“Our employees are our most important asset.” How many times have you heard an owner or CEO promulgate that sentiment? More importantly, how many times have you witnessed an owner or CEO living by that sentiment? I’m sure your answer to the former question is much higher than to the latter question. There is much truth in that statement. Successful companies need effective leaders but if the troops don’t perform, no matter how brilliant the leadership, the company is destined for doom. Laura Stack in her May 6, 2014 article appearing in the Portland Business Journal offers up Southwest Airlines as a model for engaging employees and creating a culture that results in high customer satisfaction and long term success in an extremely difficult market. Southwest’s survival and success is in great part due to treating its employees as its most important asset. Southwest advertises on its website: “Not just a career but a cause.”
So what’s the recipe for getting employees to approach their jobs as a “cause” and not just a job? According to Ms. Stack the first hurdle is to change managements’ natural tendency (human tendency – not just managers) from laboring under the thought of what’s in it for me to focusing on what’s in it for the employees.
Once that is established, there are three critical ingredients which she calls the MAC formula. “M” stands for motivation. At Southwest everyone is eligible for health benefits and a 401K plan. Outside of that, performance based bonuses and profit sharing go a long way in motivating above average performance.
“A” stands for Appreciation. Public acknowledgement is one of the best ways to show appreciation and engender loyalty. I think it was Lee Iacocca that once said, admonish in private but give praise in public. Employee-of-the-month plaques, and inexpensive rewards like dinner coupons or movie tickets, with winners announced publically, are a few practical methods.
“C” stands for communication. This is perhaps the most important factor. Keep lines of communications open. Be sure each employee knows the company’s goals and particularly how his or her job contributes to the attainment of such goals. Provide meaningful feedback on performance.
It’s not magic. It’s common sense.