Do your employees trust you? A couple of our clients have recently asked us to assist them in changing their ‘Glass Door’ ratings. When we went to explore the challenges surrounding these organization’s public image it became very evident that there were a few major issues that each firm needed to address. First, in each case, the companies had not conducted an employee engagement survey in quite some time. As such they were disconnected from what the employees really felt about where they worked. Once we were able to conduct a confidential survey we further discovered a number of prominent issues specific to each company. But we also discovered a couple of trends common across each of these companies.
The majority of the employees did not trust the leadership of the company.
In each case it wasn’t because of some scandal or a blatant disregard for the staff. In all cases the leadership of the organization either severely reduced or almost completely stopped regular communications with their teams. There were difficult times during the recent economic downturn, which almost every entity experienced. But, employees will fill the void you leave behind by limited communication with their own information. And in the absence of leadership, they’ll fill the gap with speculation, rumors and vitriol. Silence is never the answer. But the willingness to openly and honestly address and communicate actions to continue to positively run the business is critical. Those companies that are most highly admired by their employees in good times and in bad are those that lead by regularly communicating with the organization as a whole. Best practices here include twice a month meetings with the employee population – perhaps in meetings as short as 15-30 minutes to keep them informed and to continuously listen to their concerns – and then address those accordingly. In almost all cases the issues that are brought to the floor are not overly complex, but each effort shows your willingness to resolve the issues you can.
One of our clients asked us to lead a new employee communication program that consisted of several actions. First an employee survey. Second, employee focus groups to address the five major areas that had been identified from those results. Third, regular communication via an internal mechanism, an ‘employee newsletter’ of sorts. And fourth, resurrecting the long dead employee suggestion box. Of the four actions, the suggestion box had the greatest impact. Why? Regardless of the sensitivity of the topic – unless the topic was addressed towards a specific employee which we would not address publicly – we addressed every single suggestion. Bare knuckled, brutal honesty was our platform. What happened? The employees responded with more and more suggestions. Most of them were simple. Things like why we are always running short on toilet paper in the restrooms? Why didn’t we fix the hinges on the ‘employee entrance’ that continuously let cold air into the office? And we addressed and corrected every one we could. Some of the more difficult ones like, when are we going to get back to yearly raises, were addressed honestly with goals and objectives that would increase our production, revenue, profitability. We started to share exactly where we were with each of our projects and where we were behind and where we overdelivered. Once the employees became aware of some of the major challenges that the whole operations were facing, the employees banded together and made significant improvements and productivity skyrocketed. Once that occurred we were able to slowly at first, but then as much more regularly and with greater numbers, start to share the positive revenues with the employees. It wasn’t a huge cost, but the fact that we listened and honestly made every effort to reward the teams made a complete transformation of the organization. Within two years that operation went from dead last in the performance of all of the divisions of the company to the number one operation. Why? We gained the employees trust by being honest.
Employee metrics and analytics.
There are a number of indicators that can tell you how well you are doing with your teams. Attrition and retention rates are a big one. Today quite a number of companies are experiencing a huge exodus of talent. That will tell you more about whether your employees trust you or not. And, as you may know, employees don’t leave companies, they leave their managers/supervisors. The argument that turnover is good carries very limited merit. The demand today for good managers and good management practices in dealing honestly and fairly with employees is paramount to attraction and even more importantly, retention of your employees. In their research that resulted in the best seller Top Grading, Jeff and Brad Smart define that that loss of any employee costs the company the value of one year’s salary. This includes the work being performed by the remainder of the staff to pick up the slack caused by the absence, the time to fill the position, the cost of recruitment, the lost productivity of the rest of the team, the ramp time of a new employee (generally 6 months for the average position) and the cost of the lost work knowledge – that is the lost efficiency of an employee who knows where all the processes, systems, procedures, customer idiosyncrasies, and the lost investment of the training you spent on getting any employee up to a fully functioning level – are real costs you are going to incur. All due to poor management. Where do companies need to focus their attention now and into the future – on hiring and training good managers. Those companies that do will outpace and out perform their competition continuously. Those that don’t? They’ll suffer the same fate as all dinosaurs. The fiercest of them all won’t overcome the change in environment, the environment where human capital is realized as their true most valuable asset.
Do you know if your employees trust you?
Employee engagement surveys, modern day suggestion boxes, regular attention to your social media, open door policies and fair treatment all contribute to winning your employees trust back. That will only occur with your strategic effort.
I wish you well,