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Make a Wish--Here’s What Tops Employees’ Wish Lists

Posted by Elaine Varelas  December 5, 2011 09:00 AM

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by Elaine Varelas

We’ve all seen the stereotypes of bad bosses in the media: the Ogre, the Scrooge, the Sexist, and the Dictator. The portrayal of crummy bosses garners big laughs and big bucks. The movie Horrible Bosses, The Office television show, and the Dilbert comic strip all capitalize on clueless, nasty, and punishing leaders. Of course, these are popular for a reason. Most of us can relate to the caricature of the hideous employer. It may resonate even more today since employees have been knocked around by the recession (lay-offs, cut backs, and skeleton crews) and the oh-so-slow climb out of it.

As another economically tumultuous year winds down, many corporate leaders are making their pleas to Santa with their business wish lists. They’re wishing for an influx of new business, bigger operating budgets, and a year flush with cash. As an HR professional in your organization, you are helping these wishes come true with your talent management strategies and programs. At the same time, you’re also probably making your gift lists for your kids, best friend, and grandmother. As the holidays approach and the frenzy ensues, don’t forget the wish list of the VIPs of your organization--your employees.

If your employees could be candid and honest with you about what they want and need from your organization, what would they say? Here at The Hire Authority we’ve persuaded employees to whisper in our ear about their wish list. These wishes are not just from your current employees, but we also contacted the ghosts of employees past and future (we are the Hire Authority after all!). Here’s what HR professionals can do to tune into employees’ needs and help meet them:

All we are saying is give us a chance--John Lennon may have been referring to Peace on Earth when he sang this line, but employees are setting their sights on something else: they want a chance to work for you. The current trend of employers becoming extremely rigid in their hiring criteria (only hiring people who are currently employed or have an exact experience match) automatically excludes too many highly talented people from the hiring mix. HR managers should encourage their organizations’ leaders to take that chance on the people who aren’t a perfect fit, but would still be a valuable addition to the team. People have a long memory. When the war for talent heats up, those people will remember that your organization didn’t give them a chance in 2011 and will reciprocate.

Try generosity--Amid the budget cuts and belt tightening so prevalent today, employers are becoming less generous. Companies are slashing perks, foregoing bonuses, and cutting programs. One company in New England whose offices lost power after a freak October snow storm, forced employees to use their vacation time during the days the office was closed. Yikes! Try being generous and not just sticking to the letter of the law. Think less Ebenezer, more Santa. Benevolent organizations have happier employees, and happiness breeds loyalty and productivity.

Let me “get a life”-- Employees want a life outside of work. They want flexibility and don’t want to be penalized for taking advantage of that flexibility. They will get the work done, especially if their employers give them access to the technology to do it. Of course, just because they have technology, doesn’t mean they are available 24/7. HR professionals can help employees strike the right work/life balance.

Invest in our development--Development, training, and continuing education shouldn’t be reserved for just the executive-level superstars. Your leaders were once junior employees too. As budgets continue to tighten, organizations can’t forget about developing future stars. There should be companywide development programs, mentor programs, stretch assignments to make sure that every employee has the chance to be the executive-level superstar.

Give thanks--Too often, employees aren’t recognized for the work they do. A manager takes all the credit or believes that saying “thank you” isn’t important. It may be difficult for organizational leaders to recognize employees with money or promotions during lean times, but HR professionals can still encourage a culture where employees are thanked for the work they do.

Treat us like talent--Employees are the engine who bring in business, deal with clients, and grow the business. They are the organization’s talent and should be treated as such. How do you treat talent? Famous rock stars and actors may demand champagne and green M&Ms, but employees just want to be treated fairly and with respect. They don’t want to be seen as human resources, but as human beings.

As you put together your gift list for the holidays, don’t forget to include your organization’s employees. HR professionals can help ensure that leadership is aware of their employees’ needs and help to institute policies that will retain and delight employees during the holidays and all year long. Happy holidays to you and yours!

Elaine Varelas is a Managing Partner at Keystone Partners, a Boston-based career consulting firm.

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Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.