“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
~Anne M. Mulcahy~
What comes to mind when you think of business success? Improving the bottom line? Cutting costs while increasing profits? Those are important, but no business is successful for long without good, talented employees who are happy to come to work and do their best every day. Below are ways to focus on improving employee satisfaction – and increasing your business’ success and profitability at the same time:
1. Value your employees – in every way.
Did you ever have a boss who was quick to praise for a job well done – but stingy with benefits and pay? Actions always speak louder than words, and while current finances may not always permit you to pay top dollar, pay as much as you can based upon company profitability. In other words, the employee who toils five days or more a week to help make your company a success deserves to be recognized for that effort with praise and with benefits and pay commensurate with performance. Fair pay for work done is one of the best ways to improve employee satisfaction, and it’s also simply fair.
2. Create a culture of true camaraderie.
Of course, your first priority each day is to get business done and make your company successful. To do that, though, it’s important to have fun once in a while too, as colleagues. Schedule office parties occasionally where all employees are invited to bring their spouse/significant other and children, too. Acknowledge birthdays with a 15-minute impromptu party. Don’t frown upon spontaneous wiffleball games in the hallway; in fact, why not join in? Improving employee satisfaction means letting your hair down once in a while – prudently – and allowing your employees do the same.
3. Celebrate victories together.
All too often, companies reward management with big bonuses and lots of recognition, but overlook the accomplishments of lower-level employees, some of whom may have significantly contributed to management’s successes. That’s not fair, and employees (rightly) resent that. Instead, whenever your company has a big victory, celebrate together. Schedule a company lunch, or have a little party. Recognize your entire team – everyone. Recognition is a central component of improving employee satisfaction.
4. Be a part of your local community.
One of the best ways to create a cohesive work environment is to become a part of the local community. Connect with your community as a group, and give back to it. Get involved in community service as a company. Investigate what particular needs your community has. Serve Thanksgiving dinner at the local homeless shelter, or volunteer to participate in a cancer walk as a company team. Getting out of the work environment and rolling up your sleeves together toward a shared goal brings cohesiveness to your group that continues back at the office. Breaking out of everyday roles outside of the office can go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction in the office as well.
5. Encourage open communication.
Don’t just say you want to foster open communication; do it. If your employees don’t feel they can talk to management, they won’t; resentments will fester, and productivity and employee morale will fall.
Communication starts with you. Tell your employees how they’re doing, and encourage them to talk to you about how you are doing, too. This isn’t about insubordination, by the way. Don’t take the attitude that because you’re the boss, you’re naturally untouchable. If something’s wrong with the way the company is being run or the way people are being treated, employees should be able to tell you about it. If you’re a large company, you may not know that there may be a particular problem with lower management unless you’re told – and you won’t be if employees can’t speak up.
Communication shouldn’t just be about problems that need to be fixed, either. Your employees comprise your own rich brain trust that can help your company, products, or services become better. Encourage employees to share their ideas and reward them for those you use. When employees are heard and valued, improving employee job satisfaction won’t be a chore you “must do.” It will simply happen.
About the author: Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leader in connecting their candidates with school-based PT jobs and early intervention service jobs.
Do you need happier employees? For tips, help, and coaching on improving the satisfaction of your employees contact Joel.
Talkback: What steps have you taken to increase the morale at your office? What has worked best… or failed spectacularly?
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“Nothing can be more absurd than the practice. . . of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strengths and with one mind, for thus, the state instead of being whole is reduced to half.”
~ Plato ~
Client Mary Ann Asks: I’ve got a real dilemma on my hands. I’ve got two very talented managers who have been on my team for several years. Martin is a real go-getter, definitely somebody who gets the job done. Danielle is a great motivator, a real team player that brings out the best in her people. There’s one open position that would be a move up for both of them—but it’s only one position. Does gender make a difference? Which one should I promote?
Coach Joel Answers: Leadership styles are not gender-neutral. But when you’re looking at a promotion situation such as this one, I think you need to put gender aside for the moment and look at some key management characteristics. Ask yourself these three critical questions:
- What’s best for the job?
- What’s best for the staff?
- What’s best for the person?
Statistically speaking, there are clear differences in male and female leadership styles. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company shows that men and women use key leadership behaviors differently. The three behaviors most often used by women were people development, expectations and rewards, and role model. Women were also more likely to use inspiration and participative decision making. Men, on the other hand, utilized control and corrective action, as well as individual decision making with more frequency. There was virtually no difference in men and women when it came to intellectual stimulation and efficient communication.
So with that in mind, let’s consider those three questions.
1. What’s best for the job? Consider first what outcomes you are expecting for this position. If you are in a growth mode with lots of new initiatives and projects that need motivation and team building, you might lean toward Danielle. On the other hand, if this is a position that involves quick decision-making rather than consensus-building, or if that department is in need of some rebuilding, Martin might be a good choice.
