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Create a Better Place to Work:
Become an Employer of Choice

By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

Couch potatoes take heart. Dave Smith, PhD, a sports psychologist in England discovered simply thinking about a rigorous workout can help you lose weight. That's right! In Dr. Smith's study at Manchester Metropolitan University, people who thought about exercise twenty times a day for a month gained enough muscle mass to lose 22 pounds a year without dieting!  In other words, if you buy Smith's claim, pondering iron is nearly as effective as pumping it!

Well, guess what. It doesn't work that way when it comes to creating a work environment that gets the most out of your employees. No, in this case, you actually have to do something to get results. The number one complaint from employees in the trenches is that, in some places, management does a pretty good job of talking about the need for good leadership, but far too seldom do they move from inspiration to execution. Here are six ideas you can turn into actions now:

Conduct a morale survey: A survey is the best way to find out how you’re doing in the morale department. Regularly (and formally) assess employee attitudes, morale and perceptions of the work environment through the use of a survey. Feed the results back to everyone (as in, everyone) within one month. Make sure the survey scores play a significant role in the promotion, retention and compensation of all those in a leadership capacity. Use the data to manage, measure and reshape the organization’s strategic people priorities.

Make it easy for people to give you the information you need. Put the survey online, on your intranet, or in a secure area of your website. But a huge caution here. If you’re not prepared to share the results, and act on what you learn, in a reasonable period of time, don’t even get started.

Analyze hiring performance: On the premise that great places to work start with great people, start measuring, managing, and rewarding each manager’s hiring performance over time. This IS part of your business metrics isn’t it? Make a portion of a manager’s bonus potential (25 percent recommended) tied to quality of hiring.

Evaluate training feedback: The next time an employee attends any kind of training, ask them ahead of time to be prepared to tell you three new concepts or skills they learned from it, and one thing they will begin doing differently as a result. Don't approach it like a grilling, but emphasize the need to transform learning into performance, and your desire to support them in their development.

Show employees the fruits of their labor: Find a meaningful way to show people how the product they make, service they support or work they do is actually used, and enjoyed, by your customers. As an example, one company commonly meets this challenge with field trips. Yes, field trips, like when you were in school. Because they manufacture highly technical medical supplies – tubes, valves, etc. – the work is tedious, painstaking and, well, occasionally boring.

The first step in combating complacency was to build some task variety into the job. Then, the plant manager started arranging tours of a nearby hospital where the assembly workers could see their products at work, saving lives and delivering drugs and pain relief to patients. The assembly workers returned with such excitement and rediscovered appreciation for their work that the office staff wanted to be a part of it, too, so they chartered a bus for themselves. Now, everyone in the plant makes a couple of trips a year to continue reinforcing this message: “What we do here is important.”

Investigate effectiveness of internal communications: You undoubtedly spend tons of money on internal corporate communications. Here’s a little pop quiz you can use to see if they are working: Ask the next 10 employees you bump into to write down the company’s top three business priorities. If the answers are all exactly the same, congratulations! If they aren’t, you had better get busy – as former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson once put it, “Confused players aren’t very aggressive.”

Sit on the footlocker: Get in the trenches with your employees, because good leadership is involved leadership. Major General Melvin Zais, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Viet Nam, circa 1968, once said in a speech to future officers, “If you'll get out of your warm house and go down to the barracks...and just sit on the footlocker...you don't have to tell ‘em they're doing a great job. Just sit on the footlocker and talk to one or two soldiers and leave. They'll know that you know that they're working hard to make you look good.”

There are many quick and easy ways to let your employees know they’re important to you, and here are six ideas you can implement today. Do just a couple of them, and you'll have lots to show for it. Just get out of your fancy, air-conditioned office and go do it!

Gotta go. Time to contemplate the treadmill.

Read other articles and learn more about Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden.

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