Forget those CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) or CDSs (collateralized debt swaps) and Wall Street banks hoping for a comeback or those secret Santa Claus-like portfolios of sub-prime home loans you’ve heard are all the rage. Forget about green energy technologies like wind or solar or geothermal. The smartest investment you’ll make in this or any economy is your investments in your employees.
Now’s the time to not only maintain your current investment program of salary and benefits (You do offer benefits, don’t you?), but find ways to increase that investment. Here’s why: Employees are your company’s number one asset. Oh sure, we’ve all heard that cliche bandied about. Peter Drucker, the legendary management expert, coined that phrase decades ago. It stuck. It stuck because it’s true.
Who makes your company’s products and services? Who talks to your customers? Whose efforts make them love your company and tolerate your mistakes to their credit cards and bank accounts that ruin their day and waste their time? And, who comes up with the systemic solutions to those problems?
Who sacrifices their family, their day and evenings for your company’s goals? What’s your company’s one asset which your competitors cannot duplicate, copy, re-engineer or fake? Your employees. Which corporate asset, if lost, would create the biggest and most negative impact on your company’s operations? Think it’s your intellectual property? How do you monetize that asset? Yeah, your employees market it, brand it, sell it, service it, bill it, solve it, refine it, improve it, defend it, collaborate with it.
They add up your revenues and pay you and your execs and themselves. They find partners and vendors to help further monetize that intellectual property. They give it life. And, they get up and do it again, amen, every day. Otherwise it’s as valuable as the file folder where it hides in the Patent Office. And, so’s your company.
I Can’t Afford It. Honestly, you can’t afford to NOT invest in your employees. And, invest more during this economic period. However, the good news is that it doesn’t always cost more money. Financial incentives, while important, make up only a small percentage of the incentives that employees feel are important. In fact, of the top 10 motivators for employees, money usually ranks 6 or 7. It ranks below inexpensive motivators like:
- peer recognition
- recognition by their manager
- realistic opportunity to grow professionally
- opportunities and resources to showcase their talents
- resources to accomplish their tasks
- placed in a position where they can succeed
- being part of a bigger mission for a greater cause
And here are some ways you can offer the incentives that are meaningful to your employees:
- Organize a company snitch program. The big difference with this program is its focus on spreading good news via the same grapevine that exists in every company. The good news are the accomplishments and heroic acts and beyond-the-call of duty type efforts that too often go unnoticed, unrecognized, uncelebrated. I wrote on this in more detail at Can Company Gossips Serve to Inspire?.
- Say Thank-you more often.
- Be specific in your thanks. Tell the person exactly how you were helped by what they did.
- Make it a habit. Make sure you schedule appreciation or recognition as an agenda item in your meetings.
- Recognize your employees outside your company walls. Tell your customers and partners and vendors how great they are.
- Write hand-written thank-yous. My wife just received one today. It made her day. (Made mine, too, when I read it.)
- Flowers, candy, pastries, coffee…paid out of your pocket, work wonders.
- Help them. Help them do their job. I regularly answered the calls on our sales or customer service line when they were busy. But, I stayed away from our servers.
- Be their defender.
- Listen, listen, listen.
- Find their strengths. Then organize their job description to showcase those strengths.
- Find their happiness and do the same. If they like talking with customers, make sure they talk to customers every day. If they like programming…make sure they can spend time doing that every day.
- Make connections. Spend time connecting their achievements with the company’s performance, overall and specifically in their area. Show how their work has an impact on everyone else’s work.
These, and many others, cost little but your time and have only positive impact on your company cash-flows. While inexpensive in that regard, they generate a very positive ROI and increase in positive cash-flows. I recommend discovering the “strengths movement.” It’s the movement in business management to lead and manage employees by finding their strengths and placing them in positions that feature them. You build your brand around your employees’ strength. You make them strong; your brand becomes strong.
Start by reading 2 books by Marcus Buckingham: First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths. Then consider the logic of putting people in positions that allow their strengths to express themselves. Your employees are your brand. Everything they do is everything your brand becomes. Your brand not only has no meaning without them, it ceases to exist with them.
Your brand needs to be stronger than ever during times like we have now. The only way to make your brand stronger is to make your employees stronger, more vibrant, more inspired, more committed, more engaged. And for that, you have to invest more in them and their success and help them reach their goals. They’ll help you reach your goals, because they share them with you.
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About the Author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations’ excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit.