It was a very sad day. I knew the day would come eventually, but I was still unprepared for the news. I took my aging trusted companion in for her checkup. I sat in the waiting room anxiously awaiting the diagnosis. After 10 minutes he came into the room and said, "I always hate conversations like this." My heart started to drop. I asked nervously, "How bad is it Doc?" He then said, "I'm afraid she has very little time left. It's time to start looking for a new car."
My trusted 1998 Infiniti with 239,000 miles on the odometer finally needed to be put out to pasture. Gary, my trusted mechanic, also known as Doc, told me the front frame cross member had rotted and both front axles needed replacing. The repairs could be made, but the cost would be prohibitive for a 12-year old car. He tried to console me by saying that of all the hundreds of cars he serviced in town, mine had the highest mileage. He also tried to assuage my guilt by telling me it wasn't my fault. It was a defect in the construction. Another 98' Infiniti customer of his had the same problem at 190,000 miles.
With Gary's help, I had always taken good care of my car. Even at 239,000 miles she provided a very reliable and comfortable ride. I know little about cars but I religiously had the oil changed every 3,000 miles, used mid-grade gas when economy would have sufficed, kept her in a warm, dry garage, and changed her tires, wiper blades, and brakes whenever needed. I also drove gently and never had an accident.
In short, I respected her and she performed dutifully for me for 12 wonderful years.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with improving the workplace? Everything!
Employees today are not feeling respected by management. Our research shows that 4 out of 10 employees say management does not treat them with respect and dignity. When business is slow, even loyal long-term employees are cut, training budgets are slashed, and advancement opportunities disappear. Is it any wonder that disrespected employees are constantly looking for new jobs, using up all of their personal and vacation days, spending more time surfing the web than working, and developing an adversarial attitude toward their employers?
If you will permit me to extend this analogy a bit
further, consider this:
|How I respected my car||How people
disrespect their cars
|Fed her the higher quality gasoline||Feed it the cheapest gas possible||Provide little if any training|
|Changed the oil every 3,000 miles||Change the oil only when oil light is lit||Never provide professional development or skill upgrades|
|Kept her fully insured including collision coverage||Provide minimal insurance and fail to fix any dents or scratches||Offer minimal insurance and require employees to pay a good portion of the premiums|
|Held onto her as long as possible||Turn it in to get the latest model every other year||Hire new hotshot employees from outside the company instead of sticking with loyal employees and upgrading their skills|
|Spoke of her proudly to others||Often curse the car||Speak condescendingly of employees and view them as liabilities rather than assets|
|Celebrated milestones such as 100,000 and 200,000 miles||Never even look at the odometer||Fail to provide recognition to employees for their years of loyal service|
|Cared about her well-being||Take the car for granted, often driving recklessly and never washing it||Fail to treat employees as valued business partners by never listening to their concerns or acting on their suggestions|
|Was very sad to learn about her need to be retired||Tell others, "It's just a car."||Don't think twice about laying off employees|
WHAT TO DO
Organizations that are faithful to standard operating procedures (SOPs) invest time and effort:
- Value loyalty to the organization
Recognize employees for their years of service, not only with a plaque, but also with kind words about how much you value their service and accomplishments.
- Invest in employees
Instead of constantly replacing long-service employees with less-expensive new ones, keep your loyal people. If their skills are outdated, invest in training and providing professional development.
- Promote from within
There is nothing more demeaning and insulting to employees when outsiders are valued more than insiders. Develop succession plans ahead of time so that you are constantly developing existing employees for potential promotions.
- Never speak ill of your employees
If you say negative things about them behind their backs, they will know. Focus on their positive attributes and behaviors, not on their shortcomings and failures.
Take a lesson from my relationship with my soon-to-leave-me 98' Infiniti. If you respect your employees like I respected her, they will be loyal to you and perform dutifully. Take them for granted, treat them shabbily, speak ill of them, and they won't be motivated to perform well.