Profits Begin with Employees

Everyone has worked for a frustrating company or leader.  The only silver lining that awaits the employee is a solid paycheck every two weeks.  Other than that it’s the same irritating job day in and day out.

However, companies that only strive to give their employees a paycheck are missing out on the true value of employees and potentially falling behind their competitors who are giving so much more in order to get more in return.

Employees have the ability to make or break a company. Employees are the people who are creating customer relationships, who are helping guests when they most need it, who are figuring out the answers to complex questions and who are recruiting for the next level of talent to bring to an organization.

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The service profit chain is a great example of why employees matter the most. A lot of companies are overly focused on profits. Being money hungry doesn’t mean a company will make money.

However, by taking care of and impressing employees, it gives businesses a promising advantage of customer loyalty. When an organization treats employees well, whether that’s through culture, benefits, perks, or great leaders, they are more willing to treat customers well, which in turn will create brand loyalty or encourage customers to stay, spend or experience a little longer.  This then allows the company to give back to its employees, which starts the process all over again.

Of course, a company could force or coerce its employees to treat its customers right, but how long can that really be sustained? Organizations need create an employee-focused culture, set high expectations and hold people accountable in order to drive profits.

It could be argued that a company must have customers to be in business, but I believe that it starts with the employees because, realistically, if the company did not have employee expenditures they would not be able to open a door, answer a phone or send an email to find a customer.

While some companies do this very well, a lot of companies are missing out on the best investment they can make. Simply by creating great “internal service” for employees while shifting away from a focus on generating profits, can in fact provide a much more profitable business strategy.

Give to employees, so they can give to customers and customers can give to the bottom line. I really believe it can be this easy for companies, if they are willing to change their culture and mindset and prove to employees everyday that they’re the most important part of the organization.  If employees are engaged, the ROI will be quite rewarding.

Does your company utilize The Service Profit Chain? Let me know in the comment section below.

AI in HR

Everything is slowly gravitating toward becoming automated or processed by robots. Kiosks are replacing clerks, computers are becoming stronger and faster, and humans will soon need to think about how they will work in a world with artificial intelligence.

Technology is currently attacking the industries that are less customer-oriented, but how will HR function when robots take the human out of human resources? Will humans no longer need to work in HR?

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While there are pros and cons for AI in the workplace, Human Resources is people-centered. From training to recruitment to engagement, everything is tied to employees; however, I believe almost all jobs run the danger of being affected, or possibly even eliminated, by technology… Eventually.

Once our culture completely shifts to a technology-based system with less focus on customer service, HR will be required to complete the shift as well in order to use AI. Here’s what I think will happen in the three main areas of HR:

Training:  Robots can have access to an immense amount of information immediately and can actually learn through a variety of systems. Also, there isn’t much difference between an in-person facilitation and a computer based training.

Recruitment: AI can already be used in recruiting in order to screen applications and increase productivity for recruiters. If robots can be taught to pick the right application repeatedly, then there may be only a need for one interview with a hiring manager, if that. Also, in a world with social media, readers could be used to find the right candidates who use networking sites.

Employee Relations: While coaching conversations seem to have to be completed by humans, it could be possible that a robot could facilitate a conversation based on previous situations. If AI is able to piece together past experiences, it could come to a solid conclusion of how to handle the situation. This may even hold up against lawsuits since there would be no tie to emotional or irrational decisions.

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HR is about connecting with employees, but if a robot can provide those types of emotions and relationships then it’s possible that HR positions could be filled with AI.

While I’m not extremely thrilled about this idea nor do I think it will happen with any great speed, I think every department should be ready for AI.  I hope that humans will be able to work along side of AI without being complete replaced.

While efficiency, effectiveness and profits are important, what happens when the jobs run out? Let me know in the comments below.

The Best Way to Incentivize Employees

It’s challenging for organizations to get employees to complete tasks and accomplish goals up to set standards. Either there’s a miscommunication or employees don’t feel like the task is worthwhile or important. Businesses have the responsibility of creating solid systems in order to hold their people accountable.

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Incentives are a great way to encourage employees to exceed expectations, but incentives have to be used in the right way. Most organizations have annual reviews that tie performance to budgets or goals, and provide a standardized incentive; however that’s not always the best way.

I’m currently reading Good Profit by Charles Koch, who says that incentives should be tied to value instead of the more traditional route. Koch’s companies even go as far to suggest, “when individual employees create more value than their leaders, they are compensated more than their leaders, no matter their title” (195).

