What Do Your Employees Really Want?

In service industries like the security and alarm firms, it's not just perks that keep good employees around


I read a recent report stating that 93 percent of corporate CEOs believe that the customer service delivered by their company is outstanding and exceptional. The study then concluded that only 16 of those company's customers actually agreed that services was outstanding or exceptional. There's obviously a disconnect between CEOs and customers.

During a speaking engagement in June at the Society of Human Resource Management annual conference, I had an opportunity to network with dozens of HR people as well as employees of various service businesses to garner some ideas on what it is that employees really want. Ironically, I discovered a very similar disconnect between management and employees on this highly crucial issue.

The majority of owners and managers I spoke with felt that employees are most interested in competitively high salaries, insurance benefits and trendy perks. Trendy perks? What kind of trendy perks are we talking about, I asked? I must admit that I was a bit shocked at several of the replies. The escalating battle for workforce share in various service business seems to have prompted certain companies to offer everything from loads of extra paid personal days, "X" number of telecommute days, fully paid health dental and vision coverage, profit sharing, and exceptionally high vehicle allowances. These people believe that these kinds of "extras" help them to achieve staff commitment and long-term loyalty.

After this astonishing revelation, I decided to ask some employees what made them stay and be more committed to the company. Overwhelmingly, their response was, "Being made to feel an important part of the team, and being recognized for my efforts". Clearly, CEOs and managers are once again missing some of the basic tools for achieving staff commitment. I have always believed that aside from pay and perks, it's really about management's ability to create a sense of spirit and pride.

What this information clearly shows, is that service businesses need to take a hard look at the basics. The more people I spoke with, the more I found out that while perks are nice and very well received (who wouldn't enjoy a vehicle and fuel allowance in today's world of high gas prices?), they are not by any means a significant means to achieve loyalty. In addition to recognizable drivers such as salaries and skill training, we must reconnect the wire that should run between management and our employees.

The fact is that most of our employees want to be an integral part of the team -- a winning team! They need to be enthusiastic about what they do.

One field service technician for a cable company told me, "A little bit of recognition goes a long way toward keeping me excited about my job," One day he had to deal with a particularly difficult customer. Two other techs did not want to go to this customer's house. He was asked to go by his manager and was able to reason with the customer and complete the service call. Upon his return to the office, the big boss approached him and personally thanked him for stepping up and doing such a great job. "That made me feel extremely valuable," he said.

Another way to create a sense of spirit and excitement among employees is to do a better job communicating the company's successes, not just the failures and problems. It's great to put out your story to the public or to investors, but you really need to let the staff know they're in on something important, too.

One area for improvement I have personally noticed specifically in our industry is that of communication. All too often management does not include the workers when it comes to planning and long-range goals. Many people do not even share goals with the team. By soliciting input from employees on various questions or ideas, you help make them feel part of the team and increase their perception of self worth and importance to the organization. By mentoring all employees with training on ways to make their jobs not only more effective, but also more rewarding, you can't help but increase enthusiasm, loyalty, and longevity. In far too many cases the "big boss" neglects to hand out well deserved pats on the back. There is little better than the "big boss" telling an employee, "Thanks" or "I like the way you think!"

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