The bottom line goal of most business is to make money. Well-run businesses make their money more efficiently and last longer than their competitors (Southwest Airlines offers a perfect example). Michael Gerber taught us in The eMyth that we should build our business as if we’re going to franchise it. Dr. Deming taught us about systems, systems, systems. Theoretically, we want to rid our organizations of any unnecessary or wasteful dramas. Ideally, we’d cut out all the nonsense and become increasingly productive. Workers would support each other as team members and continually educate themselves because that’s the smart and logical thing to do. That makes sense, doesn’t it.
As Mr. Spock on Star Trek never fully grasped, much of what goes on in organizations today is nonsense! As I state in my workshops, “If it doesn’t make sense, don’t try to make sense out of it!” Every day we bring to work an emotional self that needs drama and connection in order to express itself. Shrewd executives and managers realize the power of tapping into this need, rather than trying to control or dampen it. They know that while systems are important, people are not robots and their emotions need, demand, and deserve attention.
We should address this emotional need by creating great employee experiences – and do so with as little energy, effort, or dollars as possible. At first, this thought might seem Scrooge-like. However, it’s far from that. Any marketer will tell you the importance of trying to get the highest return on marketing dollars by creating great client or customer experience as efficiently as possible. There’s absolutely no reason not to apply this principle toward motivating your workforce too!
There’s a two-step approach to getting this right. The first is to identify the basic needs of each group of employees. The easiest way to do so is through understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (click here to watch my quick video on it). After identifying these needs – in a sense, understanding your marketplace – analyze your efforts, using the formula of cost, ease, and impact, just as a marketer would. For example, a marketing firm might determine if they want to use a direct mail approach or telemarketers. They can identify the cost of each approach, evaluate the ease or difficulty of implementation, run test studies to identify the impact, and then roll out the more efficient program, while continually testing to improve it. A perceptive employer will take the same approach when marketing to its employees. What’s the cost of the program? How difficult will it be to implement it? What will its impact be? You can easily identify the first two and survey for the third, eliminating any guesswork.
Consider two examples. In the first, I recommended that one of my clients, who was going through difficult times, assemble a “fun committee” to balance out the negative dramas with some positive ones. I suggested that the company contribute $10 per employee per week toward this committee. The employees could implement any program they wanted, as long as they followed the “formula.” They decided that they were either going to provide healthy lunches every Friday or wash people’s cars at the end of every other Friday. The cost was the same for both programs, as was the ease of implementation. The carwashes won out over the lunches 2 to 1. Now that’s a 100% and enormous distinction when it comes to the ROI of those dollars!
In the second example, the owner of a temporary construction firm told me one of his employees wanted a full-blown Health insurance program, understanding that he would have to pay a portion of it. Up to that point, the owner had provided employees with a medical services discount card that cost him $50 per month. Of course, he was shocked when he saw Health insurance would cost him and his employees roughly $300 per month each! When confronted by the high expense of these plans, he decided to give me a call before he made any decision. I began by asking him how many employees had made this request. He told me it was only one. Based on a hunch from the first example, I suggested that he ask his employees (almost every one being someone who drove his truck to work every day), if they’d rather have a co-pay medical plan that would cost them $300 a month or have their trucks washed for free every Friday. As you can probably guess, these employees preferred having their trucks washed (there’s a reason that most of them were temporary workers). This solution saved the business owner thousands of dollars, and created some very happy employees, driving home with a clean truck every Friday.
The bottom line: Bring good strategic thinking to your soft stuff, as well as the hard stuff. Building great employment relationships is essential if you want to have a great company.