Employees don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them and their contributions to the work they do. This simple sentence – “says easy, does hard” – sums up just how challenging it can be to communicate that you care.
May Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said that people wear an invisible sign around their neck saying “make me feel important.” Oh how I wish it were so easy to just build our businesses, gain great paying and profitable customers, and do superior work. It never is just that easy. We are in the people business, rather the employee business, and there is a certain amount of care and feeding required to retain good, even great, employees. I am recommending two ways we can start the New Year right when it comes to creating employee stickiness; creating a culture of celebration and repeated alignment of employee expectations.
Just last month, I was talking with a senior vice president of a $1 billion dollar industrial distributor about employee celebration. We were discussing the simple act of sending our employees a card on their birthday. He was agreeing with me on the simple action and then shifted it in a subtle way, “What would mean more to me than a birthday card, Curt, would be a Happy Work Anniversary card.” I pressed him for more details. He said that this is his 26th year with the company and it would mean more and impact him more to be recognized for 26 year of service. Now, this is a senior VP, who started right out of college for this company. He, too, had that invisible sign around his neck – “make me feel important.”
The tools and technology are here, now, today. They have been perfected and automated. Now is the time for all of us to celebrate our employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries. It is not complicated, and the investment is under $4.00 per employee. Are your employees worth the $4.00 investment? Now, that is two cards sent in the mail for about $2.00 each. I have upped the ante and send a half birthday card as well. Yes, the system I use calculates an employee’s half birthday event and sends a clever card to their home address. I use www.mailboxpower.com/grow2020 as my service and have been very impressed with how easy it is to celebrate employees, customers, family, and friends. I would venture to say that most people enjoy getting a card in the mail, regardless of their age. Remember that sign, “make me feel important?” It really is just these little things that can create employee stickiness. Now, you might desire a little more connection in the way of sending cards. The website, www.mailboxpower.com offers personalized gifts and food products as well. Brownies, coffee mugs, water bottles, and other things can be added to the celebration card or event and delivered to the office or home address. Just more stickiness.
Another way to connect with our employees is what I call the “Top X Meeting.” I have used this and have received many comments from employers, supervisors, and managers over the years. From time to time, our employees have a tendency to drift from their assigned roles and responsibilities. Not everyone has the ability to self-correct this drift and realign themselves. Often, they don’t even know they’re not completing their expected tasks, yet they have piled on other tasks less important that demand their attention. So, here are the steps to conduct this “Top X Meeting.”
- As a manager of people, make a short list of the Top X (more than five, less than 10) things you feel your employee should be doing as part of their job. Examples might include; running reports, connecting with customers, documenting work orders, etc. For the sake of this exercise, let’s narrow that to the Top Seven things they should be doing.
- Once you create that list (could be on a slip of paper, no need for massive formalities), ask your employee to make their own list of the Top Seven things they do, or are required to do. Again, this is informal. “Hey Kelly, can you make a list of the Top Seven things you do on a routine basis. I would love to review this list later this week.” So, you have your list for Kelly, and Kelly has created her list.
- Create a safe and informal place to meet (coffee, etc.) and place your Top Seven list on the table and align it with Kelly’s Top Seven things. The goal is to seek alignment and some insight as to your expectations and Kelly’s expectations. The goal is to offer some coaching on any course correction needed so you both feel the goals and objectives of the company are being met.
- Set up periodic reviews to make sure the alignment is working. Depending on the job function and the employee’s maturity, you should host these Top X meetings quarterly, or 2x per year. These meetings will help hold you and the employee accountable for their list and any time you need to see how they are progressing on YOUR list, just have a quick review.
The best coaching you can offer as an employer, supervisor, or manager is to seek first to understand and then be understood. For this Top X meeting, once you see the list your employee has made, review it, and ask some open ended questions about the tasks. Compliment them on their list, and if you know some of that work they do is good work, let them know. Then, share your list with them and show the areas where you would like them to invest more time and energy. It should be a positive meeting, neutral at best. The alignment is just that. Airplane pilots and boat captains make constant course corrections to get safely to their destinations and that is what you are seeking; course corrections to help the company safely get to its destination.
These two simple things can create stickiness and connection and are a great way to develop a strong culture