High-Performing Contractor - NEWSLETTER July 2006
When I visit contracting companies, I try to engage the employees in conversation about their commitment to the company. Very few seem to really know why the company exists and how his/her work contributes to the company’s vision. Joanne G. Sujansky, President, KeyGroup, talks about creating a goal-oriented culture.
A question for CEOs: Are your employees working toward clearly defined goals that advance your corporate vision? You may assume the answer is yes. But if you gather your top managers together to develop key initiatives and goals -- then expect that goals are set down through the organization and that people are clear about the direction of your company -- you're likely fooling yourself.
When employees are unclear on the direction and priorities of your company, and when they aren't sure how what they do fits in, they are almost certainly wasting time and resources. And their morale isn't what it should be. They haven't "bought in" to your vision -- and that's bad news for the bottom line.
My company, KeyGroup, recently commissioned a survey that sheds light on how pervasive this problem is. The survey by MMc Marketing Research and Consulting asked 1,727 people to evaluate the statement "My company has given me clearly defined goals for my job." Forty-seven percent said that was not the case!
Clearly, too many leaders are dropping the ball with regard to helping their employees set and work toward well-defined expectations. But the good news is that any company can develop a goal-oriented culture that pays dividends to its bottom line. It's all a part of what I like to call a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Organization, or VEO -- a workplace in which employees want to come to work and contribute.
Here are six ways to get started setting up your goal posts:
1. Share the "big picture" with employees. If your goal is to make a better widget, don't just give your employees a bunch of parts and ask them to come up with a better design. Tell them how the work they do will revolutionize the widget industry. This will give employees a sense of ownership for their work and help them buy into the vision.
2. Work with employees to set challenging, yet attainable goals. That's right, work with them. Don't impose goals on your employees. Remember, you're looking for buy-in. Sit down with employees and hammer out goals together. Make it a priority. Employers too often create lofty goals without any input from those doing the work. The result can be an unrealistic benchmark that doesn't get met.
3. Give them a real voice in the company's future. Solicit advice from your employees and put their best suggestions to work. Like many other companies, a manufacturer I worked with encouraged employees to submit ideas about how the business could save money and work more efficiently. The organization attached suggestions to rewards. Employees whose ideas were implemented then had their names entered into a drawing for cash prizes.
4. Encourage employees to be innovative. Sometimes it pays to shake employees out of their comfort zones and get them to stretch creatively. Follow the lead of a consumer brands company who sponsored field trips during which employees engaged in team-building activities like mountain hiking, museum tours, and whitewater rafting, then held new product brainstorming meetings. Later, employees submitted their ideas in team business meetings and the best ones were implemented.
5. Put systems in place for measuring productivity. Don't confuse activity with progress. Put systems in place for measuring productivity and live by them. Remember this mantra: What gets measured gets done. Create policies that ensure that the "urgent" doesn't take precedence over the "important" and do everything you can to eliminate redundancies and busywork.
6. Give feedback, both formal and "real time." Establish ongoing evaluative processes so people can get feedback on how well they're meeting their goals. But don't limit feedback to formal evaluations. Give it on the spot. Yes, you should tell people in "real time" what they're doing wrong so they can correct it, but it's even more important to tell them what they're doing right. Many organizations I work with give "spot" rewards to recognize a job well done: spa passes, gift certificates, gourmet chocolate and so forth. These tokens of appreciation go a long way toward inspiring and motivating employees.
Boosting productivity and changing your culture will take some effort. It will shake up the status quo. But while change is challenging, it's also inspiring and energizing. It's often the best thing that can happen to your employees and your entire organization.
Source: IndustryWeek, May 10, 2006, article by Joanne G. Sujansky
**************** Customer Focused - tips for improving customer relations.
“Your key customers are one of your most valuable business assets, so never take them for granted. To keep them top of mind, create a calendar reminder for the first of every month. When this entry pops up, list your top five customers at that time and decide on a specific action you’ll take to strengthen your relationship with each of them. Then put those items on your calendar for that month. These might be standard activities, like taking a client out to lunch, or they might be something a little out of the ordinary, such as making a donation to their favorite charity, or offering to help their graduating son in his job search.
And, here’s an approach that will gain attention: Take photos of your customers benefiting from your services. For example, if you help a customer gain a contract with Texaco, take a picture of him standing next to a large Texaco sign. Or if you’re a financial planner who has helped a client gain enough money to buy a new boat, get a picture of him with that boat. Then enlarge and frame these pictures and give them to customers—you can bet that you’ll see them prominently displayed the next time you visit their office.
And speaking of pictures, always take your camera when you’re attending events with your customers. Your goal is to get a great shot of your customer having fun with you! Then enlarge and frame this and give her one copy while keeping another for your office. How great is it to go into your customer’s office and see a picture of the two of you having a blast? (And how disheartening to your competition?)”
Jeffrey Gitomor’s Sales Caffeine Issue 238
**************** Employee Focus How to Make your Employees Happy
In the April issue of Contracting Business, Ray Isaac, President of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, Rochester NY talks about how to keep your technicians happy. I don’t agree with trying to make employees “happy” since that is so subjective it is not easily to define let alone achieve. I fell we want to keep our employees loyal. Besides this difference in terms, Mr. Isaac is right on target on what high-performing contractors should do to have & keep loyal employees. Here are some highlights from the article:
• Do an employee satisfaction survey to obtain the employees viewpoint.
• Involve the employees as task teams to surface and address suggestions for improvement. Management communicates back to all employees the status of the suggestions. (My equation is engaged employees = involvement plus communications)
• Sharing the company’s first page financials (sales and cost of goods sold)
• Helping employees to see the need for growth in the company. He says, “If your employees think that you want to stay the same size for the next 10 years, what does that tell them where they’ll be in the next 10 years?”
• Create: raving fans” of their employees. They give Raving Fans Bonus Bucks for employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.
• Help employees create a balance between work and family life.
• Re-ranked and communicated their priorities to be: safety first, employees second, clients third and the company fourth.
While these actions are not real complicated or new, they are still not common practice among contractors. Those that do similar to these will have more loyal employees. High-performing contractors know and DO what it takes. Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning was named Contracting Business’ 2002 Residential Contractor of the Year. This is not the same as being a High-performing contractor by the SMACNA criteria bit demonstrates a great start. These actions Isaac is taking would score him high in the Employee Focus category.
To read the complete article, go to this link: http://www.contractingbusiness.com/Classes/Article/ArticleDraw.aspx?HBC=GlobalSearch&NIL=False&CID=13898&OASKEY=Search
**************** Learning Opportunities
You may be interested in attending one of these training seminars presented by Dennis Sowards:
• Aug. 23, 2006 – Lean Works in Construction – Kansas City, MO – Kansas City SMACNA Chapter
• Oct. 9, 2006 – Measuring Customer Loyalty – SMACNA National Convention – Phoenix AZ – Sponsor: SMACNA
**************** Thought for the day
"Be prepared for a time commitment. World-class status isn't achieved overnight and cannot be purchased. It must be earned on the shop floor through extensive training and application of improvement tools. Four to five years of practice is required to fully understand what it means to be world-class and to be a 'true believer' in the continuous improvement tools. Many buried issues will be uncovered."
-- The HON Co. -- Cedartown Plant, Cedartown, Ga.
This e-newsletter is dedicated to supporting the SMACNA High-Performing Contractor Assessment Model and all contractors working to become High-Performing Contractors. Written by Dennis Sowards
For more information about the High-Performing Contractor assessment process contact Dennis Sowards at 480-835-1185 or at dennis@YourQSS.com (see www.YourQSS.com)