Employee-Designed Southwest Airlines Uniforms Highlight Company’s Commitment To Its Workers

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Southwest Airlines (SWA) recently budgeted an estimated $23 million for new uniforms for its nearly 42,000 employees, but instead of hiring a clothing company to come up with the new design, Southwest went to the source–its employees—to help with the creative process. That sends an unmistakable message to employees that their opinions matter, that what the employees want is important to the company.

Forty-three employees made up the design committee (selected from about 500 applicants). They factored in weather, functionality, comfort and safety. Their designs were met with overwhelmingly positive employee approval. Following testing and adjustments, the new uniforms for flight attendants, gate agents and ramp workers will be ready in 2017.

Southwest likes to say that it values its employees. In this case, it has again shown that it puts its money where its mouth is. That makes all the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. Employer-employee relationships like these set companies apart from their competition.

Southwest Airlines is consistently listed by Glassdoor as one of the best places to work. That should come as no surprise. Most businesses still stubbornly think that squeezing everything they can from their employees will improve profits. That may work in the short term—until employees flee in droves–but it’s not a successful long-term strategy.

Southwest Airlines is also rated as the fourth top performing large carrier in the world, according to Aviation Week. Southwest’s success and profitability is a logical consequence, to a large degree, of how they value their employees. When employees have a stake in a company, studies consistently show that profits follow.

Companies do not need to spend large amounts of money to show employees that they truly matter and are appreciated. Any such effort in that direction will pay off for the employer with greater employee morale and productivity, which naturally lead to greater profits.

For more on the story of how the Southwest Airlines’ uniforms were designed, go to http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2015/10/12/new-uniforms-on-the-horizon-for-southwest-airlines/

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Management Success Tip #154: Indulge In A Powerful Motivator: Thank Your Employees

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You’d think that saying “thank you” or “I appreciate what you did here” would be normal, business-as-usual, in the workplace. You certainly think that you do your fair share of appreciating your employees. You may very well, however, here’s a wake-up call from UK’s performance improvement consultants Maritz (as discussed by business consultant Steve Roesler): their “research has found that almost one in five of us (19 per cent) have never been thanked for our efforts at work while more than a third only hear those two little words once or twice a year.”

More importantly, approximately one third of workers “receive regular recognition and are thanked several times a week, something that (as more than eight out of 10 of those surveyed acknowledged) has a positive impact on their desire to remain with their employer.”

Even if you think you already recognize, appreciate, and actually speak words of thanks and appreciation to your employees, think again. Are there workers you regularly thank, but some you take for granted? Are there workers you overlook in your thanks? Do you only think “Gee, good work, I appreciate that” in your mind, or do you actually speak the words?

When you next do a walk-through, or as a team meeting concludes, make the effort to catch an employee – or several – in the act of doing something right, and thank them, right there on the spot, in specifics, for what they’ve done right.

Thanks matter.

Management Success Tip #117: Want More Success in the Workplace? Try Gratitude!

The simple act of saying “Thank you” has enormous power in the workplace.

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We don’t think about that a lot – for most of us, “thank you” is the automatic response to someone handing you something. And that’s the problem: too often, it’s an automatic response, something you do because your mother told you “always say please and thank you.”

But there is great power in “thank you” that far outweighs its purpose as a civil nicety. To give but one example, from Francesca Gino, associate Professor of business administration at Harvard Business School:

In one experiment, 41 fundraisers at a public U.S. university who were soliciting alumni donations were divided into two groups: the “thanked” and the “unthanked.” The thanked received a visit from the director of annual giving, who told them: “I am very grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the university.” The other group received daily feedback on their effectiveness, but no expressions of gratitude from their director. The result? The weekly call volume of fundraisers in the thanked group increased by 50% on average the week after the intervention took place, all because the directorʼs expression of gratitude strengthened the fundraisersʼ feelings of social worth.”

“Thank you” is not only under-rated as a force for business success, but under-used in the workplace as well:  A recent survey of 2,000 Americans  by the John Templeton Foundation found that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else.

Put the power of gratitude to work – for the success of your business and the greater personal fulfillment of your employees.

Management Success Tip #116: Want Enthusiastic, Motivated Employees? Switch Your Focus from Output to Impact

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If you want engaged employees– critical to the success of your business–beyond the obvious of treating them with respect and providing fair compensation, change your emphasis from what Rosabeth Moss Kanter calls “output to impact – from how many products are sold to how much the products enrich peopleʼs lives in the broader society.”

