If you own a business and you employee others to represent your business to clients and customers, then your employees should be viewed as the single biggest asset of your company. After all, they are the ones who bring your brand to life. Your competitors may be able to copy your product offering, the services you provide or your pricing structure, but nobody can copy the competence, interrelationships and competitive advantage you can gain from your people.
Unfortunately, far too many companies still target their payroll as a pure expense capable of being cut and sacrificed. These companies are not seeing the bigger picture. Even in a down economy, “doing more with less” is simply a mantra that can lead to dire consequences down the road. Companies who manage their payroll and employees based solely upon an expense ratio (such as percent to sales) or as a productivity number (hours worked compared to sales) are missing the competitive advantage that can be gained by leveraging your team’s talents in a way to build a business.
When a company treats an employee like a resource, something that can be used up, discarded and then replaced, they never gain the full advantage their people can add to the organization. Don’t think that your other employees are not taking mental (or physical) notes about this behavior, because they most definitely are paying attention. Churning and burning employees is akin to telling your people that you don’t care about them, that they are disposable and that you don’t trust them. As soon as they have the chance, those employees who remain with you will bolt for an organization which demonstrates compassion and development opportunities, will work diligently to ensure everyone knows what it was like to work for you and may even reach out to an attorney or a union to “get even” with you.
While they are still with you, these employees have checked out – they are physically still coming to work, but they are not really working to their potential. The willingness to put in any discretionary effort has evaporated. These individuals, who have been left holding the bag after watching their hours get cut, their job scope increase and their friends get let go, are willing to only do the bare minimum to ensure they don’t get fired next.
If you are looking to position your company to prosper as the economy recovers, now is the time to start changing your behaviors. Over the next decade, as the Baby Boomers continue to exit the workforce due to health and retirement, the demand for skilled workers will exceed the quantity of skilled workers available. To position yourself as an employer of choice, you need to believe that employees are assets, not liabilities. Investing in their growth and development, both intellectually and emotionally, will demonstrate to your current employees and future employees that you do care about those who you count on to build the business. Simply providing a paycheck is not enough. You need to demonstrate your commitment to others before they will demonstrate their commitment to you.
Looking for some easy ways to start building this commitment? Try a couple of these on for size:
- Listen to your employees opinions and react to their concerns
- Communicate clear expectations
- Align your behaviors with your expectations – be consistent in your actions.
- Break down organizational silos – the external customer will never be number one if the internal customer is constantly being treated like number two.
- Provide sincere recognition and praise
- Provide regular feedback on performance
- Celebrate progress towards a goal, not just the completion of the goal
- Tear down organizational silos – if you are fighting an internal us versus them campaign, your external campaign is not getting your employees full energy
- Provide opportunities to learn new skills which are aligned with employees strengths
- Let others have a voice – don’t expect to have all the answers.
- Keep your emotions in check – nobody likes to work for a jerk
- Look forward in your decisions – no decision can be made in a vacuum. A small investment in your people today can come back multi-fold in years to come.
Remember, employment is a two way street. You may have the upper hand right now, but in the future it will be your employees who possess the upper hand. Don’t think you are the only one assessing the employment relationship. Your best employees just don’t many choices right now – but they will – and where will you be when they make their choice?