On April 1, 2016, I was laid off.
No, this is not an April fool’s joke.
After five months of writing for this company, that was the way my role came to an end. No notice, no evaluation, no conversation. Nothing.
Though to my chagrin, that was not a surprise. Given the way the company gets people in and lets people out—with no consideration or compassion—I was just one more fish in the sea of many.
Talking to people in different industries and job settings has made it clear that this is a customary practice in Florida, and although it is an employment-at-will state, like most, businesses take little (or no) effort to show grace to people who contribute in any way.
Or maybe it just a matter of preference. There is often an unconcealed favoritism system, where for John Doe, it’s “Yes, sure!” and for Laurie, it’s, “No.” For some, it’s, “I’ll think about it,” but with no real hope.
For some of these businesses, there is a lack of vision, structure, and employee relations. Others are still not ready to let go of old habits and beliefs. They still think that running a department or a business is a one-way process. I’m your supervisor. When I tell you to do something, you do it.
Regardless of whether these practices are most common in small- to medium-sized companies or family-operated businesses, or whether happens across the board, it should not happen at all. It is sad to say some of those companies are proud to have been in business for years, although the rate of turnover is through the roof; that can say a lot!
Work relations came a long way from the Industrial Revolution, and the most successful companies nowadays place a strong effort on creating a corporate culture that values their workforce. This is a no-brainer.
As research has shown, if employees are personally satisfied with the work they do (have high morale) and with the culture of the organization, they will be motivated to perform to the best of their abilities, and that will consequently increase the quality of service the company provides its customers.
Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Lundin, Paul, and Christensen, is spot-on when reinforcing this concept. The book is a parable about motivation, attitude, and change. The story runs around an executive, Mary Jane, who after an unfortunate event in her personal life, found herself emerged in challenges at work—running a department where employees lacked in motivation. Those challenges were an eye-opener for her, making her realize that a change in attitude was what she needed for a turnaround in her life and the department she was responsible for. Mary Jane showed exemplary leadership. She involved the group and led the team to participate in solving the department’s problems. She took a risk when she decided to make the changes and in the end, turned out to be a winner. The book is a powerful tool to motivate people in their work environment and personal lives. Although the book was published in 2000, its concepts are still up-to-date.
How to close the Gaps, then?
Oftentimes, I hear the word customer–centric, which seems to be in vogue currently. The first thought that comes to my mind is “Does it include the business internal clientele?”
If not, companies should get ready to review their concepts and restructure their business practices.
Serious business-minded people realized that happy employees make for a more productive work environment. It is for good reason that companies such as Airbnb, Google, Netflix, LinkedIn, Walt Disney, and Salesforce, which offer many incentives to their hiring force, are on top of their game. They understand that in order to succeed,
- A company must create an environment which values people’s input and foster new ideas—it is important to listen to your people. What are some of their concerns? How can the company make work better? How are they genuinely doing? This way, employees will feel appreciated and understand that their opinion matters. Not only that, but it is also important to allow for employees to be creative. That includes furnishing the tools for them to succeed, instead of letting associates fend for themselves.
- A company must be flexible—the understanding that incidents and unexpected events happen in people’s lives: doctors’ appointments, a child or another family member getting sick. They should be open to the possibility of remote work if the role allows it.
- A company must foster a healthy environment—employees should not have any fear of approaching their supervisors to talk about any issues that might bother them, or to make a request. An open door for communication between employees and supervisors should be a given.
- A company must create a sense of community—in other words, a company should try to engage its associates in the company culture and get them on board from the beginning. They should go the extra mile to engage different departments and, if possible, to include their families.
- A company must recognize associates’ efforts. This can go in many directions. It may include not only offering awards, but also offering incentives to employees and a family member based on performance and development. It could include giving bonuses based on productivity (the bonus should not just be for employees in the finance and marketing departments). Even offering the simplest, but nonetheless powerful form of appreciation—a simple “Thank you”—can make a difference. “Thank you for your efforts.” “Thank you for going above and beyond for that customer (or project).” “Thank you for helping me with this situation.” If anything, it shows that, as a leader, you care.
Ideas are limitless. And businesses that are stuck in time and not able to keep up with contemporary practices will be left behind. The competition is fierce and their reputation will need some damage control (watch out for negative reviews). If they don’t change enough, most likely, they will have a hard time getting the respect of the ones which are up to par, and eventually will be one more business lost.
It is about time to understand that employees are the front line of a business and the ones who will, for the most part, make the clientele happy. The success of a company is not measured in how well it ranks on search engines, how many locations it has, or how many billboards it displays. Instead, it is measured by how connective a leader can be, and that includes taking care of their internal customers—their employees.
What is your take on employer–employee relations? Do you have anything else to add to this list above?