2. What’s best for the staff? Think about the direct reports that this person will have. Will they thrive on a highly creative, free-flowing environment or do they need structure and stability? Think about assertiveness vs. empathy, encouragement vs. direction. Picture each person in the department and visualize him or her reporting to either Martin or Danielle. You’ll know instinctively which manager each person would thrive under. You might end up deciding on the individual who provides “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
3. What’s best for the person? You want to set the individual up for success. Think beyond your own immediate needs for the department and look to the future. Where do you see your department in five years? How does Martin fit that picture? How about Danielle? You also need to think about how you’ll utilize and continue to reward the individual who doesn’t get promoted.
Both men and women have a lot to offer in terms of their leadership styles. None of the characteristics we’ve talked about are either good or bad—they just are. Your job is to decide which kind of leader is best for your department and your people at this particular time.
Are you faced with a tough promotion decision? Joel can talk you through it—email him today.
Talkback: How do you think gender differences affect leadership styles? Share your experience here.
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“I set as the goal the maximum capacity that people have. I settle for no less. I make myself a relentless architect of the possibilities of human beings.”
~ Benjamin Zander ~
Randy knows his company’s HR operation is in need of a makeover. The combination of the down economy, government regulations, new technologies and recruiting challenges has overwhelmed people with paper-pushing and record-keeping. Randy wants to shift the company’s focus from a “personnel department” where staff is giving attention to individual careers and salaries to a “human capital management” mindset.
As company president, Randy assumes ultimate responsibility for all departmental outcomes. But he knows that his people will support what they help create, so he wants his managers to be involved in designing a new HR direction. After a two-hour brainstorming session, they come up with three action items:
- Adopt an asset focus
- Reward results
- Expect continuous improvement
1. Adopt an asset focus. A company that operates with a human capital management philosophy believes that its people are just as much an asset as its buildings, its inventory or its cash in the bank.
“We can quantify peoples’ value,” Randy tells his staff. “And we can increase that value by making the right kind of investment in them. But how do we do that?”
Truly treating employees like assets involves a new and different mindset for many corporations. Often, especially in a down economy, people are viewed as liabilities. Both philosophically and in actual accounting, they are treated as costs, an overhead item that can be reduced or eliminated for short term gain.
Instead of the traditional belt-tightening when the going gets tough, now is the time to increase investment in our people, Randy decides. That means recruiting top talent with the same analysis and intensity the company would put into buying a new piece of equipment. It also means setting up a comprehensive people development program that includes management training, career coaching, and a comprehensive succession plan that provides upward mobility and salary increases for those who want a real future with the company.
2. Reward results. Overall compensation, including salary, benefits, and intangibles, is important, but it must be based on results. And the corporate culture should be set up so that the best rewards go to those who achieve the most impressive results. Along the way, of course, the company should also reward exceptional effort with praise and encouragement, even in cases where the goal or expected outcome didn’t happen. Each department manager will be responsible for evaluation and rewards, based on holding employees accountable for achieving specific business objectives, coming up with new ideas, and contributing to the company’s long-range plans.
3. Expect continuous improvement. Randy sees this strategy as a long term change, and long term means continuous improvement throughout the company.
The principle of continuous improvement originated with Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the management guru who helped the Japanese rebuild after World War II. Rather than making radical, high profile changes in company operations, Dr. Deming adopted the Japanese concept of kaizen, meaning “good change.” Kaizen says that each employee responsible for making small but consistent changes to his or her own operation. Over time, those small, incremental changes contribute directly to the company’s bottom line results.
Kaizen is based on five key principles: teamwork, personal discipline, improving morale, using quality circles, and making suggestions for improvement. Randy and his C-level managers base their human capital management strategy on implementing these principles. They provide monetary rewards, and they treat people as tangible assets by providing coaching and training that lead to career advancement opportunities.
The moral of the story, Randy says: “Invest in your people, just as you would any other tangible asset, and your ROI will go straight to the bottom line.”
If you would like to turn your people into tangible assets, Joel can show you how to do that. Email him today.
Talkback: Are you seeing your people as assets or liabilities? Share your experience here.
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“The idea of a work/life balance is much more important to younger workers than it ever was with baby boomers. Companies are looking at retention issues.”
~ Jen Jorgensen, Marketing Strategist ~
Client Sandy asks: Our company culture is big on a lot of the rah-rah stuff. We have a softball team, monthly pizza feeds, suggestion boxes in every department, and a costume contest on Halloween. It all looks like fun, but lately we’ve lost some of our best people and I’m feeling the need to create some more substantial employee retention programs. As HR manager, I’m committed to hiring and keeping good employees. But there are so many kinds of retention programs out there that I don’t know where to start.
Coach Joel Answers: When you create a workplace culture that fully engages and rewards employees at all levels, you win in three important ways: you build a loyal, committed workforce; you develop a great reputation among clients, customers and the public; and you avoid the financial losses that high employee turnover creates. Here are three hallmarks of a good retention program.
