You may have heard that your employees are your greatest ambassadors, your greatest assets. They can talk the company line and sell your product, service, or brand without even trying.
But no matter how often I hear bosses align themselves with this sentiment, I have found that their actions do not. I think the message sinks in, but employers do not know how to practically apply this axiom. As a result, I have seen frustrated employees. Employees that come to work late, abruptly leave, take extended lunch breaks, perform sluggishly, and generally bring morale down. Those are also signs of burn-out. Can you imagine walking into your own place of business and not look forward to it? I’m sure you’ve felt it, because this low morale is highly contagious. And if diseased organizations – like diseased bodies – are not healed, they deteriorate and die. If you’re seeing something similar in your organization, it needs an equivalent of a medical check up.
Some of the organizations that I see run well, on the other hand, employees are happy, genuinely smile, sometimes have a skip in their step and while they get tired, they have consistently high energy levels throughout the work week.
A lesson from Indian and Pakistani Small Business Culture
In the Indian and Pakistani cultures, there is a system of respect that manifests itself in nouns. Which is to say that if one of your employees is older than you, you call them “uncle” or if they’re your age, you call them “brother.” These are generally terms of endearment, but I have seen some organizations use this so effectively, that employees have actually stepped up to the plate to talk up products with such exuberance that their level of confidence have exceeded those exuded by owners.
Rewards and Costs
You don’t necessarily have to start calling your employees uncles and brothers, but if you break this down, it is about rewards. Being called uncle and brother is giving something, even if it is intangible, like respect. This is a reward. I think if you try a few of the following ideas, I’m sure you will see morale instantly rise. Some of these may have costs associated with them, but I can guarantee that your benefits will far outweigh them.
- Ask about children or spouses: In my experience, taking an interest in employees’ personal relationships have always yielded – at the very least – a smile. This is specially true when employees identify with high immediacy cultures. Encouraging employees to talk about things that have a positive emotional charge can augment the positive vibes that last throughout the day. It also shows that you care about their well-being which in turn means your support extends to the employees’ families.
- Let them leave early/account for emergencies: Some places will dock pay if employees have an emergency and have to leave abruptly. Not only does this stress employees out because they have a crisis to deal with, but they also have to worry about how they’re going to make up their pay, especially if they are full-time employees. As long as it isn’t chronic, employers should give their employees leeway in these situations without docking pay. This shows that you treat them how you would treat yourself.
- Give away samples: In my line of work, I get a ton of samples and promo clothing. More than 90% of the time, these are of no use to me, but my employees are always delighted when I give away these freebies. It costs nothing and the karma points are high!
- Ask for their advice: How can I even forget this one? If employees are going to be your ambassadors, you need to make sure they know that they have a stake in the company’s or a product’s success. I often ask some of my employees about their ideas on a product packaging or if they think I should bring in a new item. Often they say something that I did not think about and this makes a big difference. Sometimes I am told that a product won’t sell. Do you know who I ask? The boys who restock shelves. If anyone knows what items sell well and whether or not they’re seasonal, those that keep inventory and restock are it. They are the at the front lines. When you listen to them, they gain confidence in sharing their ideas. In any business, ideas are our stock and trade.
- Pizza Lunch: I know what you’re thinking. If you start giving free lunch to your employees, you’re going to go bankrupt. This is probably a misunderstanding at the very least. In our organization, every Saturday, we bring in Pizza and feed about 20 employees. Since Saturdays are busy days for us, this is a standing lunch, but employees love this very much and there is immediately a jovial atmosphere. I can guarantee that this lasts throughout the day and since we look forward to it so much, we see it manifest from the minute employees walk in. Performance? Needless to say, it’s at a weekly high 🙂
I have personally applied all of these in my business and professional engagements and I speak from experience when I say it works! So, try these out – or better yet – tweak them and tell me how you’d use them, why, or why not. I look forward to learning from you!