By Lisa Gutierrez
December 18, 2008
“Treat others as you would like to be treated … Live by the golden rule.” These sayings are well known to all of us and most of us try to abide by this basic tenet in our personal relationships. Importantly, by carrying this same personal philosophy into the workplace, we not only improve the overall environment, but we also positively affect our companies’ bottom line by lowering costs through increased employee retention, lower turnover and improved customer service.
But, why then, is this philosophy not consistently practiced in all workplaces? Most of the time, it’s the same reason as in life; lack of continued focus and taking for granted what is already there. However, just as in life, this complacency results in mediocre relationships, and in the workplace, complacency results in employees with mediocre attitudes.
How then do we accomplish consistent respect between co-workers in the workplace — especially in our current cost savings environment? Most importantly, it is leading by example. Ensure that top department leaders and human resources staff exemplify the expected behaviors. Simple gestures such as “good morning” or enjoying a morning coffee and asking an employee how he/she is doing, instead of how much work he/she accomplished, draws the employees to have a personal connection with the workplace. These small interactions result in the employee feeling that the company (through its leadership) cares about them, not only as an employee, but as an individual. This results in the employee looking to continue these personal connections — whether through additional personal positive interactions with co-workers and/or personal connections with customers. Either result is positive; employees who care about each other and/or positive customer interactions.
Secondly, a mission and a vision should be determined as it sets the basis for the culture of the company. Once determined, the mission and vision should be communicated to all employees.
Third, training should mirror the behaviors that are expected not only through customer interactions, but through all employee interactions. Again, if you expect your employees to greet customers in a pleasant manner, the same greeting should be utilized for staff from their initial interview with the company and throughout the onboarding process.
Next, performance management: both counseling for improved performance and recognition of positive behaviors should be in place. Again, recognition of expected behaviors reinforce what is desired, and counseling to improve behaviors demonstrate and reinforce the culture that is demanded for all staff interactions.
Fifth, employee relations activities that are discussed should occur. Determine what events the company would like to recognize and ensure that the events happen. These decisions should mirror the culture of the company. If birthday cards are determined important, then follow through should occur to ensure that cards are sent out to all staff.
Finally, consistent communication to staff is imperative. Just as in life, we enjoy receiving good news and would rather have bad news than be ignored. The same value holds true at work. Communicate to staff the good and the bad, allow for questions and be honest. It is important to remember that employees have personal lives that depend on their work income and thus, have a better overall feeling of the company when honesty prevails. Recognize that a current employee may also be a current customer, a referring customer or a future customer and these interactions in the workplace have financial results for the company.
In our current economic climate, it will be the small thoughts — a card, an extra few minutes of comfort to an employee going through difficult financial times, or working with scheduling requests to accommodate an employee carpooling to save on fuel, that will make the difference in the long term. These thoughts will be remembered. It will also result in your employees most likely taking those few extra minutes with your customers. And the results? You will see improved customer satisfaction today, and, when the economy turns around (and it will!), customers who choose to frequent our businesses for the long term.
Lisa Gutierrez, JD, is vice president of Human Resources for ATI Physical Therapy, a winner of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in Chicago. ATI Physical Therapy is a multi-state physical therapy practice based in Bolingbrook, Ill. She may be reached at [email protected].