1. Avoid gimmicks. You mention your pizza feeds and suggestions boxes, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with those. Who doesn’t love a good pizza? But these are short-term, cosmetic kinds of programs and they don’t build employee loyalty that lasts. When you’re designing a program, you need to include several important factors. First, you need to align with your company’s strategic objectives. You need to consider what your competitors are doing and look at best practices in your industry. And most important, you need to include your employees in planning and implementing any new initiatives. People support what they help create.
For example, one of the best ways to retain good employees is to design a personal growth program that’s customized for each individual. Work with your managers to develop a checklist they can use that includes things like in-house and external training programs, executive coaching, job-sharing, and cross-training.
2. Bridge the gap. The generation gap, that is. Employee retention is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There’s a big difference between the needs and wants of baby boomers and Gen-Xers, and chances are you have some of each.
Because baby boomers are thought to be the healthiest generation out there, they have plenty left to offer and many still want to make their mark in the business world. Provide them with opportunities to be creative, express initiative and pass on their knowledge to the generations coming up behind them.
Gen-Xers, on the other hand, place a high value on quality of life issues such as work/life balance and public service. At the same time, they are known to have much less commitment to the corporation and are much less reluctant to switch jobs, companies, and even careers. Set up a two-way mentoring program where the generations can interact with and learn from each other. You’ll solidify your relationship with both of them.
3. Count the cost. You already know that employee turnover is costing you money. But there are costs you can see and costs you probably don’t notice. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, employee turnover averages around 14% in most companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the average cost to replace an employee in private industry is about $14,000. These are hard costs that drop straight to your bottom line. But what about the hidden costs? Consider these questions:
- How much stress and poor performance are created when employees have to pick up the workload of someone who leaves?
- How many customers do you lose when stressed-out employees give poor service?
- How many other employees might be lured away by an employee who leaves?
- How many employees start to think about other options when a valued friend or trusted colleague changes jobs?
When you implement the strategies we’ve suggested, you will have taken a big step toward building a satisfied, committed workforce. And you’ll see the results in higher productivity, better customer service, and bigger profits.
Joel would love to discuss specific retention programs that can work for you and your employees. Email him today.
Talkback: Is turnover causing you problems? Or have you tried some strategies that really work? Share your story here.
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“While pay and benefits were important, they weren’t real drivers of retention.”
~ Robert Morgan ~
Dianna has found herself, somewhat unexpectedly, on the hot seat. As HR manager for a large manufacturing and distribution company, she is responsible for so much of the day-to-day operation that she has been ignoring some big picture initiatives. Suddenly, the company’s employee retention strategy, or more correctly its lack of one, has risen to #1 on her CEO’s hot list. Dianna starts researching best practices used in companies similar to hers and then calls her direct reports together for a brainstorming session. As Steven Covey advises in Habit #2 of his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, most good personal and corporate strategies begin with the end in mind. Diana knows their turnover rate is way too high, so she and her team begin with the goal of reducing turnover by 30% in the next 12 months. The team agrees that their wages and benefits are highly competitive, so they look for other areas that need attention. They focus on developing three key initiatives that can quickly and directly impact their turnover rate.
- Tell the whole truth and nothing but
- Hold managers accountable
- Put out the welcome mat
1. Tell the whole truth and nothing but. A good employee retention strategy starts with recruiting. This philosophy applies whether you are using a search firm, posting on an online job board, or running newspaper ads. Employees most often leave a company in the short term because the job was either oversold or undersold. The new employee needs to fully understand what the job involves and this means his or her expectations should be based in reality. Will he be on the phone six hours a day? Will she be dealing with the public? Does the job involve a certain amount of routine or monotony?Management must clearly communicate what the job responsibilities are before an offer is made.
2. Hold managers accountable.Each individual manager must take responsibility for directing the on-boarding process for his or her own employees. This means spending time to acquaint new hires with company policies, procedures, and traditions. Within the first 90 days, the new employee needs to feel totally aligned with the company’s vision and mission, and totally committed to its success. Each manager must develop a training program that not only covers the standard orientation information session but also provides the employee with a personal training and development agenda to be completed within the first 90 to 180 days. The manager also needs to provide a check-in schedule, so that the new employee knows when he will be debriefing or going over personal progress reports with the manager.
3. Put out the welcome mat.Every new employee needs to feel at home from Day One. This means getting ready ahead of time so that there are no missing pieces. All the paperwork is assembled and ready to complete. Someone is available to walk the employee through the how-to, such as enrolling in the insurance program, signing up for the 401-k, the daycare facility, or the softball team. The photo ID badge is issued on the first day so that the new hire doesn’t have to deal with security issues.Someone is designated as the go-to person if questions come up during the first week or two. Most important, every new employee should be put on a team and given a meaningful project or work responsibility to get started on.
Corporate management needs to view employee retention strategies as an investment that pays dividends, not an expense to be avoided. Time and money spent now will add strength to the talent pool and dollars to the bottom line.
Whether it’s an executive coaching program or a strategy development conference, Joel has some answers for you. Email him today.
Talkback: Is employee turnover costing you money? Or perhaps you’ve tried a strategy that worked. Tell us about your experience.
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