Building Valuable Employees


Building valuable employees and keeping them motivated has become a major concern for organizations in the present-day aggressive business environment. Across the globe, companies spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars each year on employee attitude and job satisfaction surveys, while, at the same time, using consulting firms to provide tailor-made strategies to help them build their teams’ morale and boost performance.

Why this emphasis on keeping people happy and motivated in their jobs? An obvious reason is to do with managing turnover. The loss of employees, especially the valued ones, is among the biggest issues facing modern-day corporations. Another equally important reason is to do with overall organizational success: people who feel good about their job and the organization are usually more focused and more productive, and are willing to ‘go that extra mile’ for their department’s benefit. Studies by international research and consulting firm Burke Incorporated show that more than ninety percent of ‘highly engaged’ employees are likely to be an advocate of the company and its products and services, against less than 10 percent of ‘moderately engaged’ employees.

What do people really seek from the companies they work for? Good remuneration is important, as is a good work environment, and the opportunity to advance in their careers. Perhaps, most important of all, is a sense that they matter. Among the things employees need most is assurance from their employers – that they are doing their job up to expectations, that their work makes a difference to the organization, and that the company cares about them.

Appreciation for a job well done, and a sincere word of thanks for work done out-of-turn, goes a long way in building employee morale. Moreover, employees need to be clearly communicated not only their own daily targets, but also the targets of the department they work in, as well as the overall corporate vision, philosophy and goals. Understanding how their actions provide value to the organization, and being recognized for doing so, provides people a sense of accomplishment and affirms their self-worth, motivating them to do the best job they can. A large number of employee surveys point to communication as a key reason for employee dissatisfaction: more often than not, people feel their managers don’t communicate enough, whether it be performance feedback, discussing the employees’ job-related experiences and expectations, or simply informing them on what’s going on in the company.

Maintaining enthusiasm, zeal and commitment among team members is no easy task. Managers need to do a lot of asking, listening and paying attention: how do they support team members to do their work better? How can the job be made more fun, or more challenging (or both), within the existing sphere of responsibility? How do they get employees to contribute their ideas upwards? What opportunities may be provided for employees to train for more responsibilities and broaden their learning experience? The individual manager’s own skills and abilities – to establish a good rapport with his team, make his people feel valued and show them he cares – goes a long way in building morale and enthusiasm. Managers, in turn, need support from the organization, in terms of systems and work practices that enable – and encourage – them to address these all-important issues. Its not enough simply to create roles and responsibilities, as companies across the world are increasingly beginning to realize. Efforts must be made to create a conducive work culture, a culture that develops and nourishes its employees, thereby driving them to excel in their work. Change must come from within, and a company seeking to make this change would need to do some careful introspection, to examine the systems that have come to exist: for instance, does the way it rewards exceptional performers de-motivate those responsible for routine, mundane tasks? Do employees have a tangible idea as to how they will progress in the organization

Among the best-performing companies in the world are those that have made people development a strategic priority. An example is that of the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, where managers work with closely with employees to detail their career paths. The plans are documented in writing and reviewed every six months, and to help ensure their fulfillment, the company mandates each year that every hotel fill 50% of its job openings with employees from within the hotel chain. The Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and the Ritz Carlton – leaders in their industry in guest satisfaction, employee retention and overall business success – are among the companies that have successfully aligned the fulfillment of employee needs and aspirations with the achievement of organizational goals. Any Ritz Carlton employee, regardless of level, can commit upto US$2,000 to bring instant resolution to a guest’s problem. On the one hand employees are empowered to take action while, on the other, nobody can afford to overlook a guest request or complaint and say it’s not his job. Ritz Carlton also religiously implements its ‘Lineup’: the company’s 25,000-odd employees, across all hotels, departments and levels of seniority, spend the first fifteen minutes of each day with their team, discussing Ritz Carlton’s service philosophy, issues key to their department’s performance and to guest satisfaction. While emphasis is placed on rewarding employee input, the company’s senior management maintains that some of their best ideas have come from line-level staff.

The link between employee satisfaction, customer loyalty and profitability has been, time and again, revealed in the generally superior business results of the so-called Best Employers’ and ‘Best Companies to Work For’. These companies continue to demonstrate that building a satisfied and valuable work-force is not a quick-fix procedure, but an integrated approach that permeates through every aspect of the organisation. For today’s modern corporation, the lesson is apparent: if you seek long-term sustainability and success, take your people seriously, invest in them and see that they are happy and satisfied.