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A recent Gallup survey of 55,000 employees matched the following attitudes directly to higher profits:

  • Employees felt they had an opportunity every day to do what they do best
  • They believed their opinion counted
  • They sensed that their co-workers were committed to quality
  • There was a direct connection of their work to the company’s mission statement

Yes, it’s true that people need to feel as if they are fairly compensated; but actually, people want to feel like they are a part of the company, that their ideas and suggestions are important, and that they add value and help the company grow.

So what can you do to improve employee satisfaction?

1. Measure your staff’s level of satisfaction. A simple employee survey can provide you with invaluable information. Structure the survey to be as objective as possible.

Some suggestions for areas to solicit their feedback might include:

a. Available benefits – determine if they are aware of the benefits you provide and ask them to rank each benefit’s value. Don’t spend time and money on benefits that employees perceive as having minimal value.

b. Training programs – do they feel that the training provided is adequate and provides them with the proper skills for their job functions and additional opportunities?

c. Understanding company philosophy – do they know your corporate beliefs and values?

d. Professional standards – do they understand what levels of service you expect and the behaviors/actions that will accomplish this?

e. Likes and dislikes – give them the opportunity to tell you what they like and dislike about your company

f. Motivators – ask them what would motivate them

Most employees will give you honest feedback if they believe there will be no backlash or a negative consequence. So allow them to give you information freely, anonymously. Take this information and use it as a means for improvement.

2. Facilitate a weekly or monthly brainstorming session. Oftentimes the best source for new ideas comes from within. Your employees see things every day that could be improved, changed or done differently. Let their experiences and observations become your funnel of knowledge.

In one year, Toyota employees submitted 860,00 suggestions for improvement. In Japan, 61% of employees regularly generate ideas while only 8% in America. Why such a huge difference? The average Japanese manager uses four out of five suggestions. Employees are far more perceptive than most employers realize.

Create an event where everyone looks forward to sharing his or her ideas. Focus each brainstorming session on one area where you are looking for improvement. Ask each employee to come with at least one idea to improve that part of the company. Hand out dollar bills, movie tickets or inexpensive rewards to say “thank you” for their ideas. Demonstrate to your people that their ideas and suggestions are valuable to the growth of your company.

Here are two very important ground rules:

a. Before the brainstorming session, acknowledge that there are no bad ideas. Negativity will destroy the enthusiasm for unique and different suggestions.

b. Respond to all the ideas submitted in a timely fashion (3-4 days maximum). It’s easy to grow weary of providing ideas and suggestions without some form of feedback.

3. Encourage your staff to increase their skills. Pay for educational classes that boost their customer service, sales, communication, leadership and management skills.

Classes on money management, raising a family, physical fitness or the like will help your employees improve the quality of their personal life, which in turn will be reflected in their job performance. Demonstrate to your people that you care about them through your willingness to invest in their personal and professional growth.

4. Involve your employees every chance you get! A recent study showed that more than 57% of hourly employees did not know their company’s annual sales. More than 26% did not know if their company’s financial position had changed in the last three years. Don’t be afraid to share sales and expense numbers; teach everyone how to read a P&L statement.

Get them involved in examining expenses in their departments. Invite them to come up with strategies on ways to increase sales and decrease costs. Ask for their feedback on how to improve your level of customer service. Front-line people have the opportunity to see many things as they do their jobs that, if done differently, could improve performance, save time and money, and improve your bottom line.

Convert their strategies into goals and actionable items so that everyone clearly understands what needs to be accomplished. Update them weekly or monthly as to the progress on meeting the goals they set.

5. Is it fun to work at your company? Wouldn’t we all be more excited and motivated about doing the best we could at our job if we had more fun doing it? This is not to say that we don’t take the responsibilities of our job and the customers we serve seriously. But wouldn’t your people show up for work with more enthusiasm for their job if they knew they were going to a fun experience? Companies like Southwest Airlines demonstrate what an impact a corporate culture can have with both employees and customers.

6. Provide instant recognition. A Wichita State University study of 1,500 employees from a variety of businesses revealed that . . .

the most powerful motivator was personalized,
instant recognition from the owner or manager!

Don’t wait until the next office meeting, the monthly company function or employee reviews to praise, recognize or reward an employee. Reward people immediately. Let them know how important they are and how much you value them. Reinforce their positive actions and behaviors.

Be specific with your appraisals. Tell them exactly what they did right and how it helped the company and their fellow employees.

7. Develop your “Hall of Fame.” Create a wall space that can be easily viewed by both customers and employees. Create a plaque for the Best of the Best. Each month, add a plaque with the name of the person who suggested an innovative idea, who had the best attitude, the best customer service, the best whatever! Display letters and thank-you notes from customers praising employees. Post memos from management praising people for their part in helping the company.

8. Go the Extra Mile for your employees. Create a special annual company event to recognize every one of your people for the things they do to improve the value of your company.

If you have a company newsletter or newspaper, publish all their pictures to thank each and every one for their contribution to the growth of the company.

Capitalize on events where you are recognizing employees for going the extra mile by sending a letter to the family of the staff member. Let them know what a great job their family member is doing and how proud you are to have them on your team!

Send a unique gift or card for special occasions. An employee’s birthday, employment anniversary, promotion or other special event is the perfect opportunity for you to acknowledge their special day. Your acknowledgement tells your employees that they are significant.

It’s the small things that a company does to communicate the message that your people are important and their ideas and feedback is valued. Invest in your people – they will invest in you.

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David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.  He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or via e-mail at david@measure-x.com.  Visit the Measure-X Web site at www.measure-x.com.