Money Can't Buy Employee Respect

Do not confuse your life with your career.

Writing in the “Wisconsin Builder” magazine, Sean Ryan says, “The bottom line is that people put a lot of time into their careers. But they don’t give it freely. Employers have to earn it.”

He’s right. An employer can pay good wages and offer good benefits… in hopes of getting something back from his employees. But if an employer wants more than her employees simply putting in their time, if an employer wants peak performance from her employees, it’ll cost more than money.

Employees want respect, trust, and responsibilities. They want an employer that understands how valuable their time is.

And Ryan says, “The best employers grasp this concept. They understand the tradeoff, and they put together a package that employees can accept as an even exchange for their time. We call this package Job Satisfaction.”

But here are a few tips to help you create a work environment that enhances Job Satisfaction.

=> 1. Make your employees feel important.

And no one does that better than one of my clients, Hunzinger Construction. They’ve been ranked number one in Job Satisfaction… two years in a row… in a survey of general contractors in their area.

As Superintendent Will Wright says, referring to the top 3 leaders at Hunzinger Construction, “They give everybody out here a sense of importance, and it’s not just a ‘sense’ of importance. They are important.”

For starters, you make your employees feel important when you…

*** Know and use your employee’s name.

At Hunzinger Construction, there are about 200 people working for the company. Yet the firm’s three leaders — President John Hunzinger and Executive Vice Presidents Jim Hunzinger and Kevin O’Toole — could probably name any employee on the job site.

*** Put your money where your mouth is.

While most companies talk about safety, at Hunzinger they walk their talk. The Safety Director Kevin Sandkuhler doesn’t have a budget. He gets whatever he wants to ensure the safety of each and every employee. And as a result, there hasn’t been a lost-time injury in a year.

*** Spend time with your employees.

Get to know them. It’s one of the best ways to make your employees feel important.

For starters, Hunzinger’s top three leaders all started in the industry pounding nails and pouring concrete. And considering how much time they spend visiting their projects, it’s safe to say they never really left the job site.

As Vice President Jim Hunzinger says, “We’re there. We know these guys. There’s a real bond there that goes beyond what you might see at a lot of companies. It’s genuine. It’s not contrived.”

*** Take time to treat your people.

For example, when an air horn sounded one day at the Phoenix design firm of Cornoyer Hendrick, some employees thought it was a fire drill. Instead, it was a catered frozen-yogurt drill.

Every so often, employees at HA-LO Industries in Chicago are told to take an extended lunch hour — on the house. The company brings in vendors to serve food, and employees spend an hour or two socializing.

Of course, it will cost you a few dollars. But the gains are well worth it. You’ll probably find… like these companies did… that you’ll have employees with less stress, lower turnover, and higher productivity.

=> 2. Give your employees a bit of status.

At Hunzinger Construction, all employees are given the opportunity to have an important voice in managing the company. Twice a year, the company creates a board of about 25 people that performs long-term strategic planning. And employees from each department sit in on a rotating basis.

Now you may think that extra status would give your employees more stress. Not so. In his book “Status Syndrome,” British author Sir Michael Marmot says honor and prestige are good for you. Actors who win Oscars, for example, live an average 4 years longer than actors who were nominated but never selected.

And contrary to popular thought… where a relaxed, carefree, do-nothing existence is the way to a happy and healthy life… running a country or having lots of status seems to be good for you. Marmot points out the average life expectancy of post-war British prime ministers is a highly impressive 86.

Along similar lines, in 1967 Sir Michael Manton started a study of 18,000 Whitehall civil servants or government workers. The men at the bottom of the office hierarchy had, at ages 40 to 64, four times greater risk of death than people at the top.

Quite simply, when you do not have control of your own life, it’s one of the greatest stressors you’ll ever experience. But when you give your employees a bit of status and control, it’s good for your workplace. You capture your employees’ input, loyalty, and spirit… just like Hunzinger does.

Finally, in your quest for more job satisfaction…

=> 3. Allow or encourage your employees to engage in some work that makes a difference.

As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Now that may sound a bit idealistic. Not everyone has or can have a job or career that makes a major difference in the world. On the other hand, no one can spend a lifetime doing work he considers relatively unimportant… and feel good about himself.

Somewhere, somehow, every employee has to engage in some “work” that makes a positive difference. Along these lines, I know some enlightened companies who encourage their employees to mentor other employees so they can become their very best. Some companies sponsor a Boy Scout troop, a softball league, or give their people a paid day-off so they can volunteer at Habitat For Humanity.

You have the ability to do something similar in your company. Perhaps you already are. If so, great. I applaud you. But if you’re not, please figure out something your employees can do to make a positive difference in their world. It will be a win-win for everyone.

Action:  Do your employees… or coworkers… FEEL important?

Do they FEEL like you know them? Do they SEE you taking time to get to know them?

If your employees feel less than important, if your employees think you barely know them, do 3 things this week to rectify that situation.