This is a mantra that has been around for ages. People are your greatest asset. People are what make companies. People are the greatest source of ingenuity. Yet, many companies squander, squash, and belittle their greatest asset….people.
A few years back, I got an amazing 15 minutes in an event green room with Jack Welch. I was looking at him and he was pretending not to notice. Finally, he lowered his paper and looked back at me and said, "You get one question." Exited, I asked, "I am a small business owner. What are three things that I should be doing to ensure my success in this economy?" He didn't hesitate. He gave me three points:
- Whatever you think you are going to do in revenue this year and next, cut it in half.
- Pay your best people. Don't give them bonuses, don't give them vouchers, give them cold hard cash.
- Find the best people from other organizations and pay them what they are worth. This is the time to find the people that are being ignored by other companies and snatch them up.
It was great advice. I did just that, and we continue to grow. However, I don't think that just paying them is enough. David Maister did a study that I reference in my book Project Management That Works. In the study, he asks team members to rank what is most important to them at their work. Then he asked the managers of those team members to rank the same list, but to do so in the way they think their employees would answer. The managers selected salary as the number one thing. The team members picked being appreciated for a job well done as theirs.
I blogged a while back about my dad and his company (read it here). I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to ensure the employees of R2 felt appreciated. We just finished our first annual Stretch Goal Incentive trip. Each year, I determine our goal in revenue for the year. Then I establish the "Stretch Goal." This is the goal over and above our normal achievement rank. If we hit the stretch goal, then everyone who is a part of that will go on an all-expenses paid vacation. We just completed our first one! The team went to New York City for a few days and celebrated a phenomenal 2011. It was an amazing trip. Not only was it fun, the team got a chance to reflect what we accomplished and built a stronger bond with each other. I'll never forget it!
The trip made me reflect what it was like to work for other companies. Profit reigns above people. Some of the HR practices and ways we deal with employees absolutely just crush the human spirit. I remember as a young HR manager running an office, the goal for the office was to hit 60% of milestones and production dates. In the first year, we hit 99.7%. Every single person exceeded everyone's wildest expectations. I, in turn, rewarded my employees with a 5 (exceeds expectations) on their annual review. When I turned this in, I was told that I could not do that. I was told by HR that it is impossible for everyone on my team to exceed my expectations and if that was the case, I was the problem for not creating higher expectations. I was then forced to choose one or two people on my team to give the 5 to. How is that possible after the fact? Stupid. Crushing. A perfect way to take a highly functioning team and destroy them so that the "numbers" match the "theory" of HR. This is precisely why I am not in Corporate America anymore.
I know for 99% of you out there, you do not have the ability to take everyone on a vacation. You can't give them the money that they deserve. However, you can give them the number one thing that was on their list; true, heartfelt appreciation for a job well done. Showing people that you truly care and want to see them succeed is the best way to take care of your people. However, if you can, it is also fun to take them on vacation!
No Day but Today!