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Seven Ways to Fuel the Fire in Employee Performance

By Howard Hyden

In a down market, it is crucial to do an awesome job for your customers. Retaining your existing customers and attracting new ones is the key to having a good year in tough times. If you want your employees to be awesome with customers, you must be awesome to your employees. Here are seven key strategies to increase employee performance.

1.  Change management behavior:  Einstein’s famous definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  If management doesn’t change its' behavior why should you expect different results from your employees. Life is a six-inch game, and those 6 inches is right between the ears. If you tell your employees “the market is tough and we will probably have a tough year” they will probably prove you right.  However, if you communicate that the market is tough then the good news is that the competitors think they’re going to have a tough year. Since they believe that they are going to have a tough year why don’t you put the pedal to the metal to bring more value to your customers so that you can have a good year. You just might become what you think.  Communicate a strategy that it is important to go the extra mile for the customer so that you can minimize the risk of losing customers.  Additionally, if you are awesome with customers they may spread P.W.O.M. (positive word-of-mouth) so that you can attract new customers.

2.  Hire the best:  All too frequently, employers run a classified ad, get marginal candidates, and then hire the tallest twerp.   If you want to motivate your current team, you must add new hires that bring the right attitude and work ethic to the party.  Hiring wrong can be a bad motivation for your current employees.  You, as well as your team, can look for hard-working dedicated employees with the right attitude in their personal life.  Everyone is a customer of numerous organizations, so when you are a customer and an employee goes the extra mile and is demonstrating right behavior - hire them!  It is easier to teach them about your business than it is to try to fix poor attitude or a weak work ethic.

3.  Weed the garden:  The strategy here is to hire the best and leave the rest.  If you do not weed the garden the performance of the team will go down. When you finally weed the garden the other employees will probably cheer as well as say “what took you so long- we figured that out 10 months ago.”  If you do not weed the garden, the employees just might be standing at the water cooler complaining about how tough it is.  If they are doing that, they are certainly not focused on going the “extra mile” for the customer. This often leads to N.W.O.M. (negative word of mouth), which can lead to either lost customers or fewer sales opportunities. When you finally weed the garden, the performance of the rest of the team will go up.

4. Provide the right environment including tools and equipment:  To better service customers a company installed GPS systems in the field personnel's vehicles. That way when a customer called in for service it allowed the company to dispatch the closest service technician to that customer. Another company had numerous catalogs with a variety of products from their suppliers. The problem was that the information quickly became obsolete and the salespeople didn't have current information at their fingertips. The company put all of their catalogs, as well as current pricing information, on CDs and equipped their field personnel with laptops. This allowed the field personnel to give accurate product as well as pricing information to the customer on the spot.

5.  Using W.I.I.F.M. (what’s in it for me) as a key strategy to light the fire in your employees:  Employees can obviously see what’s in it for the customer when the employee gives up their lunch hour or stays late to go the extra mile for the customer.  Employees are also good at understanding “what’s in it for the company.”  The company makes more profit.   In tough times it may be even more vital to use W.I.I.F.M. to stoke the fires in your employees.  In doing a significant amount of research on corporate culture and behavior change, one of the key strategies was that +K.I.T.A.’s change behavior more than -K.I.T.A.’s.   +K.I.T.A.’s translates into a positive kick in the posterior changes behavior more than negative K.I.T.A.’s.   Most employees feel under-appreciated – True or False? If they felt appreciated, just imagine the level of performance that can be obtained.

6. Train, Train, Train:  in tough times it is often the variable expenses of marketing and training that are the first to get cut.   Maybe doing the opposite would be a better approach. This is referred to this as “counter-intuitive marketing strategies.”  When the rest of world goes south, perhaps you should go north. This might be a great time to resist the temptation to cut training and instead increase your investment in this area. Employees must be viewed as “an appreciating asset.”  This means that their ability to add value to customers must continuously increase.  Employees will work hard for companies that make an investment in them, and training can be an inhibitor to turn over.  If you have higher turnover relative to competition you will have lower customer satisfaction. Therefore, companies that have made an investment in their employees just might have lower turnover, which increases their customer satisfaction. Training can also be a magnet to attract top talent in the marketplace. The best employees want to work for organizations that will help them grow

7. Celebrate:  Don’t wait until the end of month or the end of the year to celebrate success. “Sweat the small stuff.” Frequently hold gatherings of employees to celebrate the small wins. This will not only recognize those people that are going the extra mile, but encourage others to do the same. It is also focusing on the positive versus negative.  Focusing on the negative may only lead to more bad news.  Management behavior will need to change to focus more on rewarding the behavior that you want. “What gets rewarded gets done” is an axiom that has been around a long time.

When looking at the above seven strategies to motivate employees in tough times it should be evident that the biggest change must be in management behavior.  If management doesn’t change its behavior, what are the odds the employees are going to change theirs?  Whose behavior do you have a better chance of changing, yours or someone else’s? The answer is obvious. If you want your employees to go the extra mile for the customer then go the extra mile for your employees. “There is no traffic jam on the extra mile!”  Get your employees out there on the extra mile because it’s a lot of fun and you will reap the rewards.

Read other articles and learn more about Howard Hyden.

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