Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is There a Better Way?

In last week’s blog, I spoke a little about the concept of Employee Engagement and about the benefits to an organization when the employees are engaged. Report after report demonstrates improved productivity and profitability for engaged organizations as engaged employees care more about their work, their customer, and their company than non-engaged employees do. The case for Employee Engagement is really quite logical and simple. If the employees care about what they are doing, then they will work harder than if they don’t care. Employees that care will take better care of customers than those that don’t care. And, employees that like their jobs and like their companies will stay with them longer, making them more valuable to the companies. Not to mention the significant savings that result from lower employee turnover and higher levels of institutional knowledge.

As I look back at my own career, I’ve had a number of interesting jobs in different organizations. In my first job I discovered that errors of any type were not tolerated. The smallest mistake was often highlighted and punishment, while not always swift, was certainly sure. That job taught me not to make mistakes. Of course, it also taught me not to take chances. And the best way to not take any chances was never to change anything that you did. Hence, each day became a repeat of the day before it. With my fertile mind I always had a lot of ideas on how we could do things differently and better. This job taught me to suppress those ideas lest they lead to change and the possibility of error. Boredom and disengagement go hand in hand, and I was both. I did what I had to do, but not a lick more. And it’s safe to say that all of my coworkers believed the same as I did. Collectively, we were prime examples of what it means to be disengaged.

Bored, tired, doing as little as humanly possible.

But I could not suppress my creativity and yearn for excitement for long, and soon I found myself with a new employer. The atmosphere at my second job was decidedly different. I was only on the job for a few days when I learned my new boss’s favorite mantra: “Is there a better way?”

That phrase was like music to my ears. It excited every creative bone in my body and made me want to think of new ways to accomplish the job. I was part of a group of about 30 – 40 people and each day we would look at our work and ask, “Is there a better way?” At this time I was working in retail accounting for a shoe company. We had 300 plus stores scattered across the country and every day they had to report to us their sales numbers, key inventory information, hours used, and a variety of other information from their remote locations. Tracking it all was a challenge to say the least.

“Is there a better way?”

The energy in that organization was palpable. Mind you, we didn’t change things every day, but we were alert for signs of how to do things better. We knew that we were being paid to think and not just crank out numbers.

I was in my office one day when one of my employees came in to visit me.

“I was thinking about how we capture and report the sales by department,” she said. “I visited our store in Chapel Hill last night and watched them work for about an hour. It gave me an idea, so I spoke to both the department manager and store manager about it.” With that, she handed me a 5 page report that she had typed at home outlining a new process for our stores. She was clearly enthused about her idea and had worked at home the night before to complete this proposal.

It was brilliant. It was groundbreaking. It was the kind of idea that was going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“There is” she said, “a better way.”

Yes, there is. When you have an employee who is that engaged.

What I failed to mention here about this wonderful, enthusiastic, and engaged employee was her rank in the organization. She was an Inventory Control Clerk. She made .10 per hour above minimum wage.

You see, when it comes to managing your employees, there is a better way.

But, I’ll have more about that in next week’s blog.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
•Your Company Culture
•The Leadership Styles of your key managers
•The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Great story Dave and an excellent example of the value of providing an environment where employee initiative is encouraged.

    I have seen companies with suggestion boxes that never change a thing (what happened to suggestions)? I can tell you what happened hundreds of employees left both of those companies and started competing businesses that deployed the suggestions that the larger companies ignored. One of those two original companies no longer exists and the other is a shell of its former glory.

    Daniel Pink captures it well, Employees want mastery, autonomy, decent compensation and a sense of purpose. Provide those and watch your business grow.