(As published in the Sunday Star Times, February 22, 2015)
I saw a great quote the other day that said, “Make sure your team isn’t drilling holes in your boat while you’re busy rowing it”. Business can be hard enough without having employees who are disengaged, disinterested and working against you and the best interests of your company.
Jim Collins’ analogy in his book Good to Great is spot on when he says you must get the right people on the bus (and the wrong ones off) and have them all facing the same direction. It’s vital that you “put who before what”, he urges. I agree completely – your team is what can make or break your business. Get the right team, who are excited about making a difference and invested in giving it their all, and half the battle is won. Get the wrong team, and you’ll spend too much of your time fighting the wrong battles – in-house ones. When I meet some new business coaching clients, they tell me their day is too filled with fire-fighting to get any real progression on taking their business to the next level – this is because they don’t have the right team around them.
Engaged team members give better customer experience, they go the extra mile and they make things happen. In retail, for example, sales by an engaged employee will be around 20% higher than someone who isn’t engaged. Many studies around the world have proven that when you have a great workplace, the profit of your business or team should increase by up to 2.5 times. What would your business look like if it were 2.5 times more profitable?
So how do you inspire staff, encourage them to strive for excellence and get them to remain productive even during difficult times at your business? This is a topic that I could (and do) spend days talking about and offering solutions for, so I’m hard-pressed to fit all my advice into one short column. You can find out more here, but first I’ll share the first steps you can take to making your workplace more engaged and productive; I’ll share more next week.
* Reward achievements. Employees are more motivated to work hard if they know you recognize and appreciate their contributions. Awards don’t have to be costly to have an impact. Try an employee-of-the-month parking spot, the occasional long lunch or short workday, or a free coffee or movie tickets.
* Address stress and burnout. Encourage your staff to speak up when they’re overwhelmed, so you can offer them help or suggest time-management tips. Emphasize the importance of taking breaks. You might think working less works against productivity, but it actually hinders it – staff regularly skipping lunch breaks when they’re busy or working long hours can suffer from burnout. You don’t want your best people burning out and leaving. Lead by example here – take breaks. (Even if you use yours to go for a coffee and contemplate your navel ie use the silence to think about your business big-picture.)
* Bring in temporary help. Extended periods of overtime with no relief in sight can quickly erode motivation and morale. Support your team during peak workloads by bringing in temporary staff. These temps can manage daily demands while your employees focus on priority initiatives. It’s not good business practice to have staff doing something that someone else could easily do, and which that stops them hitting those jobs and projects that could really make a difference in your business! You might think, “How can I afford that?” and, yes, it might have its short-term challenges but if your productive team can work on more important stuff, the rewards will come, quicker than you might have thought.
* Provide competitive salaries. Underpaying staff sends the message that your business doesn’t value their work. Be sure that what you are paying is in line with current industry standards and preferably at the upper end. I had one client who asked all new staff what they expected to earn – and then paid them $1,000 more than that. As well as delighting new recruits with this gesture, it got him plenty of goodwill. His business has a lot of long-term staff who are motivated and performing at a high level consistently – his business sailed through the recession with profit growth in excess of 10% p/a over five years. People want to work for bosses who appreciate the value they bring to the table.
Zac de Silva is a business coach, director and speaker. He also runs 6-week business bootcamp intensives. See www.businesschanging.com or email email@example.com
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