When employees buy in

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Writer Paul Diamond of Vistage, a TEC affiliate, recently interviewed Brian Beaulieu, president of the Institute of Trend Research, about the economic outlook for the next couple years.

Bottom line: This year will be busy and 2012 busier for most small-to-medium-size firms. That means there will be more pressure to help existing employees be more productive, and there will be new employment challenges for many companies.

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This month, I want to focus on employee-centered strategies that will complement, if not fuel, projected economic upswings. Most of them are old tried and tested bread winners, often put aside or ignored when times have been as trying as they have been for the past three years.

Employee personal growth and development

This is the time to help employees evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses as they relate to company needs. The obvious objective is to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Too many companies make the mistake of adopting a one-size-fits-all strategy. Sending a group of employees to a seminar on improving time management, for example, seems like a good idea on the surface. But if only two or three employees really have a time management problem, that’s a waste of time and money.

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It’s better to do an audit of individual employee needs, and then group employees based upon their common needs. Today, online tools can provide solutions for almost any personal growth and development problem.

Trainers say employees learn best when they can learn from their peers because the stories they share with one another are based on comparable experiences.

Issues like how to motivate employees or effective supervisory practices are as important as they were 30 years ago. But today, the ability to incorporate rapidly changing communication and messaging technology into these age-old issues is paramount.

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Social networking business skills even apply on the factory floor. Email literacy and competency is a must for almost every employee who uses email as a principle communication tool with customers and vendors.

Investing in an employee’s personal growth and development needs is a powerful retention tool and gives your company a competitive advantage.

When employees buy in

Life is so much easier when employees buy in to your company’s agenda. For starters, it puts everyone on the same page. Simon Sinek, who TEC is bringing to its annual “Inspirational Leadership” event in April 2011, has written a fascinating book, Start With Why.

He believes that too many companies focus on the “how” and “what” of their businesses, and not the “why.” For example, we offer TEC membership so we can improve the leadership effectiveness of chief executives. That’s our “why.” Professionals who work with us make this a part of their personal mantra. If they didn’t, we couldn’t succeed.

Buying in on the “why” gets everyone on the same page. That’s the short of it. Embracing the “why” goes a long way toward solving employee motivation and retention issues.

The “why” of the United States Marines is their motto that hasn’t changed since 1883: “Semper Fidelis,” Latin for “Always Faithful.”

Employee non-financial incentives

Do we still need to be reminded that the best incentive for employees to perform at their highest level is the simple act of recognition?

Recognition comes in many forms, informal and formal. Each is powerful in its own way. So is team or group recognition which, in fact, is more prevalent today than individual recognition.

Other synonyms for recognition are praise and positive reinforcement. The most important point to remember about recognition is that it has far more impact when it’s given as soon as an employee does something right, rather than later.

Praising an employee at an awards dinner six months later isn’t nearly as effective. If you want someone to excel again, give immediate feedback.

Employee financial incentives

Even though experts predict the economy will continue to improve for the next few years, pressure on employees to continue to do more with less won’t abate anytime soon.

It’s a good time to review discretionary and nondiscretionary employment incentives for both exempt and non-exempt personnel, not precluded by union agreements.

These incentives don’t necessarily have to be financial payouts in currency or other paper collateral.

There’s nothing wrong with additional paid sick leave that can be converted to cash if it isn’t used by the end of the year. Also consider personal days off, summer flex-time and things like work-at-home arrangements.

Health care incentives include aid for employees who enroll in programs to lose weight, stop smoking and participate in group exercises. Most health carriers accept employee discounts.

These are only small examples because, in lieu of the health care reform act, companies are coming up with creative incentive options to keep annual costs under control.

The new “now” is upon us, and it doesn’t look all that bad for the next couple of years.

Until next month, I hope you take your most important asset – your employees – and help make them, and you, the best you can possibly be.

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