Invest in your people: Only happy employees can create happy customers

Running a business on a long-term basis requires the entrepreneur to continuously invest in his business.

This usually implies, for the entrepreneur, investments in  new equipment and technology, in new product development, in new facilities, in new stores and outlets.

Entrepreneurs often neglect investing in their employees, forgetting people are a company’s most valuable resource.

In a sense, employees are more important than customers.  Why?  Because employees who deliver excellent service can set one’s business apart from the competition.  Only happy employees can make customers happy.  Have you heard of the saying “One cannot give what one doesn’t have?”  If your people are dissatisfied working with you,  how can they be expected to deliver satisfactory service, in the name of your company?

Investing in people can take the form of technical, supervisory and management training, values education, profit-sharing schemes, stock-option plans (which will enable them to be part-owners of the company), company-sponsored retirement plans, company-sponsored credit cooperatives and many more.

Most of these are, however, the big-ticket items — investments which may need a lot of time and resources to plan and execute.

There are, on the other hand, simple things you can do now – right now – to invest in your people’s happiness, well-being and professional development.  Things like:

  • Being more accessible to them.  Many managers are aloof to their staff.  They build walls that make them difficult to approach and talk with. You must be able to demonstrate your concern for your employees by keeping your door open.  Small talk, a pat in the back, sharing a joke, asking them how things are going– these are small things that go a long way. Employees must feel your concerned presence as their leader.
  • Knowing them better – Employees will feel gratified to know that they are not just bookkeepers, clerks, welders, machine operators, etc. to you.  Get to know Cristy, not the property custodian , but Cristy, the mother of two teenagers, whose husband is away working in the Middle East, and whose mother just suffered a stroke.
  • Allowing your people to make mistakes.  Give them the freedom to take initiatives.  In the process, they will make mistakes – which can still be positive if translated into learning opportunities.  Remember, no organization will flourish in an atmosphere of fear.  If there is an operational problem, share your troubles with them and explore possible solutions with them.  This is known as participative management and decision-making.
  • Communicating company goals.  Brief them on the business’ vision, mission and objectives, and plans.  Be sure these are clearly understood by them.  They must be able to connect with these plans.  They must be made to feel they are part of these plans and that these cannot be realized without their contribution. Doing this will give their work a sense of meaning, especially if they get to know their work is contributing not only to the business but to the larger society.
  • Taking time out for fun.  Provide employees with breaks that allow them to relax, laugh, banter about.  Once a month (or on an employee’s birthday),  order a gallon of ice cream or a couple of extra-large pizzas. Some employers even go to the extent of treating employees to a week-end or month-end drinking spree complete with videoke singing.  Plan a memorable Christmas party.  What about an egg hunt for your employee’s children at Easter?  Or a Halloween costume party?
  • Giving little extras, like flowing coffee, free uniforms, a medical kit containing head-ache pills and other common medicines. Some small, truly patriarchal businessmen eat lunch with their people.  You don’t have to provide free lunch every day; once-a-week lunch treats can be enough.

 

Photo:  from dipologcity.com

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