As promised, we continue last month’s column with seven more principles for an organization to manage an important asset—their people.
Very few times in history has this proven truer than what is happening today. Numerous stories have been documented where employees have taken important actions to safeguard the welfare of their coworkers and the public. Countless employees are working long hours, while maintaining a pleasant demeanor, to ensure the public is being provided quality service. Without these efforts, there would be chaos.
The frontline workers, who interact daily with customers, know customers best. Recently I visited a store that was out of an item, but a store employee freely offered names of other stores in the area which were known to have the item. They didn’t have to do this but were willing to offer their help during this troubling time.
Many organizations understand the importance of their workers and have processes in place to recognize their contributions. However, some are in the early stages of this realization. Sadly, for other organizations, this concept still escapes their mental grasp and will take more time, if they survive.
The following seven principles, coupled with the previous five, are offered as a reminder of how to treat employees as a critical asset.
6. Leverage “What’s in it for me?” Put yourself in your people’s shoes by asking the question, “What’s in it for me?” This can create improvement initiatives that are truly desired by employees. Most employees like to make improvements but are often discouraged by systems. This encourages them to park their brains at the door when they come to work. It is a lot more fun, and productive, to be engaged and have freedom to implement ideas.
7. Respect people. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Most people are afraid of change. Understand that it is natural for them to feel threatened. If they are good at their jobs, why would they want the rules to change?
Managers are most affected by change. Many attained their standing by being good at telling others what to do. Effective change management requires managers to take on new roles as facilitators, coaches, and mentors. This may be difficult for those who have come up through the ranks. The key is to understand that these are the people who have spent their careers enabling the organization to be successful. Every attempt should be made to successfully transition all employees in the change process with training, career counseling, and other support when needed.
8. Drive out fear. No one can give their best performance unless they feel secure. Employees should not be afraid to express ideas or ask questions. Fear can take many forms, resulting in impaired performance. Encourage people to embrace new knowledge because it can make their work easier while yielding better job performance.
Focus on processes that need improvement rather than blaming people for poor performance. Most people are hard-working, dedicated employees. If there is a problem with their work, it is likely due to the system failure.
9. Implement an improvement initiative. Organizations must continue to improve to survive. Therefore, some consistent method for improvement is needed. If Six Sigma conveys “baggage” in your organization, then call your initiative “operational excellence” or “performance excellence” because it’s hard to argue with these terms. Commit your organization to pursue a path of continuous improvement. Create a plan and begin the journey. Delay is costing your organization money.
10. Walk the talk. Employees have too much to do. They cannot do everything that they are asked. They may decide their priorities based on watching their managers. Therefore, if managers don’t “walk the talk,” they will conclude that an initiative is not important. Make sure your actions are consistent with your communications.
11. Invest in your asset. Organizations invest in upgrading machines and processes for increased efficiency and effectiveness. Conversely, they should invest heavily in upgrading the skills and knowledge of their #1 asset. People become more engaged, productive, receptive to change and motivated to succeed. Everyone wins!
12. Implement reward and recognition. Personal recognition and reward are powerful ways to unleash creativity and productivity. Institutionalize a program to reward the behaviors that you want to reinforce. Make it timely, fair and equitable for maximum success.
Again, these twelve principles are not intended to be a complete list but, certainly, they should be carefully contemplated as fundamental considerations.
Note: This is part two of a two-part series.