Extra Edition / Business Management

The Friendly-Factor

December 26, 2005
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Gregory P. Smith
By year 2011, the U.S. will face a worker shortage of 8-10 million people. In many industries today, jobs are going unfilled. It should go without saying if you cannot attract and keep your workforce, then you must change what you are doing or face the consequences.

Take your pick. Which type of place do you want to work at: One that is cold and gives you a sense no one cares, or one that makes you feel good and appreciated? Money and benefits are important, but studies show in the long run the work environment - the feeling they get when they come to work - is more important in retaining and motivating people.

People like a friendly place to work. The friendly-factor does not require a large investment and expense, but it does require time and thoughtful consideration. Take for example a construction equipment dealership in Louisville, Ky. Their turnover is almost nonexistent. This is quite an accomplishment in an industry facing a shortage of 100,000 technicians.

Their employees and service technicians share in a profit-sharing plan that could possibly mean $700,000 upon retirement. They are eligible to participate after one year and become fully vested after six years. No one has quit after becoming vested in this company. To further help his employees, the owner brings in a financial advisor to help the employees pick stocks, plan for retirement, or to get advice on buying a house or saving for a child's college education.

Other friendly-factor benefits:

  • Every year employees celebrate their work anniversary with a cake. They also receive $100 for each year employed, made out in a check so they can buy work tools for the shop.

  • Twice a year the employees children receive a $50 savings bond when the child brings in their "all A's" report card.

  • They reward employee safety records with what they call a "Safety Bonus Program." Each employee's driving record is screened twice a year. Anyone who has a citation during the year is removed from the program. At the end of the year, the ones who remain get to split $2,000.

  • To minimize the we-they syndrome, every Friday employees rotate jobs. The person in the Parts Department gets to be a technician and vice versa. This builds a stronger team and improves communication within the company.

    Here are a few other friendly-factor ideas to consider:

  • Reward work attendance. Set in place a "Potential Earned Bonus Account" for each employee for a set amount, say $250 every six months. Every day an employee is late, but called in to tell you - they lose $10. For every day they are late and do not call in - they lose $15. Every day they are absent, but call in - they lose $25. Every day they are absent and do not call in - they lose $35. At the end of six months they get the balance of the $250.

  • During your new employee orientation, make sure you send a welcome gift or letter to the family of the new employee welcoming them to the company. Assign the new employee a mentor to help them adjust to the new environment and make them feel part of the team. After their first 30 days on the job, have a new employee celebration and invite his or her family to attend.

  • Be involved in the important aspects of your employees' lives. You should respond when there is a birth, illness, death, graduation, or wedding. These are the important events where you have a golden opportunity to build a bond between the individual and the company.

  • One company photographed each employee who had worked at the company over five years. Then they put the photos on a wall for all to see. This small act built a bond and showed the employees the pride their employer had in them.

  • Have a "Bring children to work day." A couple times a year allow your employees to bring their kids and show them what they do.

    Creating a friendly-factor work environment takes time, and it takes managers who truly care about individuals.

    Gregory P. Smith helps create high performance organizations that attract, keep, and motivate their workforce. As president of Chart Your Course International he has designed and implemented professional development programs for hundreds of organizations globally. As a business growth consultant, he has helped business owners reduce turnover, increase sales, deliver better customer service, and reach long-term prosperity. He is also the author of Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention, The New Leader, and several other books. For more information, visit www.chartcourse.com or call 800-821-2487 or 770-860-9464.

    Free newsletter: If you would like more tips, advice, and a free subscription to his Navigator newsletter, please send an e-mail message to navigator@chartcourse.com.

    Publication date: 12/26/2005

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