Question #5: How can I maximize the value of my employees?
This is the fifth in a series of thoughts and opinions by Graham Edwards and Renée Cormier — click here to read the backstory and inspiration (if only for the entertainment). It should be noted that neither of us have seen or discussed our answers before they are posted, which in our mind makes this all the more interesting.
In this blog series we will attempt to answer ten different questions business owners may need answered, using our individual and unique perspectives and approaches. It is our hope that this series will inspire both action and interaction. Please feel free to comment and ask more questions.
Graham — I am really excited about this question (and the next two for that matter) because it’s about people. Nothing, absolutely nothing gets done without them, and this makes employees crucially important for anything and everything. I imagine there are a number of “tech people” who can easily present an argument and philosophy regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and all they accomplish — it’s a Pandora’s box that we are all starting to wrestle with and although I stand by my statement, I suppose only time will tell.
Value [ˈvalyo͞o] is defined as the importance, worth, or usefulness of something— what we are simply talking about is how to maximize this with regards to your employees or anyone helping move the business forward.
The starting point for me (in-line with the vision, mission, and objectives of the business) is to articulate the objectives and expectations for you, your employee(s), the team, and the way everyone operates. This is something that should be written down, reinforced in all team meetings, and always be part of any performance or development review. An example:
Objectives — a) achieve financial plan of $500,000 for the year b) implement new customer database by Oct 1, 2017 c) identify and develop one competency by year end d) develop five new relationships each week.
Expectations — a) achieve plan this year b) open and safe dialogue and communication c) take ownership for your personal development d) a reasonable* customer always comes first e) have fun* f) openly share new thoughts and ideas g) manage money as if it was your own.
The goal of this is to create a framework that offers employees the latitude and scope to do what they need to do; it is a formula for success, creativity, problem solving and personal growth. I have always taken the position that if a person has put the “reasonable” customer first, been ethical, moral and hasn’t done anything illegal, then there is no mistake that is too egregious. It is important to learn from mistakes and use them for ongoing development (and lessons learned) to be sure, but you never want to create an environment where an employee is afraid to make a mistake — an environment where mistakes aren’t tolerated will not create a place to maximize an employee’s value. One last point on this, if you have an employee who makes a BIG mistake because of incompetency then that’s on you, not them. You were the one who hired them and you are the one who manages them — you have to ask yourself who actually made the mistake.
Once you have created an environment where employees can demonstrate their value, let them do it —
- Ensure there are regular operating mechanisms (one-on-one’s, team meetings, town halls, etc.) for open communication, feedback, and discussion.
- Celebrate and recognize what people have done, with particular focus on the initiative and the bravery it took to try something new, or make “the decision”.
- Good or not so good, it is important to give timely feedback and keep an objective eye as you deconstruct the situation.
- Roll up your sleeves and get involved in the day to day — leave your office, participate in the daily work, sit in on meetings, go see a customer (or simply talk to one), ask how “we can make the business better”, and get to know the people you work with.
- If something is your fault, step up and own it — and make sure everyone knows you own it and what you have learned.
In the end, all of this is just the “mechanics” for creating the environment to maximize the value of your employees (and others around you). One last idea for you to consider when maximizing the value of an employee is to be a role model for all to emulate — in other words, to maximize an employee’s value all you have to do is maximize your leadership.
And with that, I will leave you to your Internet searches on the topic and one of the blogs I’ve written on Leadership.
* In my experience there is a need to put some definition around these two words so there is a working definition for “reasonable and fun”; if only so people don’t default to their own definitions.
Renée — I think the value of your employees is most easily maximized and measured through productivity and the things that feed into it. The key is to do your level best to create an engaged culture because productivity, or the lack thereof, is actually a leadership issue and not an employee issue. Sorry to tell you this, but you really didn’t hire a bunch of losers. Your troubles are all about your leadership and the leadership of every single team leader in your company.
