I’ve been working for large corporations now for over 30 years. All of them have had annual employee surveys, and all of them have had the occasional problems with poor showings in the categories around people. I think this is because quite often the larger a company gets the less people-oriented they become.
This becomes evident when employees aren’t really referred to as people. For example, when your staff becomes ‘resources’ it sends the message that they are just one more replaceable cog in a machine. Even worse, they can be turned into a pool of FTE’s (Full Time Employees). This changes them from people to an accounting term, just another set of numbers on a ledger.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it’s important to remember that our employees are not just cogs in a machine or numbers on a spreadsheet. They are people, which means they’re all unique. If we as manager’s recognize this we can improve our relationship with our team, elevate morale, and ultimately see an associated increase in how the team works together and performs.
It can be a fine line, but I think it’s a good idea to get to know people beyond work. Not to the point where it might be interpreted as prying or invading privacy – you want to stay out of HR’s office, after all. But make it a point to ask them about their hobbies, ask after their family, or just simply, “What do you like to do when you’re not at work?” Treat them like people, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn. Folks like to talk about themselves and the things they love.
Knowing the kinds of things your people do away from the office can help you understand how they might approach a project at work. For example, someone who has a hobby that involves close or meticulous work might be a good choice for projects that needs someone who is detail-oriented.
The point is that your staff are not impersonal numbers. They are unique individuals and should be treated as such. Treating them as individuals will reduce stress and improve your team’s dynamics.