When I was an Army officer, there were three things that you had to make sure you never screwed up for your soldiers: their pay, their food, and their mail. Why? It was, as they say, the very least you could do for them. As an employer, what do you absolutely have to get right for your people?
In business, there are three areas, three implicit promises, which you need to deliver on for your employees:
1. Sufficient Compensation.
Are pay and benefits commensurate with the type of work and the skill sets, experience, training, and education required for it? In addition to sufficient compensation, you need to ensure consistent compensation. Are people paid on time? Are direct deposits hitting the banks when they should be? You can never mess around with someone’s compensation.
Ambiguity leads to a host of nasty work-related problems, including performance issues for your people, and, by extension, your organization. You cannot run a company by guessing – or by making your people guess what you want or need. Avoid uncertainty and doubt by clearly communicating expectations and ensuring KPIs, policies, and procedures are well known and unequivocal. The more clarity you provide, the higher morale and productivity you’ll get.
The single biggest detriment to morale and culture in an organization is a failure to be fair. This shows up as favoritism, disparity in pay, unequal opportunity for advancement, and any number of other insidious behaviors. If people perceive that you or the organization in general do not use the same playbook for everyone, your best people – your A players – will leave.
Why do officers hold their soldiers’ pay, food, and mail sacrosanct? Because messing with them messes with morale, and you do not want disengaged soldiers. In business, failing to provide sufficient compensation, clarity, and fairness has the same effect, and the consequences can be catastrophic for your company’s culture – and your ability to compete. Getting these right is the very least you can do for your people.