Staffing Shortages? Maybe
You're the Problem
by Jeff Mowatt
When I speak at conferences about customer service strategies, I often hear
managers discuss how hard it is to recruit and retain good frontline employees.
Too many managers mistakenly assume the only way to keep people is to bite
the bullet and pay more in salaries, benefits and perks. Unfortunately, those
managers are often 'fixing' the wrong problem. Marcus Buckingham of the Gallop
organization reported that the number one reason employees quit was their
personal feelings about their immediate supervisor. Ask yourself if it's time
your company took measures to fix the real problem when it comes to
staff turnover - managers and supervisors are not equipped with the necessary
skills to make their team members feel valued.
Before you roll your eyes and figure, "Yah, Yah, we do all that touchy-feely
pat-on-the-back stuff." let me ask you: When was the last time you or your
management team received current professional training on staff recognition?
The old days of you're doing a good job comments and employee-of-the-month
programs don't work anymore. Frankly, they make matters worse. Next time you
are celebrating the successes of your employees, keep in mind these three
keys that make employee recognition easier, more consistent, and more powerful.
- Be specific
Telling an employee, "You're doing a good job," doesn't accomplish much.
In fact, it may even result in the employee feeling they're doing so well
that they can coast - exactly the opposite effect the manager had when making
the comment. To truly motivate others, a compliment needs to be specific;
the more precise the better. For example, rather than saying, "You're doing
a good job," the savvy manager says, "You did a great job in handling that
upset customer. You listened without interrupting, you expressed empathy,
apologized on behalf of the company, and you not only replaced the item
but compensated them for their inconvenience. Well done!" The employee knows
exactly what behaviours get rewarded. And more importantly, they're more
likely to repeat them. Make your compliments specific and you not only generate
good feelings, you also create a behaviour shift.
- Catch them in the act
Years ago I did a series of management and frontline training seminars for
retail store employees in Halifax. While in town I worked-out at a local
gym and in its childcare area there was a sign reminding daycare supervisors
to "Catch them doing something good!" That's good advice for managers as
The impact of giving employees praise once a year during a formal job review
is minimal. If we don't express our appreciation until a formal performance
review, that means for several months high performers may be doing extra
work and getting the feeling that no one has noticed or cared. By the time
we get around to recognizing them, it may be too late-they've already become
demoralized or started looking at opportunities elsewhere. As the sign said,
we need to catch them doing something good. Recognition needs to be immediate.
- Tailor it to the person
Of course, it's easy to think of ways to reward your star performers: promotions,
greater responsibility, perks, etc. The challenge is that when we recognize
only the stars we can actually serve to demoralize others who aren't endowed
with the same talents. By definition, star performers love challenge. It
makes perfect sense to reward them with more responsibility. On the other
hand, consider marginal performers who barely manage to show-up. For instance,
if we notice that our underperformer, Biff finally starts improving, it
does not necessarily mean we should give him the same recognition that we
give our star. If you offer Biff more responsibly his first reaction might
be, "How much more are you going to pay me?" On the other hand when we notice
that his performance has been improving we might say, "Biff I notice that
since we had that conversation three weeks ago about the importance of being
on time, you are consistently five minutes early for everything. Normally,
your shift ends at 4:30, but why don't take the rest of the afternoon off
right now. Good job!" Now Biff's delighted.
The lesson is that we can't always hold employees to the same standard when
it comes to recognizing performance. No two employees are exactly alike.
If we want to motivate the folks who are struggling we need to help them
create some wins that are achievable for them. That's one of several reasons
employee-of-the-month programs - that measure everyone by the same standard
- often backfire. Recognition needs to be tailored to the individual.
Bottom line benefit
The demographers are predicting that staffing shortages are only going to
worsen in the coming years. With that dismal outlook, perhaps it's time companies
did some upgrading on their leaderships team's supervisory skills. One thing
is certain - to reduce staff turnover it's less costly to pay a well-thought,
well-timed compliment, than to simply pay higher wages.
This article is based on the critically acclaimed book, Becoming a Service
Icon in 90 Minutes a Month, by customer service strategist and professional
speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about
engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com
or call 1-800-JMowatt (566-9288).
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