In a perfect world, employees would take responsibility as if they were an owner or at the least, had a vested interest in the success of the company for which they worked. But it’s not a perfect world, is it? It is possible though, to create an employment environment where employees will take on responsibility. This is the activity all successful employers desire of their staff.
Motivating your employees to become proactive rather than reactive is what you want, isn’t it? Getting them to do more than react like a snail on Valium when things need to get done, or offer creative new solutions are necessary elements for business survival.
Past Labor Secretary Robert Reich commented on findings (June 1995) from a report the Labor Department commissioned which was conducted by researchers at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Ernst & Young. The study cited companies like Motorola, which estimates that it earns $30 for every $1 invested in employee training. And Edy’s Grand Ice Cream, which credits its employee management system with reducing inventories 66%, improving productivity 57%, and lifting unit sales volume 830%.
If you are willing to begin your journey (never a destination) to Partner to Empower, the above becomes possible. Let’s spell out the word PARTNER to discover the necessary partnering elements for you to achieve success:
Participation and involvement
Participation and involvement is the first of the Partner to Empower elements. Like the muscles in our bodies, employees must exercise their abilities regularly to keep atrophy from setting in. The employee activities you must reward are risk taking, cooperation, mentoring, innovation, value-adding, and challenging.
Acceptance of your employees as fully functioning, rather than apprentice human beings is the second partnering element necessary to Partner to Empower. This was brought to the attention of American management in the late 1920s and early 1930s by Harvard’s study of Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works, unfortunately though, few listened.
Recognition is the third element for your Partner to Empower model. It’s crucial that you embody that which you choose to praise and reward. The activities that you recognize, reward, and praise are the activities that will most likely be repeated.
During the first six months of 1995, as I traveled the country giving seminars, I asked all the attendees (entry level to executive) to write on an index card the one most important thing that their company or boss could do to improve their loyalty to their company. You might be amazed to know that praise and recognition was offered more than any other answer–much more than money.
Tell the Truth
Tell the Truth about what’s really going on in your company is the fourth key aspect for your Partner to Empower endeavor. In my survey on employee loyalty, this subject was a frequent contender for top honors. Employees want to know which way the wind is blowing at their company. If you hold back information, they will simply “fill in the blanks” and usually what they fill in is far from accurate. Withholding knowledge generally will only serve the one who withholds in retaining power. Power is limitless, unfortunately many think that their power comes from their position. To the contrary, it comes from within–this is true leadership.
Net-of-Safety is the fifth element in your conversion to Partner to Empower. If you truly want your employees to actively embrace the activities in the participation section, you must create a climate of safety; nobody desires to get shot down for sticking their neck out in an effort to improve the workings of their organization.
When Tony Ciabattoni owned Pacific Business Interiors in Los Angeles, he had PERMISSION cards on his desk for employees to utilize when he was away from the office. If a decision needed to be made in his absence, the permission card was to wart off the possibility of a bottleneck situation slowing company progress. He acknowledged his staff for taking a risk and fully backs their decisions while still retaining the right to suggest that they make a different decision in the future. My alter call to you is this: Will you have permission cards on your desk within the next 30 days? Show your staff that you walk your talk and get the cards today!
Enthusiasm toward your employees, their growth, and their risk taking is the sixth necessary element to Partner to Empower. Be excited about the growth of your team, be excited when your people take a risk (regardless of the success). Find that wonder of the world you had as a kid and hold on to it for dear life. If you do, your staff will be infected with your thrill of business and desire to serve customers in a way that will lead to absolute customer satisfaction.
Renewal of your commitment to excellence. This reawakening, last in spelling out P A R T N E R but surely not least, is crucial. Your employees are watching your actions much more than they are listening to what you have to say. Have a commitment resurrection; your commitment to your employees and your customers. Even if you’ve been a jerk to your staff in the past, today is the eve of a new era for your business. Show the world you’ve experienced a renaissance by your positive actions in spelling out P A R T N E R!
Partner to Empower, it’s a choice, it’s a journey, and it’s what will assist you and your employees in building a successful and synergetic relationship. One that will take all involved to greater levels of success–the choice is yours.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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