Have you ever said you’re “married to your work?” It’s no wonder, since the average person spends more than 90,000 lifetime hours at work. A recent article by Business Insider, Why Marriage Is Harder Than Ever, revealed modern marriages are more challenging than ever due to the high expectations couples place on each other. The article explained how couples today marry not only for love, but for personal fulfillment. When these high expectations are not met, the relationship suffers.
The same can be said of modern employee/employer relationships. Never before have employees placed so many expectations on their workplace—increased flexibility, more transparency, a warm and inviting company culture, feeling that their work is making a difference, and more. And just like in a modern marriage, if employers fail to live up to these perceptions, the relationship will disintegrate.
Many employers focus on retention strategies, but today we’re turning to these seven (slightly modified) suggestions of top marriage experts, to make your “work marriage” relationship with your employees last:
7 Tips for a Happy Work Marriage
Never Stop Dating (Make Sure Your Employees Feel Valued)
Even setting aside the obvious advantages of retaining your employees (the high cost of turnover, the value of tenure and experience), any long-term relationship is a lot more pleasant when you get along, and feel valued. Taking extra steps to ensure your employees feel valued (and creating focus around that) keeps them engaged and excited to be there. It doesn’t have to necessarily be expensive things; surprise breakfast offerings on occasion, a fun lunch out, a prize they can work for, recognition among their peers, a fun contest to inspire friendly competition can all be ways to “date” your employees without breaking the budget!
Always See the Best in Each Other
Positivity is contagious, and compliments go a long way! This is as true in your “work marriage” as it is at home. Develop a library of positive thoughts you can turn to, recognize employees who are performing well, and practice using positive vocabulary in your daily life. There are many things you can’t change in your work marriage… But you can always change your attitude! Speaking of change, cultivating healthy strategies around change management (as I discussed in my earlier post on Six Winning Strategies to Train through Change) helps your company continue to see the best in one another during the most challenging periods of change.
Take Full Accountability
I doubt I’m the only person who finds the phrases “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my responsibility” among the most grating. Rather than trying to pass the buck, by owning the responsibility and taking on the tasks (even if it’s “not your job”), you build credibility and respect with your coworkers and customers, which in turn strengthens your work marriage. If you or your employees struggle with accountability, there are some great off-the-shelf courses (like this one by Enspark) to assist them in building this skill… And who knows, it may help in their personal marriage too!
Be Silly (Don’t Take Yourselves Too Seriously)
Some of the most memorable moments with my team have been the silliest, and they too remember them fondly. For one contest, they convinced me to eat a (7 pound!) chocolate cake in one sitting if they hit certain targets, and they worked together to achieve those targets. To this day, they love reliving that day when I valiantly tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to down a whole cake. Another memorable contest was the one where they didn’t hit their targets, and the whole team had to apply Mike Tyson temporary face tattoos. That picture of our team with matching tattoos is one of my most treasured moments. The solidarity created through playfulness is unparalleled! Since the majority of people who leave a company do so because of their immediate supervisor, adding a splash of silliness helps preserve a healthy work marriage. As Mary Poppins would say, “Find the fun and SNAP! The job’s a game!”
Learn How to Fight With Each Other (Learn Conflict Resolution Techniques)
Conflict Resolution Training (like the kind we offer at OpenSesame) can help both employees and employers do a better job of creating an environment that supports healthy conflict resolution, and teaches them how to approach a problem, how to solve existing issues, and how to achieve collaboration and compromise. This makes your marriage (work or otherwise) happier and more productive!
Never Stop Growing Together (Promote From Within)
One of the easiest way to avoid losing employees altogether is to provide opportunities within the company to grow, either through training or through opportunities to move into other roles. 35% of Millennials have stated “excellent training and development programs” as an important factor when considering working for a company.
Some great options for helping your employees grow are:
- Cross-Training: Similar to how athletes cross-train to activate all their muscle groups, exposing your employees to other roles and tasks in the company expands their skills. Cross-training ensures you have a spare set of hands on deck should an employee become ill or depart, and your employees are more likely to stick around knowing they have options in other departments.
- Job Shadowing: Though not necessarily a training technique, creating a program through which employees can learn about other roles within the company increases the likelihood they will pursue internal opportunities before looking outside the company. Job shadowing is also a useful way to gather information about your training opportunities and promotion process. Are the same questions being asked over and over? There might be a skills gaps that needs to be addressed through online courses. Are managers rarely getting shadowed? Either employees need additional leadership training, or the communication between managers and their employees should be explored.
- Online Training Courses: For the first quarter of our lives, we dedicate ourselves to study in order to prepare ourselves for the future. Yet, as soon as that future arrives, the opportunities for learning either dry up, or we get so busy we can’t find the time. Online training courses, often referred to as elearning, provide your employees with additional learning opportunities they can pursue whenever, and wherever is convenient. Topics can range from task-related training, like creating a pivot table in Excel, or more soft skills focused, such as improving leadership skills. Providing open access to these courses is a great way to create a culture of learning, and encourage your employees to take ownership of their own development.
Don’t Try to Change Each Other (Hire for Company Culture Fit)
Company culture encompasses everything an employee experiences from the minute they walk in for their first day. When looking to make your culture more attractive to employees, first consider your vision and goals for the company. How are these goals communicated to the staff? Is the vision, mission and goals of the company featured throughout the workplace? When employees are aware of and understand what your company values, they are 51 times more likely to be fully engaged.
Company culture should evolve naturally over time, and be primarily driven by employees. This means reviewing your hiring process to determine if your setting employees up for success in your culture from the initial interview. Many skills can be taught, but an individual’s personality is unlikely to change. Hire for fit and provide professional development opportunities to fill in the rest.
Investing in your company culture and professional development programs shows employees you care about their time and futures. Just like a marriage in your personal life, a “work marriage” is hard work too, but your diligence is equally rewarding… And the next time you tell a candidate “We’re one big happy family”—you’ll mean it.