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The happy family? How applying good parenting skills in the workplace can boost staff morale and productivity


Talk to any new parent and they will tell you that raising children is a baptism of fire.

At the outset you’ll have no idea how to bring the best out of these untamed beauties and your best efforts will be a muddle of instinct, advice from the mother-in-law and good, old fashioned trial and error.

Given that the ultimate aim in parenting is to produce confident, self-sufficient, hard-working and above all, happy individuals any guidance gleaned from the coal-face of child-rearing should be welcomed by workplace leaders.

In fact, a well-respected and effective boss bears many resemblances to a good parent.

So, having acquired a business and a faced with brood of new staff to inspire – adhering to the following five accepted parenting skills could seriously improve your leadership skills…

Create a positive environment

Children thrive in situations where they are confident of who is in charge and that their needs will be met. The same can be said of staff. All too many bosses struggle to retain staff and are unaware of how their actions and decisions can affect employee turnover.

Be clear from the outset that you are the boss, but be positive about your expectations of your employees and let them know that you believe in them.

Check in with your staff regularly, in a group and on a personal level, and above all allow them to feel that your door, literally and metaphorically, is always open.

If you allow yourself to become a remote, disciplinary figure – you will alienate yourself, and ultimately push your workers away.

Recognise and reward

It is a basic human need, in children and adults alike, to feel appreciated. If a toddler makes it to the potty in time, they get a big hug and a smartie. Next time, they’ll get there double quick.

It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, but it is amazing how many people in management roles, either forget, or chose to overlook, the importance of praise for good work.

The mere fact that you are paying their wages is not enough to inspire employer loyalty. Make sure you notice when a staff member does a good job – and tell them you are pleased. 

It is up to you to provide the fuel for productivity in your business – an encouraging word is highly effective and costs you nothing.

Dream up unusual and fun incentives – not everyone can match the perks at Google HQ (bocce-ball courts, gyms, free gourmet food, coffee and juice bars and even the freedom to bring your pet to work to name a few..) but annual staff excursions and recognising birthdays are a good start, and will promote allegiance and unity.

Engage and Involve

Did you ever sit at the family dining room table and feel invisible as the rest of the room discussed world peace? As a child, if you are not encouraged to have an opinion, you will likely lack the confidence to express yourself in later life.

In any business, employees will flourish if they are able to contribute their ideas and suggestions on a regular basis. If not, resentment and lethargy can set in – two anathemas to productivity. 

A staff member will naturally be more engaged and committed to a project if they were part of its conception.

Sony Corporation is famous for its Idea Exposition. An annual event, sponsored by the company, it invites scientists and engineers to showcase ideas and projects they are working on. The show is only open to Sony employees, and so fosters a healthy climate of engagement and innovation.

Listening to your workers thoughts and feelings about their job gives them ownership of it. And with ownership comes responsibility and pride in work.

Encourage Potential

Ever wondered why so called ‘tiger-mums’ spend gruelling hours after school and at the weekend driving their little darlings to karate, tennis or basket-weaving classes?

The simple answer is that they are afraid. These super-mums are terrified that they will overlook the ‘one thing’ their child could excel in, and therefore ruin their chance for real success.

Although the pressure that modern parents put on themselves (and their children) has become excessive, it comes, essentially, from a good place. Encouraging potential fosters ambition and an ability to take on challenges.

In the workplace, if an employee is given no opportunity to develop their skills, they will start to feel they are in a dead-end job and may look elsewhere.

Make sure you give your employees room to grow within your business. This may mean sending them on courses, or simply encouraging them to indulge their passion and translate it into their work.

Pay attention

It is a common lament – how often have you heard a mother cry ‘Where did the years go?!’ One minute you have a tousled haired cherub on your lap, the next a moody facebook junkie hiding in the bedroom.

Sadly though, the manic years of family life, when school calendars and commitments take over from afternoons ambling with a pram, sometimes mean you miss some important developments.

Maybe your child had been struggling with friendships at school and needed a few extra hugs for a while. Maybe weight had become an issue and they needed some reassurance about their appearance.

Sometimes, parents will be so consumed with the busyness of ‘life’ that they fail to notice details that could more seriously affect their child. Blink and you’ll miss it.

In any business, it is vital to stop every now and again and look closely at what is working, and not working for your workforce.

This evaluation process should measure the morale, efficiency and engagement of your staff. If you make time to lean in and get a real sense of how each of your employees is doing, you will discover where your attention is needed, and nip any potential problems in the bud.

Is your business a happy family? Let us know your top tips for workplace harmony...

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