The SESCO Report – October 2014
What Do Employers Want from Their Employees?
Most workplace morale studies and surveys focus on what employees want and need from their managers or employers. It is rare to explore and articulate what employers need and want from their employees. It's time that the tables are turned and employees understand what really makes a good employee. While the responses may differ from manager or organization to the next, some constants hold true – managers need and want employees who can communicate effectively, are willing to wear multiple hats, are dependable, trustworthy and good at their jobs.
Even though these constants are very basic and reasonable, when SESCO fields calls from clients across the country, one of the more common concerns or complaints that we hear is that managers are frustrated with their employees. Complaints include attendance, lack of teamwork, gossiping, not working independently, and simply not interested in or taking ownership of their duties and responsibilities on a daily basis.
Valuable employees share certain characteristics and these are the ones that employers seek above and beyond the ability to fill and perform the basic job duties. If you as an employee are looking to improve, grow and become more valuable, make sure you recognize the following characteristics.
Commitment. Employers need and want employees who are committed to both their job and their employer. An employee committed to achieving their goals and objectives is priceless. Managers and owners especially value employees that, when times are tough, they continue to strive for solutions and refrain from blaming others.
Go the Extra Mile. Employers value an employee who is willing to go above and beyond what is typically required of them on the job. Employees who take on projects that fall outside their normal responsibilities and can expand their skill set and explore new avenues for professional growth are highly valued. While employees may not always have the time to volunteer for an extra assignment, passing on every opportunity, stating "That's not my job," prevents employees from being viewed by managers as valuable and irreplaceable.
Wear Multiple Hats. Employees who simply show up just to do their job as assigned are not increasing their value. Employees who ultimately succeed are those that show an eager willingness to do whatever needs to get done, not just what's in the job description.
Positive Attitude. Managers expect a very positive attitude from all employees. This is non-negotiable for providing professional and quality service to the customers that the organization serves. Additionally, a positive attitude drives success. It is contagious and others will certainly notice it. Negative employees and naysayers are a drag on the culture and the organization.
Decision-Makers. Experts agree that all employees must have the ability to think critically and make appropriate decisions on a daily basis. Most organization managers or owners cannot or do not want to micromanage their employees, but often they are forced to because employees lack critical thinking skills. Ideally, managers and owners would like to say, "I trust you to make decisions that are good for our customers and our organization" and then let employees come up with their own solutions.
Passion. Organization managers are very passionate about their "cause." Thus, it is critical for employers to find employees who are just as passionate about their profession as is their manager. When an employee believes strongly in the organization's mission and purpose, their job is no longer a job. It is a calling. However, there are many employees who do not possess this passion and as such, do not meet the needs and wants of the organization.
Organized. Most organizations are doing more with less because of ever tightening profit margins as well as shrinking qualified applicant pool. Thus, it is critical that employees be organized. Employees should always be adding value and the best way to destroy your value is to not have your own daily responsibilities and work organized. This can be as simple as properly naming files, maintaining customer folders, making notes and a to-do list on a daily basis, and studying and preparing the details for the next day.
Unfortunately, many managers find that some employees simply are just not dependable. It is critical that the manager can count on his or her employees to show up on time and do the work that they are being compensated to perform. Easily stated and understood but more commonly an issue.
Communication. In today's organization, communication is a skill of utmost importance. Employees must have excellent communication skills to include oral, written, telephone and email. Employees who are highly valued are able to succinctly and effectively articulate thoughts. An effective communicator leaves no room for error and exhibits thoughts in a direct and clear manner. An effective communicator thinks before he or she speaks or hits "enter" before sending an email. An effective communicator also uses proper grammar and punctuation.
Conscientious. Employees must be conscientious and as such, this proves to be a top indicator of good job performance within the organization. Valued employees pay attention to details and conduct themselves in a manner which is necessary to properly serve. As such, no detail is too small in customer service. Customers will notice and appreciate an employee being conscientious.
