Culture

Your Employees are More Important Than Customers

I can’t keep plants alive.

No matter what I do, it’s either too much water, or too little. Too much sunlight, or too little.

If I look at it wrong, it wilts.

There was one time when I brought flowers home, and two days later they were dead.

Sure, you could argue it might have been the cold air, or that they were already dying at the store, but it would take a lot to convince me that there wasn’t something about my apartment that kills flowers.

I’m not much of a gardener, obviously, so it’s a result of ignorance.

You can’t expect anything to grow in a toxic environment. Whether you’re an inept gardener like me, or just ignore problems all together.

Just like any plant, a company has to have rich soil and a good foundation to yield the best leaves and flowers.

It would surprise me if anyone made the claim that their clients are more important than their employees. And if they did make that claim, it would convince me that they had a toxic environment.

If I saw my flowers wither, and then I paint the petals to make them look alive, well… who would do that?

It’s crazy.

Then who would look at their business, identify sales as a big goal for the year, and start looking externally before looking internally?

If the soil isn’t rich, it’s just a matter of time before the petals (or the customers) begin to feel the toxicity and lack of life.

Here are four ways you can make sure your employees have a healthy environment to grow:

1. Follow-up after surveys

How can you honestly know the state of your employee’s engagement and wellbeing without asking them? A simple question like, “Do you look forward to coming to work on Monday?” can tell you a lot about the work environment.

Companies like TINYpulse have a great tool, which lets your employees anonymously answer questions on an ongoing basis.

So you always have the pulse of your company.
You’ve probably done employee surveys. They’re pretty common. Let me ask you, though, do you do anything with the surveys?

Do the responses sit in a folder in the HR department, or does the executive team cover them together and develop ways to improve the environment they’re cultivating?

“Successful organizations harness the power of employee surveys to help boost engagement, improve culture, and streamline day-to-day activities. They succeed because they follow through on the results of those surveys.”

It’s better to have never done those surveys than to do one and not do anything about it. Failing to follow up on surveys can leave employees cynical, discouraged, and excluded.

Some say that ignoring employees is worse than bullying.

“We’ve been taught that ignoring someone is socially preferable. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they’re not worthy of any attention at all.”

You might ask, “What if an employee asks us something that I’m not capable of fulfilling—such as fewer or more work hours, or for me to hire more people? How do I respond then?”

Be honest.

Tell your employees that, while the request isn’t possible to do at this time, you’ve heard them and you’ll do what you can to improve conditions in other ways.

Being straightforward with your employees is better than leaving them in the dark.

It shows them that you respect their opinions and want the best for them.

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2. Listen to the most productive workers.

It can be tempting to treat all of your employees equally.

The problem is that not all workers are equal.

Some employees work harder than others. They get better results.

When those hardworking employees see that other employees—the ones who don’t bring results—receive the same benefits as them, it not only alienates them but also discourages them from wanting to continue to work harder.

Spend less energy on the demands and complaints of your worst employees.

Listen to your top performers. They’re the ones improving your company the most. So they’ve earned credibility.

3. Balance workload with work time

A quick way to lose your employees’ trust is to assign a large amount of work with an unrealistic deadline.

If it’s apparent in your company that your employees are having difficulty hitting deadlines, it may be helpful to reassess your approach.

Here’s a process you can use for how to handle unbalanced workloads in a team:

  1. Review workloads
  2. Assess how current employees handle tasks
  3. Ask how workers feel the load is unbalanced
  4. Create a rough workload redistribution plan
  5. Discuss the plan with the team and ask for additional input
  6. Implement a new plan to balance the workload and improve productivity
  7. Meet with the team once a week to evaluate the revised workload

I think the last piece of advice is especially important.

Never stop revising the work plan you lay out for your employees.

As with the surveys, respond to your employees and do what is needed and plausible in improving work conditions.

It’s also important to remember these points when creating deadlines:

  • Be specific and clear about dates
  • Clarify the priority of the deadline
  • Make it clear what all needs to get done for the deadline
  • Set deadlines when they absolutely need to get done
  • As soon as the project needs to get done, make the deadline clear

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4. Build relationships with employees

After receiving several responses to his previous article, 10 Reasons to Stay at a Job for 10 or More Years, David K. Williams said,

“Some people expressed fear that if they work hard and stay at a company faithfully through good times and bad, when it comes right down to it, they still might be expendable at the first sign of revenue stress. Some worry they’ll never be as valued or as well-compensated as newer employees.”

A good way to ensure employees’ security is to make them feel valuable to the company.

A great way to make them make feel valuable is to build deeper relationships with them.

Get coffee with them. Show a side of you that makes you relatable and easy to talk to. Spend quality time with your employees so they can know that you are on their side.

Form those connections so that your employees not only have a professional relationship with the company but a personal one as well.

Conclusion

With a healthy foundation, your company will grow.

Take the time to engage with your employees, reach out to them on their level when possible.

Provide them the safety and encouragement needed for them to give it their all, that way they can also provide the customers with the best experience possible with your company.

What are some ways you’ve built trust with your employees? I’d love to hear from you.

This is a guest post by Ben Schmitt from Skykit. He writes about employee engagement on their company blog. Skykit takes your content from any application and distributes it to any screen, super easily. You can check them out here at www.skykit.com


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