Monday, July 29, 2013

Get the Best From Your Employee

What makes a job "a great place to work?" One of the top responses to this question may be "people," and it is true that your coworkers can seriously influence your work experience, but as this Times article suggests, it may not be just your coworkers influencing your work day. "Make sure you have the tools to be effective" and "Understanding Expectations" are the top two ways Time suggests improving your work environment.  Not surprisingly, these two headings fall under the category of Training. Let's take a look at these in more detail:

If an employee is unclear on anything, it can make for a stressful work environment.  And let's face it, there is a lot to be unclear about: job descriptions, policies, procedures, etc.  Just within the day-to-day tasks such as shelving there is a lot of room for confusion.  This is a critical training issue.

Trainers must work closely and develop a good, communicative relationship with managers in order to set clear expectations.  Before training any employee, it is essential to completely understand the expectations yourself so that you can transfer the knowledge accurately.  Within the training, expectations should be communicated again and again through objectives, learning outcomes, and follow-up.  Once the training is completed, staff will learn through repetition and with the encouragement of management. Communication is key for staff to recognize what is expected of them.  Once communication stops, doubt creeps in.  It is essential for staff to always know where they stand within the organization: reiterating their roles and purpose can keep employees from becoming disengaged or, even worse, actively disengaged.  Telling a staff member they are doing a great job is nice, but telling them why they are doing a great job is even better.  It's not just about the keeping lines open between employee, trainer, and manager, it's about the quality of information that is passing through those lines.

But it's not just about communication, it's about giving your employees what they need to do the job well.  17% of employees are actively disengaged, meaning they spend work time acting out their unhappiness. And with only 29% being actively engaged, this means most employees are just there to do a job.  But those numbers don't have reflect your organization - not if you put effort into engaging all your employees through training opportunities.

Giving employees the tools to be effective in their job is more than teaching policies and procedures - it's about providing the means to get the job done.  In a library, training your employees on databases, eBooks, reader's advisory, etc will help them perform well.  There is no job satisfaction in being asked a question and having to stumble through the answer.  If nothing, it can be embarrassing.  You can engage employees by listening to their needs and providing the tools for them to be successful.  If training does nothing but break up a monotonous workday for staff, it has at least accomplished something.  As little as that seems, it means a whole lot to employees who get burned out doing the same routine.

Sometimes, what people want to know and learn may seemingly have nothing to do with their jobs - and that's okay.  Professional development can often lead us into strange territory, but that's the whole point.  Take, for example, my desire to learn HTML.  It doesn't really have much to do with my job unless you consider the occasional customer who asks a reference question. When given the time to learn it, however, I accomplished two things: (1) job satisfaction and (2) career growth.  Just because coding is not my job now, doesn't mean it can't be in the future, and that's important to remember. As trainers and managers, it is highly rewarding to help staff reach professional goals - even if it results in them leaving the organization or pursuing a different career - because goals which develop employees both professionally and personally are an ideal way to keep your library innovative.  By taking advantage of staff knowledge, you can simultaneously grow your organization and its employees.

It's important to remember that professional development is key for all staff - not just the degree holding professionals.  All library staff have skills, talents, and interests that could possibly benefit the organization.  Through training and professional development, you create more opportunities to engage staff and, ultimately, inspire organizational growth.

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