Positive Representation. Finally, managers seek individuals that will enhance their organization and their reputation. Managers want employees who are trustworthy, have solid reputations – inside and outside of work – and have excellent work ethics. Valued employees have a strong sense of what is appropriate in the workplace and outside and they know how to balance the two. Employees, in the end, represent the organization, its owners, and services and thus, can make or break the reputation of the organization.
Over 75 years ago, Elbert Hubbard wrote these suggestions:
"If you work for a man, in heaven's name, work for him. If he pays you wages that supply your bread and butter work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man, I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of his time, but all of his time. I would give undivided service or none. If put in a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn, and eternal disparage, why, resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart's content. But, I pray you, so long as you are a part of the institution, do not condemn it. Not that you will injure the institution – not that – but, when you disparage the concern of which you are a part, you disparage yourself."
The True Professional
All positions within any organization bring with them a requirement for excellence. And striving for excellence in all phases of work is the mark of a true professional.
As we explore "professionalism," this article focuses on the qualities that characterize a professional individual or employee. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines professionalism as "the qualities that characterize...a profession." The idea of professionalism originates from standards set for prestigious occupations like medicine and law, but now applies to all areas and positions of employment.
Demonstrating professionalism on the job every day is critical for all positions. First of all, professionalism is critical to your customers. Professionalism ensures customer satisfaction. Professionalism builds customers' confidence in both you and the organization. When you are competent and business-like, your customers are reassured that their needs will be met in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Further, professionalism is critical to the organization and its reputation. For those that you serve, you represent what the organization is all about. Their image of the organization is dependent upon the impression that you make on others. In other words, your organization benefits directly every time you make a favorable impression.
Finally, your professionalism is of vital importance to you personally. When you look and act the part of a competent and successful professional, you feel that way too. You gain more self-respect; you gain more respect from others inside and outside the workplace. A professional attitude will smooth your path when you are attempting to establish good relationships, and it will, therefore, make your job easier. Needless to say, your co-workers and superiors are also influenced by your professionalism. When you show professionalism in your work, you are presenting an image of yourself that says, "I am proud of who I am, and I care about what I do."
As with good health, the absence of professionalism is usually more obvious than it is when it's present. Who will ever notice whether you are professional or not? Your superior definitely will as will your customers and co-workers and certainly the lack of professionalism will affect your success in your job and in your career. So what can you do to make sure you exhibit professionalism and what can you do to ensure that you don't show a lack of it? All employees in the organization should follow these do's and don'ts of professionalism:
• Always be on time. Showing up late for work or meetings immediately gives the impression that you don't care about your job or those you are serving. Not only do you need to be on time for work and meetings, but also be on time when leaving and returning from breaks, lunch or personal errands.
• Don't be a grump. All of us have good and bad days. However, the professional leaves bad moods at the door when they come to work. Remember not to take your bad mood out on co-workers and especially your customers. If work is what's causing you to be grumpy, it may be time to rethink your profession.
• Dress professionally. For many positions in the organization, suits and ties are required. However, all employees should always be neat and clean and wear appropriate attire. Even if you wear a suit and tie to work, always wear ironed dress shirts, polished shoes and pressed suits. Always follow dress code standards and always pay close attention to your grooming. Ensure your hair, nails and appearance are always clean and well kept. A professional appearance is very important as part of your profession and also builds self-esteem which, in turn, will increase your confidence. In addition, a professional appearance will influence your co-workers' respect for you as a professional.
• Watch your mouth. There is absolutely no place for any swearing, cursing or inappropriate language in any workplace. If you wouldn't say it to your grandmother, refrain from saying it at work even if you think it is in private and with a close colleague. You never know who may overhear you or what habits may develop. Using bad language makes you look bad and it also makes it seem as if your vocabulary is limited.
• Offer to help colleagues. A true professional is always willing to help his or her co-workers when they need help or are overburdened. Additionally, a professional isn't afraid to share knowledge, experiences or simply an extra pair of hands. A true professional will become a mentor to others and share their experiences and success.
