Check out Dr. Nelson’s recent interview with Forbes: Make More Money By Making Your Employees Happy!
Amazon.com’s announcement this week that it will pre-pay up to 95 percent of its employees’ education costs is a prime example of how successful companies understand that reinforcing company loyalty by offering strong employee incentives will ultimately lead to more success and profits.
Amazon’s “Career Choice Program” is designed to give employees who have worked at the company’s fulfillment centers for at least three years a chance to better their career opportunities whether at Amazon or in another industry. Amazon says in a news release announcing the plan that it will fund education in areas that are “well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.”
Amazon has always paid attention to what matters to its employees, and the result has been tremendous financial success for the company. The Career Choice Program is yet another example. Today’s workers, especially the Gen Xers and Millennials, want new opportunities to test out and develop their skills, they want challenges, they want the excitement of new information and knowledge. Companies should offer employees training, classes and opportunities to learn and grow in their careers: Let your employees know how valuable they are by investing in their ability to either do their job better or further their career whether within or without the company.
Another example of how Amazon values what is of value to their employees is Amazon’s commitment to worker safety, which has made working at its fulfillment centers statistically safer than working at department stores. Dedication to worker safety is something that matters tremendously to employees, yet which companies fail to see as such. When you show your employees that you care about them in this fashion, your employees care about you—and your profits will reflect that. The upshot? Amazon workers at their fulfillment centers are so productive, that Amazon can afford to pay them 30 percent more than workers at retail stores.
Not every company has the financial means to make such a generous educational offer as Amazon. Get creative. Lots of affordable training can be provided on-line for far less cost than in-person training. Whether it’s on-line or live seminars, mentoring programs or audio conferences, employees want to be given the time and means to pursue such training. When a company fails to invest in their employees, employees are quick to go elsewhere or simply fall into the ranks of the disaffected and disengaged. These employees may still be physically present, but they contribute next to nothing to your productivity and profits. Invest in your employees’ success, they will invest in yours.
When you, Mr./Ms. Manager or Boss, speak negatively of your business, you undermine the motivation and the ability (more on that later) of your workers to be productive.
Case in point: General Motors (GM) CEO Dan Akerson recently told The New York Times that car sales are still suffering from consumers’ opinion of GM’s federal bailout. Last quarter 32% of car shoppers surveyed opted against a GM vehicle because of the bailout. However, what Mr. Akerson failed to appreciate was that in 2009, fully 59% of car shoppers surveyed opted against a GM vehicle because of the bailout.
How do you think his comments made GM employees feel? Here they’d succeeded in getting 27% more folks to buy a GM vehicle despite the federal bailout—and instead of their leader acknowledging that fantastic improvement, Mr. Akerson is moaning about the discrepancy that still exists.
How do you think GM workers would feel if instead, Mr. Akerson had commented “We’re up to only 32% opting against a GM vehicle because of the bailout—that’s a 27% improvement! We’re looking forward to getting that % even lower in the next year.
Don’t undermine your workers’ productivity! It’s hard to get it up to do a good, much less superior job, when the work you’re already accomplishing is brushed aside as unimportant. Validate your employees’ contribution at every turn, they’ll be much more willing and able to take on the next challenge.
Employers who expect employees to do the work of two or more workers, who skimp on raises and have a “be lucky you have a job” attitude will see their workers leave in droves as the economy picks up.
Some businesses erroneously think they can make the most profits by squeezing everything they can from employees. As soon as the job market improves, expect to see a mass exit of workers from those companies that under appreciate their employees to companies with a reputation of employee appreciation. It’s no surprise that Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ attract the best workers, have increased employee retention rates, and their more friendly work environment helps significantly increase employee productivity. This is a bottom line issue–unhappy workers impact profits.
How disgruntled are workers today? According to The Conference Board’s “Employment Satisfaction Survey” released June 27, 2012, which interviewed workers in Fall 2011, less than half (47.2 percent) are satisfied with their jobs. The last time the majority of American were happy at work was in 2005 (52.1 percent). Job satisfaction was 60.1 percent in 1987. (http://www.conference-board.org/press/pressdetail.cfm?pressid=4527)
A Mercer survey last year found that almost one out of three American workers were considering leaving their job, up from 23 percent six years prior, and 21 percent have a negative view of their employer. The international outplacement consulting firm survey indicated that younger workers are most anxious to leave their current job if the opportunity arises. (http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/20/news/economy/workers_disgruntled/index.htm)
Typically, somewhere during the first four to six months the eagerness and desire of most employees wane,” says Nelson “Employees will only self-sustain their enthusiasm for the work a limited amount of time. After that, in the absence of feeling appreciated by management–that their work matters, that they matter–employees adopt the ‘whatever’ attitude. The job becomes “just a job.”
Here are suggestions for employers who want to avoid worker burnout and enhance company loyalty.
–Communicate employee duties and responsibilities clearly so workers know what is expected of them. You can’t live up to what you don’t know.
–Make sure your employees have the tools, training and sufficient time to accomplish their tasks and meet company goals. Few things make employees feel more unappreciated, frustrated and unhappy as not having the appropriate resources for their job.
–When an employee has a problem with their job, set your employee up for success by valuing their efforts to do better, not berating them for the failure.
–An employee should never be surprised by a year-end review. All along the year, employees should receive regular, frequent, targeted feedback on their work.
–Acknowledging employees doing something right is a far more successful path to work excellence, than continually pointing out what they are doing wrong.
Notice that just about all these suggestions cost nothing to implement. That’s the beauty of the appreciation model. It takes effort, not dollars.
Squeaky wheels tend to get our attention, be they cranky co-workers, whining customers or under-performing employees. We lavish our time and efforts on these individuals—necessarily so—but too often ignore our best performers in the process.
We assume that high performers are self-motivated and will keep on truckin’ with their usual brilliance, ‘cause that’s who they are. Uh-huh. Until your high performers get tired of being taken for granted and either slack off or jump ship.
Give your high performers their just rewards! Not just in terms of bonuses, but give them what matters: your praise and your attention. Let them know how much you value and appreciate not only their performance, but the standard of excellence it sets for others. Use their brilliance as a platform for improvement, theirs and yours: ask “How can I further support your good work?” or “What changes would you like to see in how we do things to make our company better?”
Your high performers are more than churner-outers of fine work. They are, when treated right, inspiration and motivation for the greater success of your business.
Boy, are we good at telling employees what we don’t want! “Don’t miss that deadline!” “Don’t process it that way,” “Don’t forget to . . .” It’s perfectly understandable, because we need things done right.
But here’s the rub: the more you tell your employees what you don’t want, the less likely they are to perform in a way that you do want. Because they too are focused on not doing something wrong, which makes them anxious that they will do something wrong, and guess what? Chances are good, that very anxiety will make them do something wrong!
Not the result you had in mind. Instead, tell your employees what you want, not what you don’t. Be conscious of the words you use. “Don’t miss that deadline” becomes “Please be sure to get that order out by 5:00.” “Don’t process it that way” becomes “Please use the 3 step process outlined in the worksheet.” “Don’t forget to …” becomes “Please remember to …”
Once you know what you don’t want, you always know what you do want. Just make sure what you want is what you’re conveying to your workers!