Whether you are a manufacturer or a consultant who is providing similar products and services for the last 20 years, at the core of your organization is the people. An organization's growth is dependent upon how your people work, grow, and challenge your thinking.
It can be difficult to find good people with the proper focus on their positions. They must be developed, or more accurately, supported into the kind of people who will fuel the organization's progress towards bigger and better things.
Simply acknowledging the fact that your employees are critical to your success won't magically make them better employees. In fact, even telling them that they're a critical success factor for your organization won't help either.
Just like a plant, people need the right kind of environment to grow. With a plant you must provide good soil, appropriate amounts of sunshine, and appropriate amounts of water. An organization can provide the key components necessary to encourage a person to grow by providing: a solid foundation (soil), appropriate recognition (sunshine), and appropriate challenge (water). Let's evaluate each of these items in turn.
Soil: Solid Foundation
One of the dichotomies of humans is that we never seek to stretch and grow when we feel threatened about our core needs (food, shelter, belonging, self-esteem). Abraham Maslow is known for creating a hierarchy of basic needs that we all face as humans and the last item on that list of is the need to be self-actualized. In other words, it is the stage at which we crave personal growth and achievement. Without the previous levels on the hierarchy we are simply not conditioned to work on a level of personal growth.
Personal growth, the desire to become more than what you are today, is one of the key components of a highly effective person. It is the kind of person that you want to be around because they will strive to be a better person everyday.
The first component of supporting a staff member into becoming a more valuable person is to make sure that their basic needs are met. It is assumed that staff salary is sufficient to meet their food and shelter needs. The salary may not be all what the person wants or believes they are worth; however, it is generally sufficient for basic food and shelter.
Of course, food and shelter don't solve a person's basic need of feeling like they belong. This is something that you must do for everyone. A feeling of belonging differs from individual to individual. For one person it might be having a company picnic. For another it might be a bowling league of company employees. For others it may be something radically different. Whatever it is to make your staff feel like they are a part of the organization and a part of the group is essential to meeting their basic needs.
Sunshine: Appropriate Recognition
Self-esteem is the next level in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At this level, the person has to believe that they are a genuinely good and valuable. Just like belonging, how people define self-esteem and how they get it differ radically from one person to the next.
In the general case, every person uses a form of recognition by others to mold their self-esteem. In western culture we tend to say that persons with high self-esteem are not driven by what others think. Despite this idealistic view of the world we are all driven to some extent by the feedback we receive from others. A person with high self-esteem just has a higher tolerance for negative feedback than someone with lower self-esteem.