This is a guest blog post written by Andrea Hewett, Social Media Business Director for Holt Marketing and Management Services, Inc.
My job frightens me. No, I'm not a Lion Tamer. I don't walk the high-wire or fly on a trapeze. I don't swim with the sharks (literally or figuratively). I am a Business Consultant.
You may be laughing right now and asking yourself, “What’s so scary about business consulting?” It’s true that there is no immediate danger to my life or well-being in my line of work. And while the possibility exists that a client could get angry or fire me because they don’t like the results they are getting, I don’t stress over that at all…
…Not because I’m not concerned for my clients, but because I never give them advice that is based on trends, only proven tactics; so I don’t feel that it would happen and if it did, I would know I did everything in my power to get them results so they may just not have realistic expectations.
You see the reason that my job is so terrifying is because it forces me to be the best that I can be or else I’ll be held accountable.
Now you may be thinking that should be a given. That’s how all jobs work, right? The astounding answer to that question is, “No!”
I have worked in many small to mid-size businesses throughout my career. I generally like to work in smaller companies because there is a more personal feel and I want to know that I will be heard when I have new ideas or something better to offer. I can honestly say that none of them have terrified me in the way that my current job does.
Why do I love to be terrified? Well, because it’s that first date kind of terror. It’s fear of the unknown with the promise of something better.
Let’s use my last job as an example. I worked in Customer Service for a mid-size company that did VERY well. They had a lot of business, and were only getting more. While Customer Service was my title (a title I hated because I did so much more than answer customer questions)…I unofficially held the role of go-to girl.
That’s right, even though my degree has nothing to do with Customer Service or Administration of any type (sometimes it’s just impossible to find a job in your field!); I did the job so well that people came to me with all of their problems, questions, and extra work they couldn’t handle. I even trained many of the new employees.
I hated it.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely loved working with the public and even being seen as someone that people could go to for help! I even loved different aspects of the job itself, like finding the perfect products to fit our clients’ needs.
What I didn’t love was doing the work of two people, sometimes even three people if someone was sick. I didn’t love the late nights where I barely saw my family because I needed to get all of the orders entered (as I said, the company was doing very well). I also didn’t love that I was so overworked that mistakes happened; and that while they were very rare, I felt compelled to hide the error because I was still making the company a profit and didn’t want to get in trouble.
It was exhausting, and miserable.
In the end, when I found out that I wasn’t going to get the advancement in the company that I had initially inquired about when I hired in (because my boss said I was too important in my current role); I found no remorse in leaving for greener pastures, so to speak (even though I was offered more to stay).
Which brings me back to my current job.
The company that I consult for, Holt Marketing and Management is unlike any other Business that I have worked for. My boss, Gary, is a Certified Business Consultant and Systems Analyst. He has helped so many people achieve business growth through his systems and processes. He has also helped me, not only in teaching me about the importance of systems in business; but also by showing me that it is human to make mistakes and by being accountable for them, you can become even better at what you do.
He has a structure in his business that he also builds within our clients’ businesses that allows the employees to know exactly what is expected of them, and a system for improving processes so that everyone can contribute to the success of the company.
He calls me out on my mistakes and doesn’t accept excuses of any kind. That part is, for me, the most terrifying (because I hate making mistakes!) But he is also open to listening to the circumstances that led to the variances in my performance in order to come up with solutions, so most of my fear lives in my head.
Can I do this?
So many other companies that I’ve worked for had no idea if I was actually doing my job. After working for Holt, I’m amazed that they’ve stayed in business as long as they did...and truth be told, some didn’t. So, can I deal with my irrational fear that I may not be capable of all that I am accountable for? Sure! We also have time management systems so it’s only a matter of when I’ll accomplish it, not if I can. Besides, it’s a much easier fear to deal with then fearing for job security…that is one fear I never want to experience again!
Why am I sharing all of my insecurities with you?
I want you to know how important it is to get your employees engaged. When you have an employee that is passionate about their work, they will want to stay involved. They will be excited to share solutions to problems and improve on current processes. They won’t want to leave. If you are a Business Owner or Manager who stays involved, you know how much more it costs to train a new employee, than to satisfy an existing one.
Here are some employee engagement ideas:
- Perfect Your Recruiting Process.
