I’ve had lots of jobs.  They’ve been in lots of different companies in lots of different industries.  Much to the dismay of my wife, I might add.

Most of my jobs have been in the skilled trades arena. But, from time to time, I strayed — restaurants and fast food, dairy processing plants, printing, real estate, sales, etc.

Without exception, they all had their own distinct culture.  Most sucked, a few were tolerable, and  some were actually fun.

I’ve thought a lot about what the differences between the good jobs and the bad jobs were, and I came up with this list.

1. Belonging — Think back to your school days; there was always a group of people you hung out with — your posse.  You were constantly with them or pestering your parents to let you go hang with them. You understood each other, had fun together, got into trouble together, and had long talks about all the things in your life that were important at the time. You had each other’s backs. If the rest of them ever did anything without you, it was devastating.

While the dynamics have changed, this feeling of wanting to belong to a tribe follows us the rest of our lives. We want to feel like we fit in where we work, like we’re part of the team. If companies don’t deliberately create a culture where new hires are welcomed, they’re missing out on a huge amount of potential. I’ve worked at more than one company where the long-term employees protect their knowledge and experience because they’re afraid someone else might learn it and take their job. It might be partially their fault, but most of the blame points to the leadership of these companies. They’ve created an atmosphere of scarcity instead of generosity. How is it at your company?  Have you ever thought about this?

2. Contributing — If what we have to offer the group doesn’t make us feel like we’re helping to move the needle at work, it’s like being on a hamster wheel.  We work and work, and we feel like we’re just sitting in one place.  Part of this, again, is due to poor leadership. If company goals aren’t shared with all the employees, we don’t know if what we’re doing is effective or even necessary. Do you have goals at your company? Do your employees know what they are? If so, do you tell them from time to time if you’re on track to meet them?

3. Being Valued —  This ties in closely with the above entry.  If what we’re contributing to the company or team doesn’t feel like it has value, morale sinks fast.  If we offer opinions in meetings or to our foreman in the field and get patted on the head and told to just go do our job, that old feeling we had in school when the teacher told us to be quiet and sit down comes back. We’re all adults.  We want to feel our opinions, ideas, thoughts, and concerns matter.  And they do. There’s a lot of wisdom and experience going unused out there because managers and other leaders think they already know everything.  Do you and your leadership team fully utilize your employees as the resources they are? 

4. Feeling Fulfilled —  One of the greatest feelings in the world is doing work that makes you feel alive.  For me, that’s work that challenges me, makes me think, allows me to write, presents opportunities to work with other people, and gives me freedom. When people do the work they’re built to do, they stick around for a long time. They also have fun, get more done, and have better results. Do you consider this when hiring people and delegating assignments? 

5. Exchanging Feedback —  We, as humans, crave feedback.  We need to know how we’re doing. That feeling of walking on eggshells because we’re not sure where we stand makes for a long, stressful day. I’ve had that feeling before only to discover sometime later that everything was fine. Deliberately make the time to have one-on-one conversations with team members to provide feedback — both positive and negative.

6. Building Trust —  In general, there’s way too much micromanaging going on.  This comes from the top. Leaders don’t trust employees, vendors, or customers.  So, it just rolls on down the hill. Hire good people, have good systems, be very clear on expectations, and let your people do their job. Get rid of people who can’t be trusted to do what’s asked.

7. Compensating —  This is a no-brainer. We need to know we can buy groceries and pay our bills. You’ve got to pay people a good wage. If you can’t afford to, change your business model  to be more efficient.  Poor wages equate to high turnover and subpar employees.

You’ll notice that out of all of these option, only one — No. 7 — costs you or your company any money. It’s doesn’t take a lot of money, it just takes a shift in mindset.  Don’t let the hustle and bustle of everyday work cause you to forget that your employees are people — they aren’t just tools in your toolbox.

Publication date: 11/13/2017

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