By Cindy Hanauer
There’s not a business in the world that can succeed without people. But the truth is that every organization will be faced with a broad spectrum of employee engagement – some employees are highly engaged with little encouragement, while other employees come to work with a chip already on their shoulder. Disgruntled and disengaged employees affect every aspect of the business ranging from customer satisfaction to overall financial results.
Hiring and developing a good employee is imperative. Why? Because keeping the wrong employee in the workforce ultimately costs a company 15 times that employee’s salary! But before we can judge our own employees, we as leadership of the company, must be introspective in our own hiring and management skills. Is the leadership that we represent conducive to a happy and productive workforce? Fortunately, there are many fundamental strategies to hire, train, motivate and reward a stellar workforce.
- Does the interview process accurately weigh “attitudinal” skills?
Technical skills are important, but so is the right attitude for the job!
- Define the attitude required for a job in the job description. Are you looking for an extrovert that will be required to interface with others? Then, be specific in the job description!
- Be watchful. We’ve all run into that “perfect” can-do personality in our stores who work wonders with their peers and customers. Don’t be afraid to approach and engage these associates for new opportunities on your team. Many times, new employees are hired from outside the organization, when a more perfect, already-tenured employee is right before them!
- Ask for examples during the hiring process. Are you looking for someone who stays calm under pressure? Then ask the interviewee for a specific example of this skill. Are you looking for an employee who works well with their peers? Then ask for an example during the interview process.
- Observe outside of the interview. Did the potential employee arrive on time? How did s/he treat the receptionist? Did they greet others in the company before and after their interview? How someone acts before the interview is as important as how they act during the interview.
- Consider a trial process. Many employment agencies offer temp-to-hire programs where a potential employee can be paid through an agency to learn specific skills. This method gives a potential employee the opportunity to learn a job, work with others and “show” their skills in a real work environment instead of just “telling” their skills in an interview. After a specific trial period, a temp-to-hire employee can continue to be a temporary worker, be released back to the employment agency, or hired as a company employee.
- Develop a training program before you need one. Attempting to develop a training program “as-you-go” is impossible and unfair to the new employee. There should be an itemized training manual for each position including:
- Employee Meet-n-Greet including peers, supervisors, and the executive team.
- General company information such as parking rules, badge instructions, dress code, working hours, smoking rules, restroom locations, etc.
- General system skills such as building access, phone instructions, computer protocol, etc.
- General employee requirements such as breaks/lunch rules, mandatory meetings, weekend rotations, important dates, etc.
- Job-specific tasks that match the requirements on the job posting.
- Cross-train. Set up a specific group of weeks, optimally during the slower summer months, to cross-train staff members to cover for vacations. No one likes to be thrown into a job untrained, so make a concerted effort to cross-train employees before the actual need occurs.
- Maintain a “bench”. Training within the department is important, but don’t forget to keep track of store-level employees who would be perfect as an emergency fill-in when needed. But remember – train them before the actual need occurs!
- Balance structured training with “hands-on” time. Make sure the trainee has time to practice new skills on their own once the structured training is complete. During this time, it’s wise to have another employee assigned to ‘shadowing’ the new employee’s work to make sure it’s correct. Afterwards, offer feedback-both positive areas and those areas that need additional coaching and training.
- Develop an open forum for questions and future development. Training doesn’t start -and-stop with new employees. Define and maintain an open and easy forum for all employees: questions, feedback, corrections, and additional skills.
- Provide concrete examples that you trust your employees. A well-trained employee deserves a significant amount of trust. Create a clear picture of decisions that can be made autonomously and those which should be raised to a higher level of authority.
- Define goals and measure them. It’s impossible for an employee to achieve goals that have never been defined. And it’s impossible to build performance improvement if those goals are never measured. The only way to build a strong team and a stellar group performance is to regularly define goals and measure accomplishments of each employee.
- Offer opportunities for advancement. Do your employees know what their next step is within the organization? Include this information in each performance review in addition to the benchmarks it’ll take to get there.
- Be an example. “Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work. Employees will mirror your demeanor and attitude more than anyone else’s. If you wish for cheerful employees – be cheerful, yourself. If you wish for teamwork – be a team builder, yourself. If you wish for company loyalty – be a loyal company employee, yourself.
- Manage under-performing employees. An under-performing employee adds stress to the entire team. Handle complaints swiftly and follow through with performance improvement plans for employees who need additional coaching. In the end, an employee who cannot (or will not) improve needs to be moved out in order to preserve the integrity of high-performing, dedicated employees.
- Recognize a job well done. People crave recognition, especially among their peers. Performance reviews and compensation are not the only ways to motivate employees. In fact, research shows us that performance reviews and compensation are only a small part of the equation.
- Rewards can be free! Almost everyone remembers the first “job-well-done note” they received from a supervisor. Thank-you notes are free to the giver, and memorable to the recipient. Consider a free parking space, a day-off coupon, or a team “happy hour” with delightful goodies and snacks!
- Create monthly goals and reward high achievers. Contests can be fun and range from serious goals to fun goals! Who achieved the highest financial results for the period? Who can bake the best cupcakes? Remember, a good balance of work and fun factor builds the best team morale, overall.
- Stumped for the best way to reward your employees? Ask them for ideas! The reward of a free lunch, extra day off or a simple cup of coffee goes a long way in rewarding great work!
Happy employees are your best company ambassadors.
Motivated employees will create better productivity, while reducing absenteeism.
Recognized employees are happy employees and appreciative leaders are appreciated leaders. A business should never stand still, nor should staff development, which is the key element in driving the business forward with strong leadership. The time it takes to create a strong employee management program will pay back tenfold to the success of the business overall.