This then encourages every employee to perform beyond the set standard and their potential.  The company also positions its employees to take risks that are inline with the companies values and reward employees as long as due diligence is applied even if the project fails. Koch does not put limits on compensation and bases monetary incentives strictly on value creation.  They encourage employees to work as if they were entrepenuers in order for the employees to be committed to the organization.

In order for incentives to work, leaders have to use them to encourage behaviors that are tied to the values and goals of the organizations. Leaders must provide honest feedback with their employees and show their commitment to success by rewarding those that deserve it and coaching those that don’t.

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Another idea Koch brings up is those employees who are self-actualized. This means that “work becomes part of how [the employees] define themselves. They need to feel they are working for a worthwhile cause” (197). While this is harder (if not impossible) for companies to create, they should try to create a workplace where employees feel important and hire based on personality.

The culture of the company should drive its incentive strategy.  Koch encourages employees to own their performance by incentivizing the value that is created, which is ultimately good for the company as well.  Whatever the company wants to achieve and accomplish is what should be measured and incentivized in order for employees to exceed expectations.

What types of incentives do you have at your company?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Don’t Suffer Through Another Annual Review

No one likes the annual review process. Employees dread receiving feedback on things that they did that they barely remember, and leaders can’t provide realistic feedback because they can’t remember what happened that long ago.

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Employees deserve performance reviews more than just once a year. The annual process really does a disservice to not only the employee, but also the leader, team and entire organization. It’s impossible to expect managers to provide a solid learning experience for employees based on outdated information that is jaded by the most recent occurrences.

Leaders need to create a culture of candid feedback in order to set high expectations that employees feel empowered to achieve. I recommend two options to overcome the pitfalls of the annual review:

  1. Have structured conversations and detailed goals quarterly
  2. Scrap the review process altogether

Let’s start with idea number one. By setting short-term goals for employees to accomplish, leaders will be able to give realistic, just-in-time feedback to each of their employees. Also, the employee will be more productive because they know what is expected of them.

Option one can be completed on a quarterly basis or more frequently, but the organization has to be committed to the process. By implementing a culture of regular feedback, employees will feel supported and will be more willing to take risks.  They may also be more innovative and creative because they will continuously be moving on to the next project that needs to be accomplished in a shorter time frame.

Moving on to option number two. I think by starting out with option one, number two is nearly inevitable. Once companies realize how much time and money is wasted on the formal review process, they will encourage leaders to scrap the annual review program altogether and simply provide genuine feedback on a daily basis.

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If option number two is the goal, leaders need to be successfully trained in providing honest, open and relevant performance information. Also, leaders should encourage employees to provide feedback about all aspects of their job in order to create a culture of candor.  A leader should want employees to give recommendations about the leader’s performance as well in order to lead by example and prove that the culture really is about development.

Completely changing the review process is a possibility for any company. Leaders need to look at the current process to see if it’s working, and if it’s not, do some research to see if there are other options that could be more useful. Here are six examples of companies who have given up on the traditional review approach.

Does your company have annual reviews?  Would you like to have a different system?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Development and Employee Engagement

Once a team member has been in their role for a while, things can become stagnant. Work is done just because that’s the way it’s always been done and innovative methods can fall from the radar. Success is measured on completion and consistency instead of creativity and conquering challenges.

Leaders need to focus on developing their team members so that they don’t lose the competitive edge of pioneering new methods or procedures. A company must be committed to taking the time and showing interest in the development of their employees in order to encourage job commitment and engagement.

Employees have a tendency to get bored after doing something for too long, so even those team members who are happy with their tenure and their position should still be pushed to achieve more and learn something new within the realm of their current field of expertise.  It will also show that their leader is in invested in their success.

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There are great benefits of employee development. Companies can recruit new talent by offering solid training programs and can ensure their current employees have all of the tools and resources that they need in order to promote in an organization.

Even if a promotion is not currently available, employees will be able to proactively better themselves and be prepared when an opportunity comes up.  Development isn’t always necessarily about promoting as some employees just want the option to learn more.

Development does take time; however, most of the supplies are within the organization.  Leaders can utilize their experience to provide trainings and share their knowledge.  Also, mentorship programs and shadowing opportunities can be made a priority to encourage growth within the organization. Here is a great plan to start a mentoring program.

Training courses can also focus on things outside of the professional realm to encourage team building and personal development. For example, a cooking class, which shows that the organization is not only committed to developing people professionally, but personally as well.

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By utilizing development and training opportunities as benefits for employees, businesses may see an increase in engagement, productivity and retention. This is key because disengagement costs more than $500 billion per year in the U.S. Even more concerning is that 86% of businesses and HR leaders believe they don’t have a good leadership path.  Most concerning is that creating development programs is completely within the control of a company.  Training programs can be as easy as pooling resources or reaching out to experts on certain fields.

