6 Ways to Awaken the Potential in Your Workforce

By Pete Wheelan, CEO
Switch & Shift

Conventional wisdom says taking care of your employees is the right thing to do. Besides, no one enjoys having a reputation as a “bad boss.”

While investing in the less tangible, more human aspects of your company may not seem like a commonsense way to boost the bottom line, a recent report by Glassdoor revealed a positive correlation between work culture and stock values. Companies where workers rated their employers highly outperformed the S&P 500 by 122 percent, while companies with low employee ratings underperformed the S&P 500 by 29.5 percent.

The great thing about investing in human potential is it’s both morally and fiscally responsible. When you help people become their best possible selves, your company benefits as much as they do. The effects can also spread beyond the company’s walls, unlocking potential within families, communities, and society at large.

When you help people become their best possible selves, your company benefits as much as they do.

Some situations do call for outside hires. But often, empowering your existing team to step up and contribute greater value is a more worthwhile investment.

Here are six ways to awaken the potential lying dormant in your office:

1. Give people purpose-filled work.

A huge part of unlocking employees’ potential is helping them find meaning in their work. Regardless of your industry, you

have a community of people working for you who will work best if they truly care about the jobs they perform every day.

For the hundreds of coaches here at InsideTrack, that connection is easy to make. They work directly with students, helping them reach their full potential and immediately seeing the positive impact they have on people’s lives. For team members in supporting functions, such as IT, finance, and analytics, the connection is a bit more distant. We make sure they hear the success stories and feel appreciated for the role they play in making the world a better place.

2. Improve total compensation.

Creating a sense of purpose and meaning is critical for employee engagement and satisfaction, but it doesn’t pay their bills. Consider keeping your salary for a given role above similar employers’ median to make your employees feel more appreciated. When people feel valued, they tend to work harder and produce better results.

Supplement those better-than-average salaries with a competitive and ever-evolving set of benefits, including an inviting workplace environment and flexible schedules. We offer our employees up to 31 paid days off annually, employee learning grants, wellness programs, and work-from-home options.

3. Help employees find balance.

Our employees give their all every minute they’re working. They’re highly passionate and committed people, but work isn’t the only important thing in their lives. We realize and respect that they’re also artists, athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, gamers, bloggers, parents, volunteers, caregivers, students and instructors. Allowing them to balance those passions with their professional responsibilities creates a whole team of top performers.

Boston Consulting Group is another great example of a company in the cutthroat industry of top-tier management consulting that has, nonetheless, attracted and retained top talent by cultivating a work-life balance that’s unique in its field. In addition to offering good salaries, BCG allows employees to take athree- to 12-month Social Impact Leave of Absence.Last year, members of BCG’s team took advantage of this opportunity by going to work for organizations like Green Dot, TechnoServe, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Food Programme, and the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency.

Embrace the concepts of trust and accountability, and you’ll benefit from the autonomy and ownership mentality they instill in your employees.

Embrace the concepts of trust and accountability, and you’ll benefit from the autonomy and ownership mentality they instill in your employees. Generous vacation time, virtual work arrangements, and part-time or shared roles are just a few ways to foster versatility and adaptability in your team members.

4. Create vibrant workplaces.

Critical thinking and problem-solving most effectively occur in relaxed, informal environments that provide the right tools to succeed. These can be as low-tech as the right kind of pens or as high-tech as multi-location collaboration platforms. In fact,a study released in 2015 reported that a significant majority of employees feel more valued in their workplaces when provided with coffee and other drinks while working. Ninety-five percent of the study’s U.S. respondents agreed that productivity was important to an organization’s success.

Promoting productivity in the workplace is about more than just ping-pong tables and free pretzels. Your office perks should be meaningful and engaging to increase productivity. If free food and a game room help employees take much-needed mental breaks, that’s great — just make sure there’s a purpose behind them.

And don’t forget about remote workers, who need to feel connected and supported even when they’re not physically in the office. That includes people who work while traveling and those who work from a home office for any length of time. As you increase flexibility, make sure teammates stay connected and can access all the information and tools they need. Although some people can’t be on-site every day, they’d probably enjoy attending a holiday party or an occasional happy hour event. Include long-distance remote workers in office social functions by using technologies like Skype or Google Hangouts.

To facilitate greater mobility, you can implement portable computing across the company and move communication and information technology systems to the cloud. Then, from their laptops or other mobile devices, team members can make phone calls, participate in videoconferences, and securely access company systems and files.

5. Offer opportunities for personal growth.

Couple your high expectations for your team’s engagement and performance with an equally high commitment to supporting their growth and success. People are happier and more involved when they can see clear, achievable paths to promotions and increased responsibility. Invest heavily in managers who are adept at uncovering hidden potential in their team members.

Implement this strategy in whatever way works best for your team. We have an internal learning and development team dedicated to the personal growth and development of all team members and an online learning management system with hundreds of courses on a wide range of topics. Additionally, we offer an annual Week of Learning with in-person and virtual courses, as well as learning grants employees can use to attend external training sessions or conferences.

6. Recognize superior performance.

Last, but not least, publicly commend employees who go above and beyond to exceed expectations. The core of our vision is to motivate, inspire, and unlock potential, and a critical element of doing so is providing frequent and genuine recognition for a job well done.

This can be as simple as recognizing certain team members at a meeting for the successful completion of a major quarterly project or as grand as rewarding them with goods, financial incentives, or extra days off. Acknowledging employee contributions in front of their peers accomplishes two important things: Public kudos not only underscore your company’s values by showing teammates how excellent performance is recognized, but this recognition can also provide a jolt of much-needed inspiration for stressed-out employees. Moreover, it doesn’t cost anything.

To invest in human potential to improve your bottom line, remember this: Your employees are your company. Focus on nurturing both; one can’t grow without the other.


This article by Pete Wheelan originally appeared on Switch & Shift, November 2015


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