We crave meaning in our work lives. We want to know that what we do matters, counts, is important–whether it’s putting widgets together on an assembly line or assisting in an operating room. Sure, it may seem easier to pump up employee enthusiasm when they are in life-saving occupations, but think about it: the employee who puts that widget together properly is integral to the safety of the machine or vehicle or whatever it is, and thus to the safety and well-being of the end user.

It’s up to you to see to it that your employees, from all departments, are well versed in the importance of what they do. Kanter’s recommendations are sound: “Repeat and reinforce a larger purpose. Emphasize the positive impact of the work they do. Clarity about how your products or services can improve the world provides guideposts for employeesʼ priorities and decisions. As part of the daily conversation, mission and purpose can make even mundane tasks a means to a larger end.”

What your employees do, matters. Let them know it. Lend your enthusiasm, your belief, your engagement to that cause, and your employees will bring their enthusiasm to yours.

Management Success Tip #114: Add Value to your Business by Showing Your Employees How Valuable They Are

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I have been a long time fan and admirer of how SAS, the Cary, North Carolina-based tech company, treats their employees. Simply put, for years now, SAS has been at the top of “best places to work” of pretty much every single list in the world.

Now many people will say, “Well, easy for them to do. SAS has the resources to provide things like free child care, a gym, postal service, dry-cleaning, shortened work days (37.5 hours weekly, max!)…” and the list goes on.

True. SAS does have those resources. But what matters is that SAS made a commitment to treat their employees as valued and valuable individuals. That’s why they devote such resources to their employees, rather than line corporate pockets with more bonuses. It started with a commitment, not billions of dollars.

No matter what size your business is, you can make the same commitment. And you can provide employees with what they consider to be important, without bankrupting your company. It just takes a little thought, and asking employees what would make a big difference in their happiness factor at work.

You may only be able to offer one small thing at a time, like offering flex-time on Fridays, but whatever you do that overtly demonstrates to employees that what matters to them matters to you, will make a substantial difference to your success.

If you’d like to know more about how SAS values their employees, check out HuffPo’s article, or go directly to the SAS website.

It’s downright inspirational.

Management Success Tip #111: Turn Personal Dislike of an Employee into Professional Appreciation

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You can’t like all your employees–heck, most of us don’t like everyone in our extended families–and yet, you still need to manage those you’re not particularly fond of.

More importantly, you need to manage the “unliked” in a way that facilitates their happiness at work, because as has been well established by now, unhappy employees have a way of disengaging, which in turn, negatively impacts your success.

According to Amy Gallo: “Itʼs neither possible — nor even ideal — to build a team comprised entirely of people youʼd invite to a backyard barbecue. But there are real pitfalls to disliking an employee. Consciously or unconsciously, you might mismanage him or treat him unfairly and fail to see the real benefit he can deliver to your team.”

The most effective antidote to personal dislike of someone? See the best in them! Focus on what the employee brings to your team that is of most benefit to its overall success. Pay attention to the ways in which the employee contributes, and emphasize those.

It doesn’t have to be something big: perhaps an employee you’re not particularly fond of is always on time, or shows enthusiasm for projects, or has good cost-cutting ideas.

What matters is that you switch your focus from your personal dislike of the employee to your professional appreciation for your employee’s value.

Management Success Tip #103: A Performance-Enhancing Question to Ask Employees: Are You Happy?

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You may believe that asking your employees flat-out “Are you happy?” opens the floodgates to a litany of complaints, or would result in a confused “Uh, yeah” as in “Why are you asking? If I say ‘no’ will I get fired?” An exercise in futility, all around.

Wrong! Allison Rimm reports that leaders who ask their employees how they feel receive “priceless information that helps them retain their best employees and optimize their productivity.”

For example, according to Rimm:

“Daniel Parent, director of field human resources at video game retailer GameStop, has a recurring appointment on his schedule that says, “Ask employees how happy they are at work and what can I do to make them happier.” Daniel has learned over the years that simply asking those two questions indicates to his group that they have his support. Furthermore, he learns what their real issues are so he can provide them with meaningful direction.”

By asking this question, Daniel discovered that one of his employees was concerned about her ability to care for her new baby while maintaining her work performance, and together, Daniel and his employee came up with a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

Rimm concluded: “The small investment of time he [Daniel] makes in asking his employees how happy they are has paid off many times over when he considers what it would cost to replace any member of his team.”

Happy employees do indeed make for engaged, productive employees!