NTEA coverage: Enck says that at today's world-class companies, employees come first not customers so respect them and cherish their input

DO a company's customers change their expectations?

Every single day.

NTEA logo And so do a company's employees. So that means a company must know how to manage them, realizing the counterintuitive management practice postulated in a famous book, The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch 'em Kick Butt, by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters: If you can take care of your employees, you can take care of your customers.

In “Retaining and Finding Quality Employees,” Jep Enck of Enck Resources said there are three types of employees: the employee who gets in the boat and paddles along with you; the employee who gets in the boat and comes along for the ride; and the employee who actually paddles the wrong way.

“You want all the employees paddling along with you,” he said.

How is that accomplished?

Enck presented results of a study of employees — not just any employees, but professionals in middle management or higher.

Ten things quality employees want, in order from the most desirable:

  • Sense of accomplishment.

  • Opportunity to advance skills.

  • Utilize their existing skills.

  • Recognition for a job well done.

  • Opportunity for advancement. “Maybe not more responsibility or more pay, but more flexibility and freedom.”

  • Adequate pay. “That's been showing up on this list for 25 years. It simply means, ‘If you pay me a fair wage, I don't have to worry about my family. If you give me good benefits, I don't have to worry about my family. I can come to work and be focused on work.’ The only time you see in a study where pay is higher is when they're being underpaid. How easy is it today for a company to figure out whether their pay standards are equal based on the market?”

  • Fairness. “They're basically saying, ‘Don't play favorites. Don't say, ‘Because this person is good at one thing, we'll let them get away with something else.’ The stronger the standards, the better the team.”

  • Pride in product. “Do I believe in our services or product?”

  • Congenial atmosphere. “Teamwork. Do we like what we're doing? Do we enjoy each other? Do we enjoy our customers and our suppliers who like what we do?”

  • Benefits. “Today's benefits are different than they were 20 years ago. It's also about flexible spending, help with personal problems, and employee-assistance programs.”

Another important list

Ten things that make employees happy:

  • Praise for a job well done. “In private and personal. That means saying, ‘Way to go, good job.’ Be specific: ‘I particularly appreciated when you did this. It helped make us more productive.’”

  • Clear, specific expectations. “Job descriptions and project goals. Make sure job descriptions are real. Are they updated? And what are the projects goals? And how do we evaluate? People say, ‘We'll know when we get there.’ No, that's like being in the Olympics and there's no finish line.”

  • “In” on the big picture. “How I fit into the company. What is my role and how important is it? If you're driving through Nevada and your car stops, it could be the gasket for $11.99 or a transmission. Does it matter to you in the middle of the Nevada desert? No, every part in an engine matters. Or you shouldn't have them.”

  • Challenged. “To be stretched with projects and responsibilities.”

  • Opportunities to increase skills. “Training and mentoring.”

  • Delegate to me. “Give me part of your job.”

  • Hold everyone accountable to the same rules. “Did you notice that was the same as fairness on the other one?”

  • Inspire me. “Be passionate about the vision and mission. And if it doesn't inspire you, change it. Engage it more, update it, and involve your customers.”

  • Ask me for my ideas. “Engage me in problem-solving. Many times in the past, an employee said, ‘This is problem for management; go fix it.’ Today's world-class companies throw it back to the employee and say, ‘There is a form for that. What would you like it to be? What's stopping it from happening now? What resources do we have in place to make sure we can solve that problem?’ And then the job chart: who does what by when. And how do we evaluate it? So they know they're engaged in the decision.”

  • Improve my physical environment. “Is it a clean workspace? Clutter is the new swear word. As a professional, you have an ABC zone. A is anything you can cut from the seat of your desk. B means a couple of steps away. C means down at the counter.”

Enck also listed another North American study that listed what employees want most:

  • Purpose. “To use their ideas to make a difference.”

  • Goals. “Obtainable, measurable, and reviewed every three months. Peyton Manning's a pretty interesting guy. When he came to Denver, in his first game the Broncos beat the Steelers. He said, ‘I only know 11% of the offense. We lucked out. In fact, the Steelers should have beaten us. So I'm going to work really hard to set up goals so I can get better.’ And they made the playoffs. Every time he's done on the field with his offensive group, he goes to the sideline and calls a meeting with them. They're doing evaluations at the end of every series.”

