As HR professionals we encounter many obstacles in our way towards keeping the employees content and motivated. One of the methods we have at our disposal is the unique individual approach. It sounds like a lot of work and effort that we alone most of the time cannot endure. However, it does not have to be that way. Allow me to share my experience with you.
In our company, we had a lot of employees divided into teams by projects. We thought we had an individual approach to employees because we knew some of them. However, that is not what the concept represents. We need to treat all employees individually, as equals. We saw that this might not go as planned and decided to change this from the ground up.
We divided employees into teams that match by technology and most importantly by personality. Creating teams that have the personality match first approach, rather than by common project or process, practically creates a team that functions individually, and most of the employees connect with the team and share the same values and interests.
We also provided two team leads for each team that has no more than 10 members. We as HR professionals tend to think that employee wellbeing is only our concern. It is not, it is on us and the management to set the roots and implementation process. From there on, the team leads together with us to help implement it. Like company culture, other steps must come from our employees and their engagement, otherwise, this could be applicable only to small companies. And finally, we got to know each and every employee we have. We listened.
There are many ways you can listen to employees, but the best is to get to know them outside of work. By doing that you will learn who the person is, what are their values, hobbies, and most importantly – how to connect them to our values and goals. Also, you can learn what drives them. Is it status? Is it the feeling that they are in charge of their own career? Or maybe people and team? It is crucial to know this if we are going to treat our employees individually.
This way you can learn how to reward and engage them. The other way you can learn this are one-on-one meetings. Of course, it is not feasible for one person to do this, so you can divide the HR team, or share the task with team leads and management. The important thing is not to pay more attention to some employees. Spend time with them equally. That is when they would all feel involved and taken care of.
Next is to keep notes about them, so you can be able to address their needs properly. There are a few ways you can do this:
Create personalized benefits
Benefits don’t always have to be huge and the same for every organization. When you see other companies having some “cool and hip” benefits it doesn’t mean yours have to be the same. Every company is different, as people make the company, and they have different interests. We must think about what our employees want. For example, we introduced sport challenges and rewards. We saw that, apart from their job, they like outdoor activities and being inspired and challenged in that department.
So, rewarding and supporting this financially made it even more fun. In addition, they like team events that are not that time-consuming and that involve their family as well. We have 3 minor team events in the office every week and we invite families for our hiking tours. You can also combine the above: an employee might not want anything with sports but would enjoy an occasional massage. It takes more time, but it is more efficient to provide various benefits to each employee rather than just the ones that sound good on paper but don’t bring any actual value to the employee.
Give personalized rewards
The salary increase is the most common way of rewarding an employee, but it’s not the only one. There is a point in the employee life cycle where money is not solely the factor that keeps an employee. It is never a single benefit, it’s the entire package. Wouldn’t we all like a company that really knows who we are? Where you can get support for your personal and professional goals but have fun in the meantime? The company that recognizes you are currently having troubles of any kind and helps you.
Our employees get additional time off in these times, or financial support, or moral one – however, we can help. For some it’s not even the money or the support, it’s people – and that’s also where we step in with the company culture. The reward can also be on a team level. As we created teams by personality, we are also rewarding them as teams by giving the group benefits – events, retreats etc. The important thing is to provide the same value to the employees, even if it’s not the exact same thing given.
Create distinguished career paths
A career path is not a paper with arrows. It’s the support to get to the point an employee wants to be – the company will not develop if their employees are not developing, so it’s actually a common goal worth investing in. Maybe a conference/course/knowledge share seems like a lot of money at the time, but it’s not an expense, it’s an investment. It is not enough to create a career path; we must help them and guide them towards the next steps on the path. We also did this together, as a team, for every employee.
When you combine these three steps the employee for sure knows the answer to the question: Why do you stay? Because my company cares about me. This is the goal of the individual approach.
The question rising is – do all employees react the same to this? Of course not. Performers do, it helps them thrive. However, the approach distinguishes the employees who simply do not want to be connected to the company in this way from those that do. It doesn’t appeal to them, but it’s up to the company culture and team atmosphere to decide whether there is a place for them in the organization, too. Like in every relationship, this goes both ways, as employees are always checking whether we are a match.
Last, but not least – it all starts with recruiting the right people. Who are the right people? People who fit into the team and company culture. Technical knowledge shouldn’t be a breaking point, this is something they can learn if you find the person with the right attitude. This is maybe the most difficult part; therefore, in-house recruitment makes the most sense for this kind of organization. It is important that the recruiter knows the employees and relates to the company culture. That is the person those people first meet.
In the end, it all comes down to this – treat your employees the way you would like to be treated. Provide the same value, not the exact same solution. For me, this is the approach that has brought me the highest employee engagement and results, so maybe it is not a myth but an investment of time and efforts towards a higher goal we all as HR want to achieve: a thriving organization with happy employees. Of course, this approach has flaws as every approach does; nothing is ideal, but we cannot stop trying – inventing new ways for retaining employees or sustaining the “old” ways that work.