As a leader, you have a sacred responsibility to your team. You must make the 33% (how much the average person spends working over a lifetime) matter. And in today’s war on talent, it is especially important that employees find their work meaningful. Otherwise, you may be working to keep your team staffed. Let’s take a look at these five actionable steps to creating a positive and meaningful work environment — that makes coming to work worth it.

5 Steps to a Human-centered Workplace

1. Over Communicate

According to a 2021 study of workplace communication, 86% of employees and executives cite that the lack of effective collaboration and communication are one of the main causes for workplace failures. But you don’t need a study to tell you this, right? Late communication, incomplete communication or no communication at all is infuriating for team members. Beyond that, it makes their work harder and can often leave them feeling embarrassed since it looks like they dropped the ball when in actuality, the boss did.

Leaders should communicate early and often. They should forecast as far in advance as they can and share information about requests, deadlines, updates and all things relevant to the team as soon as they’re able. And when a communication is missed, managers should own it and apologize. The team will appreciate the humility. But leaders can’t make a habit of communicating poorly. People will resent the lack of predictability. It will affect their job performance and the team’s bottom line.

2. Define Roles

In one study, 43% of employees reported that their day-to-day role isn’t what they had been led to believe it would be during the hiring process. That means almost half of the workforce is doing something different than what they believe they were hired to do. And when we ask teams to share, as precisely as possible, what exactly their role is and what they’re accountable for, they often can’t.

Think about that: There are people all over the workforce who don’t know exactly what their job is. Of course, expecting excellence from someone who doesn’t even fully know their role is insane. Like expecting a pilot who doesn’t have the coordinates to fly you to the city you want to go to.

Managers and team leads need to define everything for the people on their teams. Down to every last detail. They should ensure that there’s zero confusion around every last component of the job. Then, they can invite feedback from the team around things the team is unclear on. Managers should make it a goal that every last piece of everyone’s job is crystal clear to them

3. Have Meetings that Matter

Employees are busy. Which is why every meeting needs to matter. A part of achieving greatness is ensuring alignment, problem-solving together and continuing to build team culture. But having, what we call, “meetings to nowhere,” that are missing agendas, that start late and end late, that meander aimlessly with no clear goals or outputs, is unfair to everyone on the team. The team will resent it. Instead, leaders should ensure each meeting has a purpose. These meetings should be agenda-driven where every aspect is publicly timed, where goals are determined in advance and where everyone is accountable. Yes, it’s more work for leaders. But it’s what the team deserves.

4. Hold People Accountable

The quickest way to obliterate team culture is to not hold people accountable. Many employers think of accountability as a bad word. It’s not. It’s actually the fairest thing an employer can do. Employees deserve the support that comes with holding them accountable, and the team as a whole needs to know that the same rules apply to everyone. But many leaders seem to be allergic to accountability. They shy away from asking people why their deliverables are late. They see or hear something that doesn’t align with the company’s values and they walk in the other direction. Or, potentially worse, they barge into that person’s office and have an angry, accusatory conversation with them. Accountability is used to ensure that everyone does what the group previously agreed upon. And when they don’t, naming it and finding out why. It’s not something to be avoided or something to get angry about. It’s simply about bridging the gap between where you all are and where you’re striving to get to.

5. Scrap the Gift Cards

Most managers want to show appreciation for their team members. This is a good thing. And sometimes that appreciation takes the shape of a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Which, again, can be a good thing. The issue is that giving someone a gift card when communication is late, expectations for their work are unclear, valuable feedback is sparse or nonexistent and authentic appreciation is missing will fall flat. The global workforce has shared how hollow these gestures are when what they’d really appreciate are ultra-clear expectations, accountability for everyone on the team and genuine appreciation.

To ensure a human-centric work environment (that makes work suck less) employers should focus on creating a culture of care. They should focus on how their role impacts their team by meeting their employees’ needs and expectations in the moment. This way, they don’t have to depend on empty gestures and $5 gift cards to win their people back.

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