#WorkTrends: How to Help People Reach Their Full Potential at Work

We all demand love in some form in our personal lives, but we skimp on asking for it at work. Treating people as a commodity instead of focusing on relationships is a surefire path to burnout and low long-term productivity, says Jason Lauritsen, an author, entrepreneur, corporate HR leader and consultant.

In this episode of #WorkTrends, Lauritsen shares how performance management could be the key to unlocking major wins for employers and their employees, but only if everyone is treated right.

We also speak with Dr. Pamela Howze of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions to clear up misconceptions about apprenticeships, mentorship and how employers in a range of industries are embracing staff who don’t have a college degree.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Work Is a Relationship, Not a Contract

Showing up every day, creating connections at the office and in the industry, and countless interpersonal interactions are part of the daily experiences of employees. These elements are part of what will drive an employee to higher performance and bigger contributions.

“I don’t believe that it’s a matter of opinion; I think it’s a matter of fact that work is a relationship for the employee,” Lauritsen says. “It’s things like feeling valued, and trust, and knowing someone at work cares about me, and feeling appreciated, and all those things. Those are relational constructs.”

Unfortunately, many workplaces are oriented to treat a job as a contract with the employee. This can be seen in job descriptions, policy manuals, performance appraisals and more.

“It’s all about making sure your organization is getting their money’s worth out of what the employee owes them,” Lauritsen says. Employees are seeking a healthy relationship, which motivates them to better performance. But as an employee, he says, “all I hear is compliance-driven messaging and have compliance-driven interactions. It’s like, no wonder engagement sucks. No wonder it feels gross.”

Relationships Are Work Too

Creating a positive relationship in the workplace requires a specific focus on love and valuing people, he says, and companies should invest in creating this skill set in their leadership.

“As a general rule we aren’t great at relationships,” Lauritsen says. “Look at divorce rates. Go look at how people are interacting with each other in social media. Look at the national discourse and the decline of trust and all this. We’re not doing a good job of helping people learn how to be in a relationship with one another. You come into the workplace and the stakes are higher. There’s money involved now. It just amplifies how much we suck at relationships.”

His biggest piece of advice to determine how to adjust to this type of thinking is to look at interactions through the lens of a personal relationship. Ask yourself how an interaction, training or another approach would go over if you used it on someone you cared about in your personal life.

“If it would hurt the relationship then you probably should stop doing that to employees too. Figure out how to do it in a way that builds a relationship,” Lauritsen says.

Everything Is About Performance

Improving the relationship with employees will require companies and HR professionals to reframe their approach to engagement and performance, Lauritsen says.

“Employee engagement is the fuel to unlock better performance,” he says. That connection is extremely important, and “framing employee experience and employee-engagement in context of performance is really critical. Let’s be honest, executives don’t really care about engagement. They care about performance.”

To keep the relationship beneficial, both employee and employer must understand their roles and the overarching need for that relationship. Performance is the organizational imperative driving the relationship. “Without the performance imperative, you don’t need to exist,” he says. “We have to produce a product or a service that is of value to someone else. … That’s the lifeblood. That’s the oxygen, the blood, the whatever that keeps the organization alive. Everything is about performance.”

And a Little Bit of Controversy

Lauritsen stirs the pot toward the end of our conversation when he says that the 360-degree review, the way it is commonly done today, is “the most harmful HR practice ever invented.” When this extensive pile of feedback is dropped on someone, and it contains a negative comment or concern, everyone is a suspect. “It’s like the mole, you know? You’ve got to sort out who the mole is,” he says. “It’s just a terrible, awful, trust-killing exercise that I think needs to be rethought and redone.”

He also shared some chief reasons why The Motley Fool gets employee love and respect just right. It’s worth a listen.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.