Here's What Employees Want From Their Leaders

Hint: It's more than perks and privileges.

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By John Boitnott

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many employers assume that team members want a good paycheck, health insurance plan and generous vacation time. While those are all important elements of any job, most employees look for more than these traditional perks from their leaders. If you want to build and retain quality teams of talented people, you'll need to learn what matters most to them.

According to the 2020 Global Culture Report by the O.C. Tanner Institute, certain problems plague employers and their employees across all industries. Researchers studied more than 20,000 employees and leaders all over the world and found that employee burnout is a growing concern. Nearly 80 percent of employees said they're experiencing "some level of burnout" at work.

This burnout shows that traditional leadership and employment styles aren't working as well anymore. Literally every entrepreneur I've talked to says burnout may be disrupting at least one team member from doing their best work at almost any time. It causes problems because it means they have to always be searching for new talent, and that disrupts execution of projects and overall company cash flow. To prevent burnout and improve employee retention, it's important to think about employees's needs now.

Workers want value from their leaders, and they're looking for an engaging work environment. Below are some of the most important elements great leaders can provide.

Related: Want to Be a Better Leader? Show Employees You Care.

Work-Life Balance

Establishing work-life balance is key in preventing employee burnout and promoting overall well-being. When employees don't feel like they belong or feel unheard by their employer, they face an increased risk of burnout. With remote work becoming increasingly possible, employees want flexibility in terms of both where and when they work. While your business may be following the 9-to-5 schedule, adding some variation, such as letting employees start and end their days earlier, can allow parents to be home to get their kids off the bus or to bring them to after-school activities.

Mentoring and Communication

Only 54 percent of employees reported that their leaders knew what they did at work, highlighting the importance of increased mentoring and communication in the workplace. This lack of communication can be aggravated by the fact that many employees now work remotely, reducing face-to-face interactions that would occur naturally in the office.

Establishing employee mentoring, regular check-ins and other communication methods, like video conference calls, can enhance communication both between employees and leaders and between employees and their peers. One-on-one meetings provide valuable opportunities for employees to feel heard and appreciated. With regular, effective communication, leaders can learn about and identify problems employees are having early on, before they contribute to a full burnout.

Improved Employee Experience

Rather than focusing on the concrete perks employees receive, the employee experience refers more to how workers think about how they interact with their organizations. The employee experience is closely linked to workplace culture, and you can improve both by giving your employees micro-experiences that give them opportunities for leadership, appreciation and well-being. For instance, checking in with your employees and asking about how they're doing and any accommodations they may need can help them feel better appreciated and understood. Sending an employee flowers and a sympathy card after the death of a family member establishes empathy. These actions may seem minor, but they can improve the employee experience and create a lasting positive impression.

Related: Looking for Great Leadership? These 10 Companies Are Leading the Way.

By embracing employees's changing priorities and values, you can increase employee satisfaction and help to prevent burnout. Employees are a company's greatest asset, and greater retention and talent make for a better bottom line and culture.

Consider the areas where your company may be coming up short and see what changing your approach does for employee engagement, happiness and job satisfaction. When you understand and offer what employees want from their leaders, you can not only retain the great team members you have, but also better attract quality employees in the future.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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