Among the toys and the clothes, my kids always receive books for Christmas. This year, the books included The Day the Crayons Quit. This book tells the story of a boy’s box of crayons, and the colors inside that have quit their jobs, each for a different reason. Blue no longer wants to be known just for bodies of water. Black is tired of outlining objects to be filled in by other colors. Yellow and Orange are no longer speaking to each other, each believing it is the true color of the sun. And Beige, his wrapper having been peeled off, is too embarrassed to exit the box naked. It’s a very clever book, and the sounds of both my kids cackling during it’s telling is their gift to me.
The lesson to draw from this story is important for all employers to take to heart. Employees are unique. Each has his or her own personality, needs, and wants. For this reason, an employer cannot treat all employees the same. To appease Black by re-wrapping it will not address its concern of only being used for outlining, and by using Beige to fill in the ocean will not fix its fear of being naked. Similarly, your employee-mother-of-two is going to value flexibility and work-life-balance a whole lot more than a 22-year-old employee fresh out of college.
This year resolve to learn what makes each of your employees unique. Resolve not to treat your employees as fungible commodities, but as special assets, each with his of her own talents and concerns. Recognizing each employee’s individuality will result in a more engaged workforce, which, in turn, will repay you with happier, more productive, and more loyal employees.
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or email@example.com. Follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.