Ask anyone who owns a company, and they’ll tell you that one of their most important considerations is retaining good staff. It’s difficult enough to find and hire the most qualified people, so once you have them on board you want to keep them. It’s always been a priority of mine to treat employees well so that they not only feel valued for their contributions, but also so they view their positions as careers rather than jobs.
For business leaders, communication with staff is essential, whether they hold management or front-line positions, or something in between. Here are five key things your employees need to know.
The company’s mission and vision.
It’s crucial that employees know the reason they do their work, and what they’re achieving collaboratively with co-workers. As such, it’s up to you, the company owner or CEO, to define your mission and vision in clear terms. There’s an automobile commercial in which assembly line employees address the camera and talk about the ownership they have of the part of the line they work. The point is that although they’ll never meet the end-user, or customer, they played a role in your driving and safety experience by installing a seat or attaching a rear-view mirror. By communicating to employees how their work impacts the big picture, you’re letting them know that no matter how big or small their actual task is, they’re an important part of a team that’s working together toward a common purpose.
How to treat customers.
In any company there are potentially several employee positions that serve as customer touch points. Because these employees represent your company in those interactions, they can have a direct impact on revenue. For this reason they need to know what is expected of them when those interactions take place. As just one example, a customer service telephone representative — say, at a cable television provider — might field one call from a genial customer who’s simply seeking information followed by a call from a disgruntled customer who is having problems with their reception during a power outage. The truly professional employee will handle both calls with patience while maintaining a calm demeanor. Because countless customer interactions occur every day, it’s important that customer-facing employees be clearly instructed on how to interact with the customers. It only takes one employee lacking in people skills to create bad word-of-mouth.
Goals and objectives.
All employees need to know what’s expected of them in terms of meeting and hopefully exceeding goals and objectives. Generally, it’s an employee’s direct supervisor who’s charged with communicating this based on the company’s strategic plan. In some companies it’s about numbers, such as producing a higher percentage of products than they did last year or increasing sales by a stated percentage. Other times, it might be cost reduction or some other metric. Sometimes it’s learning a new skill or further developing an existing on to better serve the company. The main point is that each employee needs to know what he or she needs to do to accomplish objectives.
Your company probably has an employee handbook or similar document, or perhaps a page on the company’s intranet site that defines policies in specific terms. If it doesn’t, it’s incumbent on company leadership to produce some form of documentation that lets employees know what they can and can’t do, as well as details related to processes, procedures and benefits. Equally important, employees also need what their rights are and how to address potential issues should they occur. In today’s litigious work environment it’s crucial to plan for any and every contingency.
How to provide feedback.
One of the differences between a “boss” and a leader is a boss can often act as a dictator while a leader will usually encourage feedback and input from his or her employees. If your employees take pride in their work and are inspired to give 100 percent to support the company mission and vision, it’s only fair that they be provided with mechanisms for providing their comments, asking questions and suggesting ideas. The concept of the traditional “suggestion box” can take many forms, from open forums with leadership, email messaging and an actual mailbox in the executive suite to an open-door policy established by the CEO. For example, some CEOs designate a weekly day and a time range during which they’ll meet with employees who have items to discuss. These types of policies can go a long way to engender a positive perception of company leadership.