Making Employees Business Partners

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” – Sybil F. Stershic

We have been discussing about the many ways that employees can be either assets or liabilities for a company. It all depends on how they are treated. Companies must understand that it makes a lot of sense, from both an economic standpoint and market reputation perspective, to make employees business partners. This translates to using their knowledge, skills and experience to enhance the product quality, customer service and innovations in the company. Making employees business partners is about empowering them to take decisions on a daily basis – decisions that will enhance their work output and quality and enhance the overall performance of their team and the company. Not treating employees well could lead to organizational dysfunction – internal conflicts, lowered customer service levels and a drop in product quantity and quality.

Creating a culture where employees feel involved and committed is of prime importance given the highly volatile business scenario.  Making employees business partners reflects the company’s commitment to being a good employer that believes in collaboration rather than control. Making employees business partners is also a reflection on company’s confidence in the quality, competence and engagement of its employees. Such a workforce would be capable of consistently providing the best customer service and top class quality of products and services. It is common knowledge that a business partner would be more engaged and enthusiastic about the success of an enterprise. Hence making employees business partners would be a step ahead of ‘engagement’ – it would involve a deep commitment and loyalty toward the organization, its success, reputation and its customer base. It is a management truism, that customer service and a company’s success is not the job of a few but of each person that works in the company and what better way to get everyone ‘on board’ than making employees business partners. Do your employees believe that they are business partners? How does your company ensure that they are?

Making employees business partners is about ensuring that they feel safe and secure in their jobs. No employee can be productive if there is constant stress related to the job – will the job be there tomorrow or will he or she suddenly be jobless? Will they face a pay cut or not receive a salary at all? Companies that have a culture of creating high trust relationships with their employees by providing job and financial security are able to insure their loyalty and commitment. With no fear of losing the job or facing financial turmoil, employees will work harder and remain committed to the success of the company. Making employees business partners translates to them going the extra mile, doing much more than the basic requirements of their job and demonstrating their indefatigable loyalty towards serving their customers. In such a competitive business scenario, a company that can create such a robust workforce can be assured of success and build their capability of attracting and retaining their customers too. Employment security displays the company’s commitment to the welfare and growth of their staff, such companies also invest hugely in employee training and coaching programs aimed at self and professional development.

Commitment towards employees starts at the hiring level when a job description accurately matches the right person. Smart companies hire for attitudes, skills and capabilities and then train the person for the particular job. Each company has its own set of requirements from a particular job title, hence it makes sense to hire someone who would have the desire to learn and grow. This allows the person hired to do the job to the best of their capability and over time grow out of the role and promoted to the next level. Such clear career paths also contribute towards making employees business partners.

When setting goals, it is imperative that the individual and team goals align with the overall goals of the company. Each person must understand their contribution towards the achievement of these goals. Making employees business partners means empowering them to take decisions that will translate to superior customer service and top class products. The ultimate aim is to achieve and over achieve all the goals set out by each person and the company. Binding employees with rules and ‘red tape’ will only make them lazy, dull and unproductive. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. – Theodore Roosevelt. This quote is so apt for companies who believe in making employees business partners – if you do not believe in your employees, it means that you have made the wrong choice while hiring. Research has conclusively proved that decentralization of decision-making, leads to empowered employees with a leadership and customer service mind-set, which translates to higher customer satisfaction levels and therefore more business and profits.

A very critical part of making employees business partners is to compensate them well for the job they do and in addition, adequately recognize and reward behaviours that add to the prestige and customer service levels of the company. Inadequate salaries and skimping on rewards for over achievement of special tasks will lead to lowered morale and employee attrition, which in turn leads to stress for the remaining employees who would then not be optimally productive or interested in serving customers. Compensation based on results and productivity rather than on roles and designations will prove to more effective in raising the overall commitment and loyalty of employees. Paying for performance is a huge and sensible endeavour that companies are moving towards and enables employees to know exactly what they are expected to do and how they can create value for the company and its customers.

In the endeavour of making employees business partners, companies must remember to share information about the company with employees. Listening to rumours, gossip and hearsay only serves to distort the image of the company and leaves employees restless. It is the duty of the company’s leadership to share financial, strategic, performance related and customer related information to all its employees. Many companies send out mailers or hold all-employee meets to make specific company announcements. This ensures that employees hear all that they need to from the right people and refrain from making assumptions. In order to keep employees motivated and interested in the success of the company, sharing information plays a very critical role and must never be underestimated. Dissemination of company news from the highest rungs displays the company’s trust in its employees, who then return this trust by working hard and doing more than what the company expects of them.

Companies and its leaders that believe in making employees business partners will display this in all that they do and by formulating employee friendly policies. Research has proven without doubt that when companies align their strategies with the welfare of their employees are more than adequately rewarded by their employees through optimum productivity, loyalty, commitment and sensitivity to customer needs. Such companies find themselves in an ever-increasing competitive position and become highly successful in a fast moving and challenging economy and market. These companies will outrun their competitors and even put them out of business and reach new pinnacles of success. Making employees business partners is highly intelligent and strategic move that will bear rich rewards for any company.

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