Treat ’em well and milk the market

AUTHOR and professional public speaker Richard Hadden is a promoter of people power.

“As managers careen widely from one tactic to another, many forget the critical difference between a brilliant strategy and one that gets successfully executed resides in the hearts and minds of people ... your workforce. We can scream, exhort, and rattle the saber all we want, but successful organisational change cannot come without willing participation,” he says in Contented Cows Give Better Milk: The Plain Truth About Employee Relations and Your Bottom Line, which he co-wrote.

Mr Hadden was in Perth last week to share his employee relations research at a Chamber of Commerce and Industry seminar.

While much has been written about keeping employees happy, the foundation of Mr Hadden’s research was based on whether happy employees make a difference to a business’s bottom line.

“We did a fairly formal and structured research project on employers of choice to see if they are financially better than those that aren’t,” Mr Hadden said.

“The financial comparison is quite stark. Employers of choice are clearly making it part of their business strategy to look after their people.”

And forget the myth that it’s big companies with big profits and the ability to spend money on employees that make up employers of choice. Small and medium sized businesses featured among the top 100 employers of choice researched by Mr Hadden.

“Companies don’t necessarily have to spend more money and don’t necessarily have to pay more to their employees,” he said.

“Small organisations can’t offer the same wage or benefits, but the better ones hire the right people and communicate the benefits. They can provide more flexibility, opportunities to learn new disciplines, and can offer company ownership opportunities.”

Mr Hadden said leadership was the key to many of the successful businesses he researched.

“The main issue is the quality of leadership. And it’s not just the CEO, but at the supervisory level,” he said.

Mr Hadden said senior leaders of an organisation needed to be accessible to employees to not just instil company culture, but so that they would know when employees were unhappy.

“They need to mix it up with the troops and really listen to what they are and what they are not saying,” he said.

Mr Hadden said telltale signs of unhappy employees included a large exodus of staff (especially the more talented workers), a tendency for people to not be as excited or motivated, and, of course, sick days.

He said managers should once or twice a year conduct surveys to identify satisfaction levels.

“They need to ask if they are satisfied, what the company could be doing better, and go away and have a look at the critical mass and trends,” Mr Hadden said.

He said the best results came from anonymous surveys.

“Managers need to encourage honest answers to make it worthwhile,” Mr Hadden said.

“It’s not about pampering. It’s about looking after career development, training and, in the event that an unusual situation arises, managers need to show they care. They need to do this but at the same time communicate that they require

a high level of performance.”

He said companies with satisfied employees placed a greater emphasis on recruiting the right people.

These and many other employee management strategies are documented in Contented Cows Give Better Milk: The Plain Truth About Employee Relations and Your Bottom Line. The authors also operate the website, which has relevant research information.

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