By encouraging development at work, a business will be able to grow their talent and possibly reduce turnover rates. Companies must capitalize on internal resources to improve the workplace by ensuring they are able to promote from within and give people the opportunity to exceed potential.  Development and training should be a part of the company cutlure in order for both to become priorities.

What is development and training like in your organization? Let me know in the comment section below.

Why I Dressed Up as the Easter Bunny at Work

Happy Easter weekend everyone! I hope it is filled with coloring eggs, delicious food and the Easter Bunny! Speaking of bunnies, I had the great opportunity on Friday to dress up as the Easter Bunny at work.

Then with senior leadership in tow, we went from department to department celebrating the holiday with our employees by giving out small prizes and Easter eggs. I hope it sounds as fun and funny to you as it was to us.

FullSizeRWhy would hopping in a bunny suit be the priority of my day? Because it made people
laugh, smile and hopefully it made their day better even if just for a few moments. Humor has many benefits, and I hope that I got to spread just a little bit of it at work.  Also, this is part of our culture at work and every leader on property does things like this.

While I believe wholeheartedly in the power of hello, I also believe in the power of a smile and laughter. There is a lot of serious business that happens at work, and that’s why these moments of sheer hilarity make they day a little easier.

Leaders should be focused on creating genuine moments of employee connection because it makes people feel better. Leaders have a direct ability to affect people in the work place, so if they are willing to have a little fun and spread a smile, it won’t only be good for the employees, but also the customer base.

However, there is a lot of research out there that shows we should smile less at work.  Based on the research, smilers are seen as more naïve and trusting. I think we can smile, be a little silly and show positivity at work while backing up our confidence, intelligence and work-ethic levels through our actions.

By dressing up as a bunny, I proved I don’t take myself too seriously and that I genuinely want everyone to have the best day possible at work. I think by celebrating holidays and increasing recognition, team members will be able to have fun, which is critical to customer service.

If a business wants to spread positivity throughout an organization, it has to be willing to let loose every once in an awhile.  While dressing up like a bunny may not be everyone’s favorite thing, each leader needs to find a way to be genuine and engaging with limited embarrassment or uncomfortable feelings.

Senior leaders especially can prove that employees come first by taking the time to chat with everyone as frequently as possible, send humorous e-mails or do something that shows their human side. The leaders set the pulse for an organization, so if laughter and positivity is desired, then they have find out what makes employees laugh and do it.

Is your business all work and no play? How do you encourage fun at work? Let me know in the comment section below.

The Power of Hello

Think about the last time you made eye contact with someone, shared a smile and then a genuine hello. The feeling of connecting with people is something most people crave. People love to be a part of something bigger than them, and it all starts with “Hello!”

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Now, I won’t pull any cheesy Adele references, but I think greetings can be absolutely powerful. By extending a warm hello, it shows that we noticed a person and that we want that individual to feel welcomed, especially in the workplace.

Sometimes all it takes is a good greeting to get people to completely open up about the crazy morning that they had or the frustrating issue that they are still dealing with. It spreads a culture of inclusivity and positivity.

It can also help us make greater connections and utilize our networking skills. Sometimes meeting someone new at a meeting or an event can be daunting, but it’s really just as easy as saying hello. Once you get passed the hello, here are a few tips to keep the conversation going.

Equally as important is to greet someone who doesn’t greet you. It could easily change the perceptions that are there and may even fix a broken relationship by opening the possibility for dialogue. Give it a try, the worst thing that could happen is they say nothing, like they always do anyway!

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Leaders also need to be critically aware of how important their welcome is for their employees. If a leader comes into the office day after day and doesn’t recognize the team with a good morning, it sets a tone that work is more important than a positive environment and a caring culture. If you are a leader, make a point of greeting each individual on your team if that’s possible. If not, send out a good morning e-mail message to the whole team and see what happens to the buzz in the office.

Speaking of e-mail, always, always, always include some type of greeting in the initial e-mail you send to a person. This again sets the tone, and if you are asking for a favor, you should at least take a moment to greet that person. Here is a complete list of other ideas to make your e-mails professional and polished.

Greetings have the ability to change someone’s day and can really infect a business’s culture with positivity, acceptance and friendliness. Saying hello is extremely contagious, so just note that you have been warned that once you start, you luckily won’t be able stop!

The next time you are at work, say hello to everyone you see and let me know what happens in the comment section below.