As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations significantly.
Throughout my career, the single most significant waste I have seen is that of human potential. In the 1990s, the waste of unused talent and ingenuity or underutilized potential was added to the initial descriptions of the seven wastes of the Toyota Production System. Various survey results show that one-third to half of employees believe they are underutilized at work. Leaders who recognize this as an opportunity to improve their organizations can gain a significant advantage over their competitors by making an authentic commitment to their workforce.
Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first. - Angela Ahrendts
A focus on putting employees first, as recommended by Ahrendts, has been a regular topic in past blog posts of stopping the waste of human potential, trust as a prerequisite for achieving human potential maximization, and asking employees their aspirations as just a few of many examples. Richard Branson of Virgin Group has a similar focus where he advocates that if we "take care of our employees, they will take care of the business." My personal experience as a leader is that the investment we put into caring for those in our area of responsibility leads to extreme levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.
Adopting an authentic commitment to your company employees is essential for building a positive workplace culture and fostering employee loyalty. The following items are the minimum level necessary to be considered as a viable employer looking to meet the extrinsic motivators of their employees:
• Benefits and Perks – Offer a comprehensive package that includes health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks like flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, or professional development opportunities.
• Competitive Compensation - Pay your employees fairly and competitively. Regularly review and adjust their salaries to align with industry standards.
• Employee Assistance - Offer support for personal and professional issues through Employee Assistance Programs, counseling services, or access to resources.
• Professional Development - Invest in the growth of your employees. Provide training, mentorship programs, and opportunities for advancement within the company.
• Wellness Programs - Promote physical and mental wellness by offering wellness programs, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and access to resources for managing stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The items on this list are similar to basic functions like a camera or Wi-Fi capability on a smartphone. The potential for hiring average employees becomes problematic if they do not exist.
If the workforce's basic needs are met, building to the next level of commitment is advisable to show deeper appreciation and support. The following obligations target enhancing the intrinsic motivation of employees:
• Clear Communication – Leadership should share company goals, successes, and challenges with their employees using open and transparent communication in regular meetings that encourages feedback and addresses their concerns.
• Continuous Improvement – Organizations must regularly assess their HR and management practices to identify areas for improvement and act on them.
• Employee Involvement – Employees must be able to contribute ideas and feedback for continuous improvement and participate in decision-making processes when relevant.
• Employee Engagement - Involvement strategies to increase motivation and satisfaction can increase through team-building activities, social events, or volunteering opportunities.
• Fair Policies – The company policies are appropriate and applied consistently to quickly and effectively address favoritism, discrimination, and bias issues.
• Performance Feedback – There must be an emphasis on conducting performance reviews that provide regular feedback on employee performance and set clear expectations for career progression that stretch them to new levels of success.
• Recognition and Appreciation – A robust and authentic employee recognition program can show gratitude for employees' hard work and achievements to acknowledge their contributions.
When leaders successfully integrate these elements into their organization, the workforce gains the opportunity to find the work enjoyable, fun, and satisfying, leading to more profound internal satisfaction.
Ultimately, if we have successfully implemented all of the above commitments, we should see dramatic results that positively impact the bottom line. Since it will be due in significant part to the employees taking care of the business, leaders should take better care of them. Additional initiatives to deepen the commitment to the workforce include:
• Conflict Resolution – When workplace issues arise, a program must be in place to effectively resolve them promptly and fairly.
• Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – An increasing expectation of the workforce is that their employer asks them for involvement in implementing CSR initiatives that demonstrate a serious commitment to social and environmental causes to foster a sense of purpose and responsibility.
• Feedback Loop – There must be a way for employees to express their concerns, suggestions, and needs so leaders can take proper action based on their input.
• Flexibility and Adaptability – Organizations must become more adaptable to change and responsive to the evolving needs of their employees and the market.
• Job Security – In a business environment where long-term commitment has become a past practice, companies that can provide a safe and stable employment status for deserving employees can offer a significant motivator for retaining high-level performers.
• Leadership Training – Those who have led the organization to this level of success should begin to groom those who will follow in their footsteps to ensure the continuity of managers and leaders who can effectively support and lead their teams.
• Safe and Inclusive Environment – The company must develop and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies that create a safe and inclusive workplace that values diversity and equity.
• Work-Life Balance – An increasing expectation of high-caliber workers is an opportunity for flexible scheduling, remote work options, and paid time off that encourages flexibility in addressing the workforce's personal and professional needs and prevents burnout.
Intelligent leaders will commit to listening to their employees and adjust approaches as needed to ensure a positive, inclusive, and productive work environment.
Various survey results show that one-third to half of employees believe they are underutilized at work. Adopting an authentic commitment to your company employees is essential for building a positive workplace culture and fostering employee loyalty. Intelligent leaders who commit to listening to their employees and adjust approaches as needed to ensure a positive, inclusive, and productive work environment.
Once again, leaders should use the above lists of commitments as a survey guide to determine the current state of employee commitment. Then, develop a phased approach to implementing the three levels of commitments that will allow the company to reach a desirable future state.
I am grateful for Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and co-author of Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your PEOPLE Like FAMILY. Chapman was recently honored by Inc. magazine as the #3 global leader of "visionary leaders who walk the talk of servant leadership." He has leveraged a culture of authenticity, collaboration, community, and trust to create high employee engagement and low turnover that took a company from near bankruptcy to $3 billion in value. Their extreme employee commitments definitely result in them taking care of the company.
Next week's blog will shift to the essential element of active consideration of stakeholders, which is integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.
I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations. The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers. You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.
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