Gallup conducts annual studies of employee engagement in companies all across the USA (and the world). Unfailingly, the overall results are that American companies suffer billions of dollars in losses every year because more than 2/3 of their workforce is disengaged. The results are even worse globally. The facts show that because of the way many employers treat their employees, the majority of the workforce is just putting in time at a job that is “just a job” to them. Companies that boast higher levels of engagement are the ones who treat employees like the valuable resource they are. Your products or services are never more important than the people who support them. Your business will never be all it can be, if you don’t nurture your relationship with your employees.
Are your employees sufficiently challenged, appreciated, developed and respected? Below is a list of seven things you can do to maximize the value of your employees and boost your bottom line.
Provide Training: Investing in training your employees to do their jobs better, or to do jobs they are more suited for is a very worthwhile endeavor. Employees who receive training are more productive than those who don’t. I like this famous Zig Ziglar quote about the value of training employees. He is bang on!
The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training employees and keeping them. - Zig Ziglar
Invite feedback for process improvement: Toyota is famous for its A-3 form, named after the size of paper used to print it up. The form provides a way for employees to contribute to process improvement. Toyota management pays employees if their contributions are adopted. Toyota doesn’t make a habit of just collecting feedback in a box and ignoring it. They actually meet and review the contributions and implement whatever makes the most sense. Leveraging the genius of your employees allows your business to become more efficient. Since efficiency saves time and money, it is worth focussing on. Beware of the pitfall of just asking for input and never using any ideas. Employees will stop caring and allow you to lose tons of money if they don’t feel like their opinions matter. You can download a template of the A-3 form here.
Respect time off: Some employers are just terrible when it comes to respecting the private time of employees. Calling them for information when they are off sick, expecting them to sacrifice family for their job, bothering them while on vacation, not giving adequate time off and expecting people to work through lunch shows a complete lack of respect. No good ever comes of that. Stress leave, quitting, resentment and fatigue all cost your business money. Let people rest and tend to their personal lives.
Trust the law of reciprocity: The law of reciprocity dictates that you get what you give. Don’t be afraid to be generous with your time, money and resources. The majority of your employees will be more than happy to give you all they’ve got if you willingly do the same. We help people who help us. We give to people who give to us, and we respect people who show respect for us. It may seem counter intuitive to run your business that way if you never have before. Try it for a year and watch magical things happen.
Keep everyone in the loop: Meetings, memos, newsletters, goal setting and regular performance reviews are the best way to keep the lines of communication flowing. Nobody can know how they are doing or what you need from them if you don’t have communication systems in place. Keep your communications positive by focussing on what people are doing right. You’ll get more of the good stuff if you do that.
Encourage team work: Collaborative work environments are more productive than any other. Our technology driven culture makes it even easier to get people together to contribute information and be proactive in the work we do. You can still go old school and choose to do your team work in a board room but if you really want to be efficient consider the technology that exists to help you. You can access social media or even purchase a customized program to facilitate the flow of information across all departments of your organization. Companies like Corporate IQ develop customized data communications solutions which gather information from all areas of a company to create among other things, actionable items, notifications and alerts that support efficiency and productivity. Their product saves a ton of time and allows you to take a proactive approach to problems and avoid being reactive all the time.
Cultivate an environment of mutual respect: I am an advocate of zero tolerance for bullying and harassment in the workplace. Absolutely no one in any organization should be permitted to behave with disrespect for any person’s beliefs, life choices, intelligence, gender, heritage, physical capabilities or professional capabilities. Business leaders need to understand that transgressors are a liability to the business. This means you have to be prepared to fire your star sales rep or your VP of whatever if they fall into bullying or harassing another employee. Trust me when I tell you that you will do just fine without them.
I view my role more as trying to set up an environment where the personalities, creativity and individuality of all the different employees come out and can shine. - Tony Hsieh
Ultimately it is your leadership skills that will allow you to maximize the value of your employees. I am a big fan of continuous learning and suggest that no matter how refined your leadership skills are, that you never stop striving to be the best you can be. That example will serve to inspire many.
Thanks to the social media platform beBee, Renée Cormier & Graham Edwards developed a business relationship and friendship that typically involves regular meetings, goal setting sessions, etc. Our meetings often provide the fuel for plans around business strategy, blog ideas and more.