• Don't gossip. While you may be tempted to tell your colleagues what you heard about someone in the workplace or about a customer, gossiping makes you look like a juvenile or a middle school student. Also, you must always expect if you tell a close co-worker, "Don't tell anyone but did you hear about...?" you must assume it will be spread further. Gossip hurts others; gossip is workplace poison and certainly gossiping is non-productive and not professional. If someone wants to tell you something, re: gossip, you should let them know that you are not interested. For if you participate in gossip as a listener, you are no better than if you were a gossiper yourself.
• Always remain positive. Negativity at work brings everyone down and your superiors certainly will not appreciate a drop in morale among staff. Instead, if you think something can be improved, either try to do something about it or simply meet with your manager or organization owner and discuss your suggestions or concerns.
• Listen. A professional demonstrates good communications skills, especially the ability to actively and accurately listen. Listening includes showing interest in what is being said to you. Always show your co-workers or customers that you are interested in what they have to say. Always have good eye contact and show interest with your facial and body movements. Lean toward them and nod approval. Paying attention to what is being said is also good listening. Don't give the impression that you are not fully there in body and mind. Always focus your full attention on your co-worker or customer who is communicating with you.
• Telephone and email etiquette. A professional has good telephone etiquette which includes the following: speaks slowly and clearly, ensure your voice mail message is helpful, listen attentively and don't interrupt, introduce yourself by name as well as the organization, always thank the person for their time, follow-up with voice messages as soon as possible no later than the same day. As for email etiquette, consider: be formal and not sloppy, keep messages brief and to the point, use sentence case – using all capital letters looks as if you are shouting and using all lowercase letters looks lazy, don't use email as an excuse to avoid personal contact, remember that email isn't private and you must assume that whatever you put in an email will be read by someone that it was not intended, don't participate in chain letters and don't email anything that is not work related. Finally, always remember that your tone can be heard in an email. Emails should always contain a signature that includes contact information.
When considering your personal professionalism, do the following:
• Think of yourself and others as professionals.
• Treat people the way you wish to be treated.
• Be friendly and helpful.
• Consider the opinions and feelings of others.
• Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
• Take time to make others feel comfortable.
• Always conduct yourself expertly in the performance of your job.
• Always look the part!
It is true! Being a valued employee of an organization requires certain obligations on your part as well as that of the organization. It is important to take pride in yourself and it is equally important to take pride in the organization.
SESCO Client Feedback
"SESCO keeps us in compliance with accurate data and analysis. They are very knowledgeable and concise. Good value for the fee." ~ Paul Fields, SPHR — Environmental Science
"Joel did an excellent job of explaining how he was going to handle our EEOC case. I can honestly say that it was my pleasure to work with Joel and Jamie in tough times at our company. SESCO is a true asset to our company with great customer service, they will always be honest and candid with you." ~ Dave Garcia, CEO — Contractors Precast Corp
"Jamie's analysis was thorough; process was seamless. I liked her professionalism and quality of work." ~ Glenda McMurtrie, HR — Southeastern Virginia Health System
"I requested DiSC Profiles for candidates. These provide insight before the interview. SESCO is easy to work with, responsive, and pleasant." ~ Stephanie Sherrill — Comfort Systems — South Central
Special Thanks to New SESCO Clients!
City of Johnson City
Johnson City, TN
American Subcontractors Association (ASA)
Home Health Options Group, Inc.
Fairfax Nursing Center
1st Class Sleep Diagnostics
National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA)
SESCO Client Inquiry — Staff Response
Question: What guidelines must employers follow when an employee submits an FMLA certification that is vague or incomplete?
Answer: Obtaining a complete and sufficient Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) certification is a commonly used process for employers. It enables the employer to determine if the leave request is covered under FMLA and provides clarification on the terms of the absence. A certification is considered incomplete if one or more of the entries have not been completed or the information provided is vague or ambiguous. In such cases, the employer must inform the employee in writing about the specific information necessary to make the certification complete and sufficient. Employers must give the employee seven calendar days to correct the deficiencies in the certification. If the employee fails to return the certification, absent extenuating circumstances, FMLA leave may be denied.