Years ago I worked with a company that had a parking lot without marked spaces. This wasn’t intentional, but over the years the lines had become faded and in many instances they were totally missing.
When the employees arrived at work they would park in whichever manner seemed best to them; squeezing their car into whatever odd spot they could create. This was even more complicated by the fact that second-shift was trying to find parking before first-shift had vacated the lot. As you can imagine, it was a mess. The employees were unhappy and the managers complained about how idiotic the employees were acting.
As I began to work with the management, I tried to help them understand that the employees were not stupid, but merely needed lines to show them where to park. Soon after, parking lines were painted on the blacktop and instantly every employee parked in the correct direction and there were even spaces for visitors and vendors to park, plus extra spots for those second-shift employees who arrived early. Soon what had been a daily aggravation to everyone in the company was easily eliminated.
Parking lines are valuable because they give us boundaries to make the job of parking easier. They serve to give order and eliminate chaos. The same is true when employees have a clear understanding of their job.
The Gallup Survey, in measuring strong workplaces, identified that the number one link to employee engagement, company profitability, employee retention, and productivity could be found within the answer of “Do I know what is expected of me at work?”
Employees who know what is expected of them at work don’t work in a vacuum, and they are more willing to accept responsibility for the quality and quantity of their work. When employees have a sense of direction and understand their role in the organization, they are better able to perform as a valuable asset. Listed below is a checklist of the times you can make you employees know what is expected of them and to keep them “parking the right way in your lot”.
- Beginning early – Job postings and interviewing must be very clear on what the job/jobs entail. What are the expectations and why does the position exist?
- Right after the Hire – It is important that the new employee, at any level of the organization, understands their role and what outcomes are expected. Again, make sure they know why the position exists. In other words, “why do they get paid?”
- When Training – Training is not for fixing. Send talented employees to training to learn new skills and gain deeper insight and knowledge. With employees that do need to “be fixed”, create a plan that focuses on the improvement needed and set responsible time lines. Set expectations and explain consequences for not meeting expectations. Remember this does not have to be confrontational, just clear and assertive.
- Continuously, from the Manager – Never lose your focus. Always, in every conversation and interaction, discuss the need for excellence and foster an environment that encourages employee discretionary effort. It is important to focus on removing roadblocks and barriers to help make the employee’s job more doable. Give continuous feedback and provide support without removing responsibility. You and the company paint the lines, and the employee will park without a traffic cop being there to make them do it.
- When Reviewing- Sometimes the lines in a parking lot need to be moved or repainted. The same is true with job responsibilities. Customers, technologies, and materials may change, so it is necessary for the employee and the manager to have good open communication about the role of the job. Change the role if it is required, but make sure your employee has a clear understanding about the new role and explain the why.
- And when Celebrating – It is important to thank team members for their accomplishments. Words like- thank you, I appreciate that, you really did a great job are very meaningful and help you show your appreciation for the work done. Remember that you must be sincere; people know when you are being sincere, or if you are just pandering. This is also accomplished by giving the employee a new challenge or even a promotion. It’s almost like you’re adding another coat of paint to those lines to really solidify their direction in the company.
Great employees will perform well if they know what is expected of them, and that comes from management. To be a great manager you must make sure every employee knows exactly why they have a position and what they must do to be successful. These are the parking lines of the work place. Make sure they are there, make sure they are clear, and make sure they are changed if the business changes.
Great managers and great leaders know that one of their important jobs is to help paint the lines for employees.
We at Personnel Profiles of Columbus are committed to helping organizations understand the value of front line management and how to develop their strengths to better the organization and their people. Give us a call so we can explore the possibilities for your business.
Roger has spent his entire 49-year career working with and growing people on all levels. His experiences have made him an expert in the Operations Management and Human Resources fields. Connect with Roger on LinkedIn and follow PPI on Twitter for weekly news, trends, and insider insight. For this and other great articles visit the PPI Columbus Blog.