Rehumanize Business – Part 1

chris-brogan-sToo many businesses are worried about playing it safe. They don’t want to uncover the bad stuff that is happening in their business, so they look the other way instead. Human Resources is there to protect the company. Upper management only wants to know about positive sales figures.

Who can most employees turn to?

They don’t turn to anyone; they just leave.

I want to rehumanize (I borrowed the word from Chris Brogan) business so that people feel free to speak up. The only way business is going to become faster, more enjoyable and more profitable is if you have every person in your company and even your customers become a part of your marketing department. That means they tell their friends, family and their internet buddies that your products/services are awesome.

Eliminate Employee Criticism

A great way to reduce or eliminate badmouthing of the company by the employees is to give them the chance to talk about what is bothering them, listen to their concerns, and allow employees to be a part of the change.

BzzAgent’s CEO Dave Balter learned that his employees’ opinions mattered. They mattered so much that the whole company addresses everyone’s issues, from needing four pronged forks in the lunch room to discussing how they can communicate with clients better. He created an anonymous suggestion box that was open to everyone. This created an opportunity to listen to and address people’s problems.

There will be times when a company is unable to accommodate an employee, but most employees understand this. At least they had a chance to make their feelings heard.

Your company probably has a few disgruntled employees. Every company has them. If you aren’t listening to their needs, you are creating a divided culture.

Listening Skills

Think about what you can do to improve your listening skills and deal with your employees’ needs.

When a company stops treating their employees as dollar signs and actually allows them to direct the company, that company gains 1,000 paddles in the ocean pushing their message out to potential customers. Believe me, the money will flow back into the company. I promise. All it takes is a leap of faith.

In the next post we’ll talk about how to unleash every employee’s creative marketing beast.

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* Gallup wrote an interesting piece called How to Bolster Employees’ Confidence. I’ll give you a hint, encouraging words matter.

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Image courtesy of CC Chapman

Comments

  1. Hi Karl — this sounds like an important step for many businesses to take — when I worked a “regular job” I was fortunate enough to have a boss who would approach me to ask how everything was going, despite how busy he was. But I know a lot of people don’t have that, and I definitely want that for them.

  2. Many people advise employees simply to never badmouth their employers under any circumstances. As you’ve suggested in your post, that is an attempt to suppress the symptoms of an unhappy workplace without getting to the heart of the matter.

    • Hi DC Jobs, Getting to the heart of the matter is the only way we will solve problems. If we keep ignoring them, we get the same results. As a recruiter what do you think is the best way to have employees speak freely and honestly?

  3. watch the new show undercover boss. I saw it for the first time last night. CEO of White Castle visted differenct production groups of the organization undercover as a new employee. Result was finding out ways to improve the culture. It was awesome to see.
    Ditto on making business more human. We are not machines, though many times upper management forgets that and is only interested in production, there has to be some balance to retain valued employees, otherwise you just keep on retraining people and then they leave to greener pastures.

    • Hi VA, We create systems for productivity, catching mistakes, and being creative at work but we don’t make systems for happiness. Company culture is vital to making sure a business stays successful. By allowing people to participate in their happiness at work they will want to stick around and make it the best place to work that they possibly can. Heck, why wouldn’t they?

  4. I believe you’ve hit on some key points here, Karl. Awesome!
    Employees are the backbone of any successful company, and without their buy-in (love, passion, support), a company could go belly-up in a matter of months.

    Every employer/employee relationship can be a two-way street if both sides recognize the power and value in such a set-up.

    Many times, leadership teams will say, “We asked for feedback, but our employees just said what they thought we wanted to hear. How can we get the real scoop on how they feel?” I worked in an organization like that, and encouraged the leadership team to break out of their isolated offices, and engage with each and every employee. So they began setting up one-on-one leadership chats (which were successful, by the way!); employee-run business committees that were responsible for producing grassroots change (everything from Project Management Processes to Quality of Work Life to Technical Quality Control).

    Another idea I saw a Fortune 500 company implement to get leaders and employees more engaged with each other was this: the CEO had a roving workspace and would set up camp in different departments every few weeks and conduct his business amidst various employees. For the first few days, anyone sitting near the CEO would kind of tiptoe around, but after the first week, they got used to the CEO being there and began working/talking/acting the way they always did. That actually allowed the CEO to experience how his business was being run in “real time,” as opposed to hearing about it second hand. On top of that, the CEO heard “fly on the wall” conversations that employees would normally have with each other about what was right, wrong, good/bad with the company. People had grown comfortable with the CEO being in their space so they didn’t sugarcoat the things they said to each other.

    The results were apparently amazing. The company resolved a lot of customer issues it had been having, and profitability soared that year.

    • Hi Megan, I love your ideas of employee run grassroots change and the CEO working having a roving workspace.

      The idea of employees pitching in to help a company develop new ideas is a must in my book. I advocate this whenever I consult with businesses.

      I also like the idea of a CEO’s roving workspace. They get more of a feel of how employees are treating each other as well as the customer. What an eye opening experience for the CEO. I also like that the Fortune 500 company didn’t just have the CEO sit with his/her people for only a few days. It takes a while for people to settle back into a routine, allowing the CEO to see the full picture.

  5. As you’ve said, marketing should start inside the company and then continue outside it.We better start working with our emplyees’ satisfaction so that we can get better results.A complaint is always a gift;what you do with it is the problem.So listen first and then work on it.I wrote something in my blog about it.Thanks for sharing your thoughts
    http://tinyurl.com/d68zv5

    • Hi Patricia, I’m so glad you are trying to get your ideas out there to help change how businesses view their employees. I clicked on the link to read your post, but unfortunately I don’t know Spanish.

      I like how you said that a complaint is a gift. We can’t ignore complaints because usually another 10 or more people are thinking the same thing. We need to act on these issues to improve our results.

  6. I think you’re hitting a key point … if at the uber level a business is driving by the bottom line instead of optimizing around extreme value, giving it’s best, where it’s got it’s best to give in the most efficient way (the hedgehog way) … it’s setting itself up (and its employees) for failure.

  7. Hi Karl

    This is fantastic. I so agree with Megan in the awesome points you hit on.

    I think this “humanizing” idea could be applied to most of our society today, but especially to work places. I think we start to treat each other or get treated like numbers straight out of college and than it just continues.

    You add great value here Karl!

  8. Hi Karl,

    Just as everyone has said, you have definitely hit on a key point.

    Often people are obsessed with making money, they ignore what they are creating and how they treat their employees. Customers are not stupid…they know when they are in a place that is fueled by passion rather than fueled by greed.

    Nothing is better than doing business with a company where you see people loving what they are doing and that they have an environment that is truly alive.

  9. Hi Karl,
    Excellent thoughts! The more we can really listen and care…to everyone…the happier our employees will be.

    We have a unique setup at work, where the company is 100% owned by the employees. Every employee is also an owner. I think that’s given us a greater connection into everyone being behind seeing the company succeed. And at the root of that, is really about employees/owners who feel valued. And we have that, and a culture in place that really embraces that.

    Anyway, this is really so important to long-term success. People want to feel valued and cared for, not that they are just a commodity…

  10. I definitely think when we care more about people than profits -knowing that it’s the people who help make profits -then a company can grow. I’ve found myself having this conversation a lot = we have to start caring more for people than money if we truly want to make money and be happy doing it.

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