How to Empower Employees to Raise the Bar
In any business, employees are quick to notice where the bar is set for everything. They notice how to dress, when to arrive, how late to stay, and even how hard to work. Employees interpret subliminal messages from leadership and other employees, and many get comfortable working only to the bar that has been set. But what can companies do if the bar starts to drop dangerously low? What is the most effective way for employers to raise the bar and inspire employees to set higher standards? Here’s how to empower employees to raise the bar and ultimately raise results.
Evaluate Where Standards Are Dropping
To raise the bar for employees, companies must first identify areas of focus and set higher, yet realistic new expectations. Start with on one area at a time and focus on what is measurable. For example, if the bar should be higher as far as resolved customer inquiries per day, what is a realistic new goal? Survey employees anonymously. Consider employee strengths and individual perspectives.
Then, communicate the new standard and how to be successful. It is important to be considerate and not expect too big of a jump at one time. The very best work will ultimately come from employees who feel heard and are intrinsically motivated to do more.
Set achievable goals. “While you may be thinking that you’re “just pushing them (employees) to be the best,” you may actually be setting them up to fail. Step back and reconsider whether your constant pushing may have unwanted side effects,” says Ron Carucci in Harvard Business Review. Do not set the bar based on an outlier. The bar some employees set for themselves is beyond what most people may be able to handle.
Leaders, Raise Your Own Bar
The best way to set a bar higher is by leader example. LinkedIn contributor Muralidharan Jayaram says, “Poor standards prevail because either you (leaders) are ignorant or unaware of them, or you tolerate them. It is time to change, and it must begin with you. One of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to raise the standards constantly and achieve them consistently.” If leadership accepts substandard work from themselves, they’ll only get average work from others.
Standards apply not only to the quality or amount of work but also to the opportunities chosen. If leadership says yes to average projects, there will be no time for exceptional ones. “Innovation is the key factor for companies to gain competitive advantage,” says Jayaram. “Companies which succeed challenge and find new ways of doing things. They constantly raise their standards.”
Empower over Dictate
While expectations should be clearly established and communicated, employees will ultimately work harder when they feel empowered. This means that employees should see a clear path to success. Leaders should work to pair employees to jobs where they can show their strengths because strong managers coach employee strengths. Empower teams to overcome obstacles and praise work constantly.
Provide opportunities to grow. There are many ways to create employee happiness and growth opportunities. These include mentoring programs, training programs, and investing in each person as an individual contributor.
As you set the bar higher, think about creating SMART goals. This acronym stands for goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. For example, when will leaders know that employees are working to the new bar that has been set?
Ultimately, raising a bar means creating employee buy in. If employees want to raise the bar, they care about the company’s growth along with their own growth. “Anyone looking to raise their personal standards will need a motivation beyond simply wanting to do better. The key to sustaining a new standard is longevity… The discipline to stick with anything is directly proportionate to the desire you have to reach the goal,” says Marty Fukuda of Entrepreneur.
Written exclusively for Artemis Consultants by Content Writer Mellody Melville