,” continue to meet their needs and desires to your best ability in the present. No one thinks about careers like our grandparents did; few even plan 3 years ahead. But when something works well and feels right moment after moment, most tend to stick around.

Andres Lares is the Managing Partner of Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI). He is responsible for the day to day operations of SNI. He also continues to provide negotiation training and serve as a coach with an emphasis on working with sports teams such as San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, Milwaukee Brewers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Brooklyn Nets. Outside of sports, his clients including companies from PwC to Boeing to Shaw Industries. He also has a focus in developing new initiatives such as interactive online training and virtual reality-based negotiation simulations and teaches one of the top-rated classes at Johns Hopkins University on sports negotiation. @SNINegotiations.

Summer stock photos by designer491/Shutterstock