  • Delegation. “With authority, resources, and an adequate timeline. One of the fastest ways to get rid of the highest-quality employees is to become a helicopter boss and set a goal and standards and get in their face before they're supposed to report to you on Tuesday. Unless you have physical evidence they are behind schedule, never do that.”

  • Autonomy. “Set the goals, and give them freedom on tactics. Every once in awhile I'll take a real job and go to work for someone. Three or four years ago, I was a transition specialist. I walked in and two of my employees were shopping for jewelry online for a wedding. I asked them, ‘What's going on?’ ‘Oh, you caught us. We're shopping online.’ ‘Oh cool, let me see what you're looking at.’ ‘You're not mad at us?’ ‘No, I measure productivity, not hours.’”

  • Flexibility. “Trust them to work where and when they want.”

  • Attention. “Ask them, ‘How are things going?’ — just checking in with them as a person. ‘How are you doing?’ That's a whole lot different than going, ‘How are we doing on that project?’ ‘Well, I'll let you know tomorrow at 10. That's when our meeting is, isn't it?’”

  • Opportunity to innovate. “Strategic reflection and planning.”

  • Open-minded managers. “Ask for suggestions and solutions. Ask their opinion a lot. The old model of leadership is, ‘I know more than you.’ The new model of leadership is, ‘I will facilitate the collective intelligence of everybody for the benefit of the company,’ which means I have to check my ego at the door some days.”

  • Transparency. “Keep communications open all the time. As much as possible, unless it's something so confidential that it could hurt the company. A lot of people hold information at their chest like it's a card game, when in fact everyone's at the table, trying to win together. So lay out your cards and be open and honest. Edison failed 17,000 times just on a light bulb. He was very open about it until he got to tungsten, which was the element that worked.”

  • Compensation. “Adequate pay and benefits to support a family.”

Make it a team

What is the most important decision that management makes?

Enck said it's this: Who's on the team and what seat do they have on the bus to make sure we have a vision, strategic planning, and metrics to measure our progress?

“Your ability to assess who should be on your team and what seat they have is absolutely the most critical decision you'll make all year,” he said. “A lot of people wait until they need someone, and then they market. You should be marketing right now. Be involved, help strategize, let people know.

“I used to run a Boys and Girls Club. We used to have a problem with cruisers — a criminal element outside our club. We'd have junior high dances on Friday. One of our board members said, ‘Why don't we just start the junior high dance at 3 pm as soon as they're out of school?’ One of my board members was a junior high representative and said, ‘Would you go to a dance when it isn't dark? So maybe we need a better solution.’ The right people were at the table making decisions.

“The navigator is just as important, if not more important, as the driver. And the navigator is a team.”

He said there are three strategic questions:

  • What's working well?

  • What's not working so well?

  • What can we do differently?

Enck said that it's especially important to meet the needs of those 36 years old and younger — better known as Generation Y.

“They want to be involved,” he said. “Management thinks they have to run the meeting. No, you don't. You just to have to make sure they're interested. Rotate who runs it. Rotate the agenda. If your agenda is ABCDEF, what happens to F every week? They get disrespected because they're at the bottom of the list. So maybe F becomes A the next week.”

Other tips:

  • The circle model. “When my cousin was fighting in Vietnam, there were peace talks going on. What was the biggest decision they had to make? The shape of the table. When they finally came up with a circle, Vietnam was on its way out. Who is most important at a round table? What spoke is most important on the wheel of a bike?”

  • Start with a check-in. “Ask, ‘How's everyone doing?’ It doesn't have to have anything to do with work.”

  • Add a Mistake of the Month. “Why would you do that? So it doesn't happen again.”

  • Add a Success of the Month. “What's something you did well? Everybody thinks Lee Iococca left Ford and came to Chrysler and invented the minivan. No, he didn't. Twenty-two Dearborn, Michigan, housewives invented the minivan. He brought them in with some food and cake and coffee and said, ‘What do you want?’”

  • Allow some personal space. “Studies show that technology can be an enhancer or inhibitor. But if you have started a group meeting and some people are not involved in a discussion. … For example, when my CFO and I are talking about what we can afford to do, my marketing person doesn't necessarily have to be involved in the discussion, so she should be allowed to use her electronic device, and when we need her attention, she'll be right there.”

  • Identify goals ahead of time. “If I serve on the board of directors of anything, I would like to be sent an agenda with columns down the left side that say, ‘discussion,’ ‘vote,’ or ‘information,’ and give me a checkbox. So if I get an agenda that is mostly informational, I'm too busy to go. That's a metric.”

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