Hiring people because you get a good “vibe” from them rarely works. Some people are amazing at interviews but can also talk their way out of mistakes or even extra responsibilities. On the converse, some get nervous and flub their interviews but are extremely hard workers. Vetting and testing prospective employees before the interview process goes a long way in deciphering whether you can work with them and better yet, whether they can work with your company. Let me illustrate…
I was once being interviewed alongside another girl for a position at a major coffee chain. I knew their company culture was to create a place where customers are met with warmth, happiness, and compassion.
This girl clearly didn’t belong. She was sarcastic and disparaging throughout her interview although she played it off with humor. Yet she was hired. Her snarky attitude irritated the customers so much that she was eventually fired. It was the only time in my 6+ years with the company that I had ever seen anyone fired.
- Train Your Employees in the Exact Methods (Systems) You Want Done.
Let your employees know exactly what and how you want things done. It not only eliminates errors but takes the guess work out of it for the employee. It also makes the job much easier to follow and gives the employee confidence in what they are doing, and who doesn’t like that?
For instance, I have worked for many businesses who select an employee, who was trained by another employee (and so forth), to train the new employees. There was never a procedure manual made available or apparent. It was like a giant game of telephone. I could get in trouble for not doing something that I was never told to do in the first place. It was very nerve-racking.
- Encourage New Ideas.
People know their jobs; how it’s supposed to be done, when it’s not done right and what parts of the task seem counter-intuitive or take longer than they should.
For example, I was working at a Transportation Company that was hand-writing the schedule of the trips for the following day from the individual orders. Before they realized it, there were too many trips in certain time slots and they were staying later and later to get the work done.
I suggested typing the schedule. It was much faster, cut down on the employee work load, and made it easier to decipher whether or not we could take on a trip for that time slot. Eventually, we updated to a software program that automated the process. What used to cause overtime, was reduced to a couple of hours.
- Socialize Outside of Work.
I’m not suggesting that you make your coworker your Maid of Honor or Best Man, but having team building events and work sponsored parties can get rid of the “it’s them or me” mentality that causes so many employees to throw their coworkers under the bus. When you humanize your team, your employees will not only go to bat for them; but also work harder to support them.
Case in point: I once worked at a company where the main receptionist could be scary if someone made her mad (given her workload, it was understandable) but every week she went out for Thirsty Thursday with her brother at the same restaurant. I found myself there for dinner with friends and we bonded over how one drink made her cheeks pink, and from then on she was much easier to talk to.
- Promote Your People.
I’m not simply talking about giving them a new job title and pay increase (although that can be a great motivator). I mean that you could include a photo of them on your website, mention them in your newsletter, or celebrate them on social media. Some people may feel awkward with so much attention, but they will also love knowing that they are that important to you and your business.
I’ve had some jobs that made me feel like my work was important to them because they issued praise and awards for my accomplishments, even minor ones. My current employer makes me feel like a rock star. Even when deadlines are tight or the work schedule gets filled with more clients than I know what to do with; I still want to do my best because I know it’s important to the company.
- Recognize Your Team Member’s Milestones (Both In and Out of Work).
Wishing your employees or coworkers a happy birthday or anniversary (work or otherwise) makes them realize that they aren’t just another number to you. In addition, it motivates them to want to do more for you, and more to keep a job where they are recognized for the integral part they play and also just for being themselves.
I experienced this with a company I did freelance work for. They always made sure that they sent me a card on my birthday, and one at Christmas. It made me feel like I was really important to them that they went out of their way to do that for me, even though I only worked for them occasionally.
- Create an Engaging Work Space.
Giving people a positive work environment enhances their mood and sets the tone for their work. If your team is forced to come to a dingy and dirty work space with bad lighting, they aren’t going to feel motivated to keep up a fast pace. Try to decorate with fun and bright pieces, play up-tempo music if you are able, and whatever you do; don’t skimp on the coffee!
In college I worked at a clothing store that played up-tempo Christmas music during the holidays. It put the customers and the employees into the holiday spirit, and made it easy to be happy while standing all day dancing and selling clothes.
As you can see, employee engagement is critical to the success of your business and its growth. A happy employee is a helpful employee. It will only benefit you and your business to recognize that your people are your greatest assets.
Since keeping your employees motivated to improve and strive for their best is vital to your business, we are including a free copy of our "18 Steps to Individual Performance Improvement" checklist. You can download it here:
What are your thoughts on employee engagement? Do you think it’s better to leave employees up to their own devices? Do you realize that employees won’t hate you if they know that a business growth explosion in the Organization will benefit their bottom line as well? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.