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Insights on business, and practical ways to improve your own.

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Because it's not only fair, it's good business, too.

by Kate (June, 2003)

(Note: Kate is a mid-level manager at a major industry company. Kate writes, "I've been employed for almost twenty years in this industry, and I am an avid, across-the-board crafter with a craft room full of supplies for just about every craft out there. Not only is the craft industry my job but crafting is one of my passions.")

In these tough economic times employers have an advantage over their employees. Staffs have been pared down to the bare minimum, but the tasks performed by the laid-off employees still need to be accomplished. The answer? Divide these tasks amongst the remaining employees, and of course, do NOT increase their pay or benefits. After all, jobs are so few and job seekers are so many that your staff has no choice. Besides, they're still employed so the benefit they receive is collecting a paycheck.

But what happens when the economy turns around, unemployment rates plummet, and job seekers are the ones in control? It will be difficult enough to find new quality employees; you can't afford to lose the good ones you already have.

Maybe it's time to pause and consider if you're recognizing your good employees properly. At the end of the day, can you reflect on your interactions with the staff and honestly say that you are developing loyalty? Are you really treating them as you want them to treat you? Some examples:

The local newspaper just published a half-page article on the success story of you and your store. You're fully stocked with supplies for the hottest new craft that our industry has ever seen. You were smart and were able to negotiate with manufacturers to receive great pricing. After all, you made commitments to their programs when few others would.

But, did you get on board after repeated prodding by an employee? If so, were you savvy enough to mention the employee in the article or let him/her be interviewed? No? Let's see how long that employee lasts when a competitor opens up down the street....

One of your biggest customers just placed an order for the product you've been trying to get him/her to buy for the past six months. How did you share this information with your staff? Did you send a congratulatory email or memo, recognizing the salesperson who closed the deal? Was it truly congratulatory, or did you temper this victory by slipping in a challenge? Or did you not acknowledge their success at all?

That same customer gave you an early ship date for the product. You've been so desperate for the order that you agree to the new date. Your pared-down development and factory staffs pull together, sacrifice personal time, and work long hours. Not only do they make the ship date, but they don't miss a beat with the other work already scheduled. Do you recognize these extra efforts or do you now expect this amount of effort at all times?

Our industry is feeling the effects of the economy, SARS, and the war with Iraq, so in order to survive, everyone is making difficult financial decisions. Companies are not the only ones trying to survive. Unless they are independently wealthy, every employee is well aware of the sacrifices needed as they face the same financial issues with their personal budgets. But does recognition have to feel the budgetary ax? Try sending an email or memo purely for the purpose of saying "thank you." Resist the urge to challenge staff to repeat the effort or match it in the future. Just say thanks and see what happens.

Want to do a little more? After that huge order was shipped, how badly would your business be affected if you allowed all those employees involved to leave one hour early on a Friday -- with pay? What about a pizza luncheon? If you're that store manager mentioned above, how much would a $10 store gift certificate hurt?

It's not the money spent on recognition efforts, but the sincerity behind it. After all, the economy follows the laws of economics and what goes down must go up. If you want to keep your staff around when they can have their pick of jobs, you need to make sincere efforts with them now, when you have your pick of staff.


(Note: CLN had heard of a novel employee-recognition program at FloraCraft, so when we read Kate's thoughts on the subject, we asked President Jim Scatena to describe his program as an example of how it can be good business, too.)

Jim writes: Our suggestion program provides a $5.00 gift certificate to a local convenience store for any associate who submits a legitimate suggestion. As soon as they submit the idea on the proper form, the Human Resources Manager reviews it for legitimacy then issues the $5.00 certificate.

The suggestion then goes to a committee who performs a more in-depth review of the suggestion. If the suggestion results in a savings to the company, the associate receives an additional reward. Part of the value (and the fun) is the reward presentation. Once a month, the Executive VP of Operations and I dress up in our Wizard capes and hats, complete with magic wands, and "fly" through the factory, seeking out award winners.

When we find them, we tap them on the shoulder with the magic wand and give them the check. We've given out thousands of dollars but have received five times that in savings ideas and plenty of good will.

The second program is called PAID (Pay Attention In Detail). This one is for smaller errors that people catch. It might be an incorrect keystroke on an order or the wrong items being listed on a production report. Regardless, if associates find an error and correct it, the Team Leader gives them a PAID voucher (simply a photocopied slip) and, a few times a week, Team Leaders have baskets with candy bars and other treats that associates can redeem their coupons for a treat.

(Note: How do you recognize good work by your employees? And do you have any suggestions for future topics? Email your thoughts and comments -- on or off the record -- to CLN at mike@clnonline.com or directly to Kate at katescornercln@altum.)


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