3 Things Your Employees Absolutely Need From You

3 Things Your Employees Absolutely Need From You

By: Ben Peterson, CEO and Co-founder, BambooHR @hwhl

We say this a lot in HR: if you create a great place to work, great work takes place. But “great” is pretty vague, and you might still be wondering what defines a great workplace and how to make sure you’re creating one.

While there’s a different secret sauce for every organization that makes it successful, keeps its employees happy, and creates business growth, there are fundamental truths that remain. For example, employees want competitive salaries and good health insurance. This much is obvious. However, whether or not they come out and say it, employees are also seeking more in their workplace. They need strong communication, gratitude, and even love. That’s right, love.

If you can integrate communication, gratitude and love into your workplace, you can truly make it a great place to work. Those three simple elements will dramatically improve your work environment, increase employee retention, and even boost productivity and profitability. That’s what we mean when we say that great workplaces create great work.


¬†Managers should communicate expectations and goals to their specific team members–that’s a given. The type of communication I’m specifically referring to happens at the macro level, and it’s about more than goal-setting and strategy. Company leaders have a responsibility to communicate their organization’s mission and values, not only to their customers, but first and foremost to their employees. Clearly defining and regularly articulating your mission makes it a part of the company vernacular. When everyone understands they’re all working for a common goal, they can look past everyday issues and clear away roadblocks to achieve it without creating unnecessary tension.

And like your mission, your company values should be something your employees know by heart and can incorporate into daily tasks, with the reinforcing knowledge that their leaders are living and breathing those values as well. Values should be meaningful, motivational, and authentic to your DNA as an organization, not merely chosen to inspire trust from your customers or draw talent from the labor pool.

One of our core values is to “Be Open.” We encourage a workplace culture where people can express their opinions and speak with candor. We’ve come to realize that nearly all business problems are communication problems, and making good communication a core value helps facilitate those tough conversations that need to happen.

Values don’t have to be static, either. “Assume the Best” is our pledge to listen without prejudice and understand that criticism comes from a shared intention to improve and succeed together. We added this value after Be Open, thinking it might be a good idea to clarify our message encouraging honest and free communication with a reminder that we’re all working toward a common goal.


The goal is to make showing and feeling gratitude regular parts of your company culture. Your team members want to be recognized for the work they do, and by offering recognition you acknowledge their importance to you and the success of the whole organization. Gratitude doesn’t have to be a free trip to the Caribbean or a pay raise–it can be as simple as a note or a shout-out in a meeting–but it has to come from the heart. When employees feel valued for their talents and the good work they do, they become engaged. Engaged employees are happier in the workplace and more likely to stick around. Higher employee retention not only boosts employee productivity, but can also dramatically affect your bottom line. If this isn’t incentive enough, I don’t know what is.

Gratitude doesn’t have to be a top-down phenomenon; it should also be reciprocated from employee to company. Assuming employees are given reason to be grateful, and a culture of gratitude exists, they will show their own gratitude in ways that help everyone. Mentorship is a great example: when employees receive direct mentoring that challenges them to be better and to enhance their skillset, they feel grateful to the organization for nurturing them and investing in their continual education, and this gratitude will likely lead to improved production and even retention.


And now we come to love–the point that maybe raised a cynical flag in the back of your mind when you saw it mentioned as a critical element for success. There is indeed room for love in the workplace, and it’s critical that you realize why: because nobody is required to help you.

News flash: Your employees don’t feel the way you do about your company. They didn’t create it, they don’t run it, and even if they share in the profits or hold stock options, they can’t “own” it with the same passion. Yet they arrive every day to work, put personal issues aside, and spend much of the time and energy they’ve been allotted on this planet helping you.

No matter how deeply you may believe working for you is a privilege, it’s a choice your employees make daily. And choosing to serve someone is one of the stronger definitions of love. Realize that, love them for it in return, and show that love by working for them the same way they do for you. That could mean giving them ample time to be with their families, even when staffed on large, demanding projects. It could mean ensuring they know your “open door” is truly open by getting to know your employees on a personal level. It could even be something you build into your benefits, like our “paid paid vacation” policy. When you value your employees’ personal lives and guarantee them time to grow their interests, talents, and relationships, you’re telling them you see them as people, not as fuel for your rocket ship. They’re already with you on your journey; show them you love them by joining them on theirs.

Communication, gratitude, and love. These three simple concepts, expressed regularly at the company level through deliberate actions, can make employees significantly more engaged and more devoted to the success of the organization. When you communicate, show and feel gratitude, and make it clear that you love your employees, you’re creating a great place to work. That’s how great work takes place.

Published: June 13, 2017

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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