What Do People Really Want?

Posted by in Blogs, Ty Kiisel: Strategic Project Management

That’s probably the $100,000 question.

Earlier this month, writing for Inc. Magazine, Jeff Haden wrote, “Forget about raises and better benefits. Those are important—but this is what your staff really wants.”

Reading his article, he shares many of the concepts I’ve come to appreciate as important within a project environment over the years. Monetary compensation is important, but I believe it’s only a concern when we don’t pay people enough for any particular job role to take the “money” conversation off the table. With that said, I’m aware that as project managers we don’t usually have any control over what the members of our project teams are paid, but we are able to do some of the things Haden is suggesting:

  1. Freedom: “Autonomy and latitude breed engagement and satisfaction,” he writes. I totally agree. Those closest to the work understand it the best and should be allowed to participate in the project planning process. They should be empowered to make decisions about their work. This is something that takes place every day with Scrum teams, in my opinion, it should be a best practice within all project-based work.
  2. Targets: “Targets create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks,” argues Haden. Goals help people stay focused on on task. Saying that, I’m an advocate of SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Unfortunately, organizations often only give lip-service to SMART goals. The mantra for project teams is often, “Get’r done” and “Get’r done now.”
  3. Mission: Haden suggests, “Let employees know what you want to achieve, for your business, for customers, and even your company.” People generally want to contribute to something meaningful. When you share the mission of any particular project, people can get behind it and perform at a higher level. Nobody wants to feel that they are doing the meaningless labor of a mindless drone.
  4. Expectations: Haden writes, “Few things are more stressful than not knowing what your boss expects from one minute to the next.” I couldn’t agree more. If expectations aren’t clear, it makes it difficult for team members to perform. If I know what is expected of me, I’m more likely to deliver what’s needed than if I’m constantly guessing about what the definition of success might be. Part of being a project manager is leading individuals on the team in such a way that they can succeed.
  5. Input: “Make it easy for employees to offer suggestions,” he suggests. When we shut down ideas without consideration or don’t create a project environment where people can freely share ideas and collaborate, we create mindless automatons—which isn’t good for them, it isn’t good for the project and it isn’t good for the organization.
  6. Connection: I have long believed that, “Employees don’t want to work for a paycheck; they want to work with and for people.” Business is all personal—whether or not we choose to believe it. I have long felt that a cordial and polite environment is critical to a successful team environment. What’s more, it goes both ways, rude and self-absorbed team members are as detrimental to a well-functioning team as a project manager who is a jerk. A friendly conversation once in a while isn’t a waste of time—people need to make connections to their colleagues on a personal level to perform at their best.
  7. Consistency: Haden argues, “While you should treat each employee differently, you must treat each employee fairly. (There is a difference.)” I’ve had to guess which boss showed up for work today before. Haden is right. It’s much easier to work with consistent personalities and consistent expectations. I think everyone should have the opportunity to train a puppy. Consistency is the key to a well-trained adult dog. Being consistent might not come naturally to some people, but both project managers and team members would benefit from bring a consistent demeanor to the workplace.
  8. Future: “Every job should have the potential to lead to something more, either within or outside your company,” writes Haden. Giving people an opportunity to learn new skills to help them stretch and grow withing the team or the organization is a good practice. I believe that helping team members advance their careers is important as a leader or manager. People want to know that they are not in a “dead-end” position.

None of Haden’s eight suggestions are really rocket science, but project leaders who take the time and use the right tools to foster this type of environment and are more likely to lead consistently successful projects. Is there anything we should add to the list?