My employees do great work and never seem to slack. They are hardly ever late to work; however, they make a point to leave within seconds of the official quitting time every day. Regardless of what they are working on or what is happening, they will get up, gather their things, and walk out the door at 5:00 pm on the dot. I don’t require my employees to stay after hours, but when they leave abruptly, it makes me feel as if my employees view their work hours as a punishment they are all sentenced to serve. As a CEO, how can I spark excitement and engagement so that my employees enjoy the workplace and aren’t rushing for the door as if they are fleeing a prison as soon as the clock strikes 5?
It’s hard not to take it personally when your employees don’t seem as passionate about your company as you do. Not everyone is going to view the work they do as a fun way to pass the time, and only a small fraction of people work because they want to. For most, employment is a necessity and a way to make ends meet so that they can afford their way of life.
You’d be surprised the number of bosses who consider firing clock-watching employees before trying to express the real issue their workplace feels like a jail cell. Coincidentally, these are the same bosses who wonder why no one likes them.
I find it refreshing that you’re writing in to ask about how to make your workplace better for your employees. You seem like a reasonable employer who is more concerned about employee well-being and workplace culture over wanting to punish clock-watchers. Let’s examine why are your employees are leaping for the door as soon as it’s quitting time.
You probably imagine the worst-case scenarios, so let's just get those things out of the way first:
- They hate their jobs and want to quit.
- They hate your company and its products.
- They hate you for being the worst boss ever.
While a tiny fraction of people may feel these things, it isn’t likely that your entire employee pool actually hates anything about you or your company. So, now that we’re through being irrational let’s look at a few other reasons they lack enthusiasm for the company.
- They produce great work, but it goes unrecognized.
- They like their job but feel uninspired to do more than the bare minimum.
- They have lives outside of the workplace and appreciate work-life.
One of the best solutions for keeping employees excited and focused on their work is to recognize them for their contributions. People want fulfillment in the work they do. They want to know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. Employees who don’t feel like they are making a difference are more prone to checking out and moving on to things that meet their need for fulfillment. When was the last time you said thank you to an employee who stayed after hours to finish a project? Can you remember a time when you addressed the staff as a whole or congratulated an individual on completing an important task? When employees are recognized for the work they are doing, their attitudes toward the work shift and become more positive. Over time, their dedication increases as they strive to reach the next level of recognition.
Introducing recognition or rewards programs in your workplace can also be inspiring. A great employee recognition program implements both tangible and intangible rewards. For smaller, everyday task completion, saying “thank you” or “great job” can go a long way to keep an employee inspired. In other instances, you may want to put the carrot in front of the horse. Tangible rewards like branded merchandise, gift cards, and pre-paid experiences inspire employees to work hard towards meeting their goals.
In all, life is about finding the perfect balance between the amount of work and play we do each day. Good on you for not wishing to implement lofty overtime requirements to keep employees “locked away” longer than the average workday. But it’s also important to provide employees with a workplace culture they want. You might express your appreciation for work-life balance by implementing a few engagement activities they can do as a staff to bring some fun and laughter into the workplace. By respecting their need for balance, you are showing your employees that you trust them to get their work done within a reasonable amount of time even while they are allowed to take a break to have some fun or leave early. You can create a workplace that is successful without making your employees feel like they are serving a life sentence in some company where you play the part of Warden. It takes time and effort to build workplace cultures that are thriving with engagement, but if you dedicate yourself to creating it, it can be accomplished.