10. Get Rid of the Naysayer
You know who they are. They complain about everything — and loudly. They complain to anyone who is or isn't willing to listen. The complaints include the most trivial of items like "Why do we only have Starbucks coffee in the coffee room? Shouldn't we have more of a choice?" I have also heard them complain to others in the office about fluorescent lighting, heating, cooling, and the quality of the bathroom tissue. While these complaints are minor, it becomes a real problem when they appoint themselves to be office shop-steward to rally against company policy. They complain about the company holiday schedule: "Why should we have to work on Monday and Tuesday when Christmas falls on Wednesday?!" "As a matter of fact, why aren't we shutting down for the entire week?" — with nay of course! I can deal with a complainer, but I can't deal with them rallying the other employees against the company.
9. Cut the Deadwood
Yes, you are busy, but having unproductive people around only adds to the perception of accomplishing the company workload. The reality is quite different. More time is spent in reworking drawings than is saved by having them in your company. Worst of all they drag down the whole office morale.
8. Family Events
Yes, the company that plays together stays together. Many of my client companies have family days, barbecues, or sports outings that involve both the employees and their families. While I was skeptical of these events earlier in my career, in recent years I have come to appreciate their role in creating a happy workforce. It helps the office morale and recruiting beyond what could statistically be quantified.
7. Leave the Expensive Toys at Home
If you are an owner or partner in a firm, resist the temptation to flaunt your toys at work. I am talking about the two sports cars parked in the company garage, the life-size mural of your yacht, or the 360 degree video tour of your country home in the Hamptons (as produced by your IT staff). Your employees will not be impressed; they will be annoyed. They already think you make 10 times more than you actually do.
6. Lead by Example
If you want your employees to get to work early, be a team player, and put the company's interest first, you need to set the example. Don't show up late, hand in your time card two weeks after the fact, and waste your time surfing the Internet. Keep a smile on your face and meet the challenges of running a business with a positive attitude. Whatever is important to you will become important to the employees.
5. Incentive Compensation
This actually should be number one, but I harp on it so much I moved it to number five. There is nothing more motivating to employees than the opportunity to be financially rewarded based upon their performance.
4. Provide Opportunities
If your company is to succeed over the long term, you must provide meaningful opportunities for your employees to show what they can do. Allow them the opportunity to succeed and to learn from their mistakes. Remember that someone once gave you the opportunity to succeed — do the same for your employees.
3. Reward Extraordinary Efforts
Be sure to reward extraordinary efforts. Be generous (and public) with your praise for working long hours, meeting unreasonable deadlines, completing major projects, and producing great design. A team dinner upon completion of a major project is a great way to reward a team and boost morale. And an American Express gift card or dinner-for-two gift certificate are great ways to thank individuals. If you are familiar with my incentive compensation program, you may be surprised to see that I am rewarding effort rather than results. Just to be clear, I have nothing against rewarding effort, I just don't include it in my formal incentive compensation plan.
2. Hold Employee Reviews on Time
As an employee, there are few things in this world more frustrating than not having a review held as scheduled. Far too many firms take a casual approach to scheduling the annual review. In fact they often need to be reminded by the employee that the annual employee review is way overdue. It is easy for those of us who have been executives or owners for a long time to forget what it was like when we were rank-and-file employees. If you want to motivate your employees to look for employment elsewhere, then constantly put off their reviews for something "more important."
1. Consistent Reinforcement Expectations
Employees want to know what is expected of them. If you want them at their desk ready to work at 8:30 a.m., let them know. If you want a standard title block used on all your sheets, let them know where to find it. If you value design over all else, please let them know — but don't be angry when they blow the budget. If your expectation is great design and a 20%+ profit, please let them know. Whatever your expectation is in any area of the practice, let your employees know what is expected and then stick to it. When owners constantly move the target of expectations, it causes dissension among the troops.
Herbert M. Cannon, president of AEC Management Solutions Inc. and publisher of AEC Managing Partner Newsletter, is a management consultant, seminar provider, and speaker exclusive to the A/E industry. He is available to speak at company meetings and conferences. For more information, contact Herb via e-mail. Or visit his Web site.
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