October 30, 2011
I spend a lot of my time talking with fellow business owners and managers. I feel their joys and their pains; I understand the feelings only they can have, that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve been there. However, I also remember being an employee of both excellent and not-so-excellent companies. I talk to local front-line service staff as well – I learn things from the nice lady at the grocery store. I learn things from servers in restaurants and cashiers at gas stations. I learned that much of their attitude is a result of the environment created by management, yet employers think labor doesn’t care as much about their work. It seems from the worker’s point of view, the work doesn’t care as much about the worker. Let’s see if we can find a better way.
We do not want a compromise – a compromise is when no one gets what they want. We want a solution that works for everyone. Generally speaking, I don’t think employers really want workers to work harder or longer than they do, or to work for less money or benefits, or to do anything disagreeable, so long as they get the desired results of the relationship. Meanwhile, employees I talk to, (and those surveyed in more sophisticated studies), value a pleasant work environment over money or benefits. So it seems like a simple solution – create a pleasant work environment, get more productivity and everyone is happier! I’m not so naïve as to think this is easy; it is not.
It is possible however, and it far is less expensive than the alternatives of high turnover or higher pay and benefits that won’t achieve the results anyway. Create a positive and pleasant environment where doing things well becomes a way of life and the higher productivity will allow you to provide higher pay and benefits. Everyone wins. To make this happen, we need a much more than we can cover in one article. We need a customer service attitude that makes sense, and we need a supervisory style that makes sense, which is why I’m covering these topics in my next two seminars designed not just for staff, but for owners and experienced managers to re-think the impact of everything they do. Next, we need a caring culture of respect, personal and professional growth and enrichment. What do you offer your employees to help them become better at their jobs and better at getting more out of life? When you offer training, time off for personal and family development, or free tickets to do fun activities, you get and keep more productive staff. If you’re always honest and fair with your suppliers, customers and staff, you will get and keep better staff. Everyone thinks they are honest and fair, but I’ve learned that like humor and common sense – everyone thinks they have it! To the degree you demonstrate integrity, fairness, honesty, work ethic, respect, etc. you can expect reciprocation from your staff or your employer.
Incentives sound great, but be careful you don’t confuse rewarding good behavior with giving preferential treatment to “pet” staff, while expecting the same results from everyone else. Some owners or managers won’t point out being under-charged by a vendor, but has a fit if they are under-charged. Some owners inflate an insurance claim to cover their deductable, or take a little cash to avoid paying taxes; how many ways do you tell your staff you are a cheat, a thief, a liar and fraud while expecting them to treat you with respect and give their all?