Whenever visiting a finishing shop, I learn a lot from how the employees react to the person conducting the tour/interview. At Guardian Automotive Products in Evansville, Indiana, I knew that many of the employees had been with the company a long time. They greeted the "management" with a smile and called them by their first name. Everyone from the beeper-wearers to those on the line wore blue jeans and comfortable shoes. Moreover, during the tour management took the time to ask employees how their families were doing or how a project was coming along.
According to research, "experts" and news reports, production is directly related to how happy employees are. How do you measure happiness? How do you link happy people and profit? Several companies have attempted to do this.
Sears has proven that for every 5% increase in "employee motivation," the company profits pushed up by half a percentage point. Unfortunately, the article from the Customer Service Advantage newsletter did not explain how Sears defined "employee motivation." A study by Towers Perrin, a global management consulting firm, showed that a lower employee turnover rate helps a company keep customers. The study showed that increasing employee retention by 2% could increase business by as much as 6%.
OK. So employee happiness directly affects production. How can you increase employee happiness, keep employees and increase productivity in a small business?
One way, according to a report from MSNBC, is to be family friendly. Two ways the item suggests a company can promote employee satisfaction is to provide an atmosphere where people at work have a true interest in the employee's family and vice versa. In addition, have work/family interaction through outings, picnics or other programs.
Another way to promote employee satisfaction is continuing education. This can be accomplished by providing advancement opportunities; tuition reimbursement; giving and receiving open and honest feedback on performance and suggestions for improvement; and increasing responsibility or making the job more challenging.
Communication is essential to employee satisfaction. To strengthen employee relations, take the time to fully understand each employee's situation. Most employees may work an eight-hour-plus day; however, they do have a life away from the plant/office. Who is this employee outside of the work environment? What are his interests? How does this bear on his productivity?
Not just communication, but, two-way communication is important. Ways to foster this include notes, memos, email, suggestion boxes and one-on-one conversations with employees. This requires a commitment by the management, but it is time well invested. Particularly when good employees are becoming more difficult to find and retain. Author Gladys B. Stern gives one last thing to remember about satisfaction and productivity, "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."