How Companies Stay Competitive
How to stay competitive in an increasingly global and digital economy? This is a question that keeps many board rooms awake nowadays. The answer seems to be less product and price based nowadays, but more and more about service and going the extra mile for your customers. To be able to do this, you need an agile and willing workforce that goes the extra mile. But how do you get there? How do you get this ideal workforce? Here are some key areas.
Involve Your Employees
Good companies listen to their employees. Your employees are on ground zero every (working) day, not only fulfilling the needs of your clients, but get all the contextual clues of why your service is needed, and even why not. They are going through the motions every day and have valuable information about the process you wouldn’t get from sitting in the boardroom. Listening to your employees makes sure you stimulate the upwards communication.
This can be done via the standard ideas box, but better yet would be to have soapbox meetings with representatives of each department. You can even decide to have town hall meetings which involves everyone who wants to participate. Besides getting potentially great ideas from employees, you are also inviting your employees to be more involved on a level beyond hitting their own quarterly targets. Being involved, perhaps even seeing one of their own ideas taking flight, creates a level of involvement and ownership that will ensure your employees are even more on board with the business. This can only result in more profound commitment and going that extra mile when needed.
Extra Mile = Extra Reward
In terms of ownership, you can even go a bit further. It’s very easy for employees to think they are working for the ‘fat cats’ in the boardroom and the ‘anonymous’ shareholders. This can bring about a sense of futility in committing to the work beyond what’s in the immediate job spec or what is asked on a daily basis.
Companies can eliminate this by offering some form of monetary (or something that can be expressed in monetary value) reward system. See it as a form of appreciation on top of the salary compensation. This can be the apparent money bonus when the company target has been hit. This can be a company-wide arrangement, department-specific, or even an individual.
The easiest way is obviously doing this company-wide, which will eliminate envy and second-guessing but will also create a free-rider problem, where people can get a bonus by doing nothing. Companies could try to avoid this by having individual bonuses, but this is usually quite a bit of work to determine who gets what; at the same time, this will create a lot of suspicion and envy if not communicated transparently.
The department-specific bonus sits in the middle of it all, eliminating the free-rider problems slightly, but also creating a sense of openness. Unfortunately, this can create different issues, such as departments setting their goals too low and without ambition just to be able to hit their targets. It’s really up to companies to decide what the best solution is and what fits the business best.
Another option would be to explore reward schemes that work outside the yearly targets. Some companies have embraced employee recognition and reward programs that allow employees to exchange points for gift cards and products. For example, fellow employees can ‘gift’ points to their colleagues each month, linked to an appreciation for a specific piece of work they did. Once the employee has gathered enough points, they can exchange this via an online portal for a reward.
In most cases, the company will pay for the points to be allocated and is the deciding factor for how quickly people can accumulate points. The risk of this system is that people will game the system and make side deals with a fellow employee. It could turn into a quid pro quo type of system.
Personal Growth As Motivator
One of the best ways to get people to go the extra mile and commit to a company is making sure that the employee feels that there are continuous learning opportunities. Nothing will kill the spirit quicker than thinking that a job goes nowhere. A great motivator is seeing that what you know now is something completely different (and better) than a month ago. This comes down to having managers that can fulfill the role of a coach and having solid employee training programs.
It might sound a bit meta, but companies do need to spend time to get managers to coach, and not every manager is suitable to be a coach. It is advised to invest significantly in this area as the adage “people don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers” still counts. It’s also important to give your managers/coaches with the tools to develop people. This could be time, job training courses, and resources to spend time developing, monitoring, and growing people. At the end of the day, input and money are great for employee commitment, but people’s growth equals business growth.