Does your organization consider employees to be an asset or a liability? Most consider them to be liabilities. Employees cost us money, is what I generally hear from managers, executives and owners of organizations of all sizes and in all industries. Human resources is a “cost center” for our organization and does not produce revenue or add to the bottom line, they add. They continue by saying, “we are making money in spite of having employees.” If you are one who believes in these statements, your company may be good, however, it will never be “great.”
“Great” companies know how to treat employees with respect, trust in them to make customer-centered decisions and communicate with honesty. While this seems like common sense, getting all three “right” may be a challenge for most companies.
Treating employees with respect means many things to many people. However, the bottom line is the golden rule of “treat others the way that you would want to be treated.” This means talking with employees instead of to them, considering their feelings in situations that may be presented as learning opportunities for development, being a good role model yourself, understanding when you may have failed as a trainer/manager, to name a few. Recently a newly hired employee asked his supervisor a question at 7:45 a.m. about the job that they were going to be working on that day. The supervisor in a rather nasty tone, utilizing a few curse words to emphasize his meaning, stated that he would not answer any questions until 8:00 a.m., the start of the work day. The employee who was eager to do “right” by the employer, was discouraged that his boss would treat him with such disrespect and quit on the spot. Employees know when they are not valued and are generally less productive as a result, which definitely impacts a company’s bottom line results. In this instance the company’s turnover rate was directly impacted by the inappropriate actions of the supervisor.
Empowering your employees to make customer-centered decisions is critical in our current work environment. I recently heard of a situation where an out-of-town customer was upset because his project was not getting completed in the time frame that the owner had promised. One day, the customer asked if the employees would stay beyond their normal end time of 4:30 p.m. to complete the project, as he had family coming to his home the following day. The crew leader mentioned that the owner did not want to pay the crew overtime to complete the job. This upset the customer and made him make a reference to the fact that he was never going to hire or refer this company again. Little did the owner know that by not allowing the crew leader to make the decision to stay on the out-of-town project and complete the job, it was costing the company more money. In this instance, the cost of paying the crew overtime to finish the job and make the customer happy was less than returning the next day to complete the job. Had the crew leader been empowered to make the decision to stay, it would have added to the bottom line of the project and probably resulted in referrals from the customer. Empowering your employees to make customer-centered decisions does result in adding additional dollars to your bottom line.
Communication is usually the number one culprit to employee relations issues within the workplace. I am recently aware of a situation where a manager told a new employee that he would receive his first paycheck on the following Friday. Friday came and there was no paycheck for the new employee. He realized that this may have been a mistake on the manager’s part, accepted it, and continued to work hard for the company. The following Friday came and again there was no paycheck for the employee, despite the manager telling him that would be his next payday. Now, the employee, who originally believed in the manager and the company, was becoming even more skeptical. The employee questioned the manager and instead of the manager admitting that he made a mistake, he blew the employee off and did not talk with him, putting blame on the employee for not understanding. Ironically, the employee’s energy level decreased and productivity began to suffer. This whole situation could have been avoided had the manager communicated correctly and honestly with the employee in the first place. Even admitting that he had made a mistake would have helped.
Studies have shown that when employees feel like they know what is “going on” in the organization that they feel more attached and are generally more productive. Telling employees the truth and not making up stories or telling them what you think that they want to hear is critical to your success. Communication is generally the “key” to success for any relationship and the relationship with the employee is critical to the success of your company. Again, when employees feel that they are truly a part of your team and that you are communicating with them, they will generally be more productive, which results in value added to your company’s bottom line.
Does your company know how to balance treating employees with respect, trusting in them to make customer-centered decisions and communicating with honesty? Do they get it “right” with employees? If so, then you are on your way to becoming not only a good company, but a GREAT company. One that sees employees as assets and not liabilities, while continuing to add to their bottom line profits.
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Written by: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP