Are you in a company that has gotten so entrenched in metrics and EBITDA that your people are wondering if they really matter? Do you need a reboot? Or a “wipe the slate clean” so you can erase the negative energy and begin again?
Of course, we all have to focus on the profitability of our companies so we can stay in business. Most companies are trying to figure out how to do more with less. In most organizations, everyone is busy putting out fires and no one is deliberately thinking about the employee experience. I’m not saying no one cares, I’m intimating that it’s probably not obvious to the people at your company how much they matter.
There are tons of great stories of companies that have great work environments. Zappos, Google, Southwest Airlines, QuikTrip, and many others come to mind. I’m guessing your company has been good at developing a great environment at times but can you sustain it? Has it been put on the back burner? Do you want to know how to bring back the fun? Or maybe even start having fun? Having your employees smiling and getting along with each other better?
Let’s assume you believe you need to make a change. You want to do something about the employee experience. Where do you start? You start with a face-to-face meeting and tell people they matter. You stop just talking about the company, and you start talking about the people. You acknowledge that you want to make sure they know how important they are, and you actually give your team permission to provide feedback. It is NOT you giving up control or changing directions in how the business runs; it’s simply you listening to your biggest customer…the people that provide whatever goods or services your company provides.
Start with a small group or your trusted advisors or your direct reports. Tell them you want to excite the troops. You want to start an employee appreciation campaign. Or you want to reinforce the one you already have that’s no longer effective. Nickname them the “Culture Club,”…or anything else you think is catchy!
The Logistics of the Meeting
Get a giant post-it note pad and a bag of markers. Put your team into groups of three or more, depending on how many are in the room. Hand out one sheet and marker to each group. At the top of the sheet, write “employee appreciation.” Have them brainstorm their ideas for employee appreciation. Give plenty of time to write down as many things as possible. Remember, this might be the first time they have thought of it. Make sure they have a long list…so take whatever time is necessary. Next, have them select their top three ideas from the list. They will have to sell each other and come to consensus. After you have three top ideas from each group, bring them back together. Have each group present their top three to the rest of the groups. List all of the top three’s…then have the entire group debate and come up with a consensus top three. Once they all agree on the top three, then decide. Can you take on all three strategies at once? Or should you select one or two from the list to begin with?
Make a master list of every top three idea. Perhaps you can implement one or two each quarter. Also, this list is fluid. As the “Culture Club” comes up with more ideas, you can simply add them to you arsenal of potential changes.
Creating the list is the fun, easy part. Executing and continuing the program will require discipline and follow through. If this is not your strength, assign it out but stay involved. Perhaps you have a few people that belong to the “Culture Club.” It’s a group from all levels in the organization tasked with suggesting new ideas and keeping the ideas already generated moving forward. The group can be fluid. Select a few mainstays but allow some rotating members to keep fresh ideas coming in.
You might have to spend more time and money than you want but think of it as an investment. Having a group of dedicated, passionate people working at your organization will come back ten-fold. If you have ever spent one dime trying to attract new customers/clients, remember your employees are the best advertising strategy you have.
Hear this, if you never execute one thing on the list, giving people a voice can be the change that is needed. I’m not advocating blowing smoke at people and “acting,” I’m saying if your budget won’t allow some of these strategies to be implemented; you will still make them feel valued by listening to their ideas.
What will surprise you most is how simple the things are on the lists that you will witness. It really takes so little to make people feel appreciated and valued.
Here are a few activities that I have seen on these lists:
- Pizza parties
- Bowling leagues
- Flex time
- Suggestion Boxes
- Being “in the know” on upcoming changes
- Involvement in ‘executive’ decisions
- Coffee Service provided
- Movie tickets
- Dinner Gift Certificates
- Focus group participation
- Handwritten thank you cards
- Birthday parties
Paying attention to the perception of your employees will yield a better work atmosphere, more loyal employees, and more customers, which will all lead back to more profits. Remember, people can always find another job, but they can’t always find another place they feel like they matter.