As a business owner, what would you think if I told you, “No customer is more important than your lowest paid employee?” Most owners or managers would think I was nuts and did not have a clear understanding of workplace realities.

Bear with me and I’ll try to prove that statement by talking about some things we probably can agree on. There are 168 hours in a week. Your employees are at your place of business or making calls for 35-40 hours each week. They spend another 40 hours or so sleeping. That leaves 88 hours where they are out in the community with friends, family and acquaintances — out of your control.

Eighty-eight hours to talk about what it’s like to work for you. Eighty-eight hours to relate how unappreciated they are. Eighty-eight hours to sabotage your business to current and potential customers, or anyone who will listen to them. And, if they are speaking negatively about your business, how do the stories change as they are retold to others? Exactly — they are embellished greatly. What began as a simple reprimand could very easily turn into a physical threat after a few retellings.

Here are some tips I learned as a personnel manager to help you get the most out of your employees.

1.) No employee works for you. Employees are not there to make the employers dreams come true. They are there to make their own dreams come true. So why not take advantage of that? My employees posted their personal (not company) goals in the break room for everyone to see. Why were they working in my company? Buying a home? Starting a family? Saving for college? If the goal was a personal goal like a financial or medical challenge then that was shared only between the employee and myself. Everyone was encouraged to talk about his or her progress toward their goals and morale grew stronger because it became a team effort to work together helping everyone achieve their goals. The benefit? Company goals were met at a much higher and faster rate.

2.) Employee of the Month? Bad Idea. How do you build morale by having one winner and 29 losers? As a manager, I knew that employees were doing great things for the company, and the customer, that I would never hear about. Maybe no one but the customer and the employee even knew about it. Encourage your employees to talk about positives they witness within the organization. I tried to find a way to publicly honor each employee at least twice a year minimum. We all want simple respect and appreciation.

3.) Losing your job is a great motivator. I would agree, for some employees, but in my experience it just destroys morale. High turnover is an income killer. Would a coach threaten players with being cut if they don’t win the big game? Hardly, he or she would try as hard as possible to send the team out with confidence that each is a valuable asset to the team. I worked for a company that sent personal, handwritten notes of appreciation to my home each time I signed a big deal. My wife collected them on the refrigerator. She could see how I was working for our family goals and made her more confident in our future.

4.) Listen to new employees. One of my first jobs was with a clay pipe company. I wondered why they would deliver loads to the furthest point first, then next closest, etc. It seemed to me that it would be more economical to drive the furthest distance empty rather than full. But being new I was afraid to ask because I assumed they had a good reason. After a few months I finally did ask and the response was, “We never actually thought about that.” “We’ve just ALWAYS done it that way.” So the policy was changed. Here is a link to a great form to help new employees question things they might now fell comfortable telling you about. The 60 Day New Hire Survey.

5.) Create a business culture. Owenhouse Ace Hardware and Kenyon-Noble Lumber have both been in business over 100 years. Amazing when you think about it. Indians were still attacking wagon trains when they opened for business. They survived the Great Depression, two world wars, various recessions and economic ups and downs, countless employees and managers. Imagine having a waiting list of employees who want to work there? Employees are held to a higher standard in these businesses. Not by management — but by the current employees. You can get in the door but you have to make the team to stay. If you pull the team down you’ll be gone.

Some Final Thoughts

Employees always excel in an environment where the employer supports and appreciates their efforts and celebrates their successes. It’s a win-win for the company and the employee when everyone’s goals are achieved. Turnover is reduced, sales improve, costs are reduced and customers notice. Cost to the company for these five tips? Zero!

Follow Tom on Twitter: @smalltownmarket



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