Five effective steps that electrical distributors can take today to keep existing workers happy while also enticing new ones to come aboard.
When the going gets tough on the labor market front, smart companies look inward and find new ways to keep their existing employees happy while also recruiting new ones to the fold. In an environment where 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day—and where the national unemployment rate is hovering at a low 4%—these introspective searches are no longer a luxury; they’re downright mandatory.
Here are five great strategies that electrical distributors can take today to keep existing workers happy while also enticing new ones to come on board:
- Maximize the fact that strong relationships equal better company loyalty. We’d all like to think that our jobs alone prompt us to rise and shine every day, ready to report to work and engage in our careers. But this isn’t the case. In fact, Janel Anderson, owner of Working Conversations and author of Head On: How to Approach Difficult Conversations Directly, says everyone from the counter worker to the warehouse manager to the outside sales rep thrives on the human relationships. “They need to show up for work and do a good job for their co-workers,” says Anderson, “but those people aren’t just their co-workers; they’ve become their friends.” One good way to help those bonds develop and thrive is by encouraging camaraderie outside of work with Friday afternoon barbecues, volunteer events, and weekend outings that bring team members together in a casual, stress-free environment. Sit back and watch the relationships form and thrive!
- Institute some “gamification” into the workplace. There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition to get workers more involved with one another, and with your business and workplace as a whole. A technique that has been working its way into nearly all industries, gamification transforms employee engagement into a competitive game format—be it for marketing, teaching, or hiring. According to TalentLMS’ 2018 Gamification at Work Survey, 80% of employees enjoy using gamification software at work. Employees feel that gamification makes them more productive (87%), more engaged (84%), and happier (82%) at work, while 75% of respondents who play games often were more likely to agree that they’d be more productive if their work was made more game-like. In the distribution environment, Anderson says games can be tied to performance (e.g., number of error-free orders packed), safety (number of days without an accident), or overall organizational goals (quarterly sales). “Make it meaningful,” she advises, “and tie the game to certain metrics. Then, come up with a game that connects to those metrics.” For example, in the weeks leading up to a sports event like the Super Bowl or March Madness, distributors can come up with a game based on organizational metrics and tied into the event itself. Make it team-based, Anderson suggests, and have the losing team make the Friday afternoon BBQ or pancake breakfast for the winners. “These types of events are simple to orchestrate,” she says, “but they are very effective at building the types of relationships that keep your team together and engaged.”
- Help front-line supervisors improve their communication skills (and achieve their individual career goals). Workers that feel isolated from their leaders can quickly get discouraged with their jobs. To avoid this challenge, distributors need to open up the lines of communication between front-line supervisors, managers, and employees. “The most important step is regular communication and engagement with leadership,” says Susan Power, owner of Power HR, Inc. “The front-line supervisors are the experts in how the work gets done. As such, they need to communicate effectively in order to identify issues and engage managers on how to make the business successful.” One way to do this is by having company leadership get out onto the floor and coach front-line supervisors on how to be more effective leaders themselves. “Meet with them to discuss communication styles, issues that are challenging them, and their own career and development goals,” says Power. “Then, build a relationship with them and support them in achieving those goals.”
- Prominently display your company’s mission and values. Don’t be shy about letting staff members know why your electrical distribution firm exists, what its values are, and what it stands for. In fact, Power tells companies to post those messages around the workplace, in the break room, on the shop floor, and/or out in the warehouse—all with the goal of keeping workers in tune with what’s going on at the organizational level. “Put this information front-and-center, so that your employees can clearly see what your organization stands for,” says Power, whose previous employer (an industrial firm) used the phrase “Through the Wall” to show what its workers were willing to do for one another, and for the company as a whole. “That message really became a part of the fabric of how people behaved, performed, and interacted while at work.”
- Infuse continuous improvement into the workplace. When employees can’t find the tools they need to get their jobs done, that work stalls until the problem is resolved. And when warehouse workers can’t locate the products they need to pack and ship to a customer, the process comes to screeching halt until the issue is addressed. Many times, it’s these situations that lead workers to go out and start looking for a new place to work. The good news is that these challenges can be avoided with some simple workplace streamlining, improved organization, and the use of philosophies like lean and Six Sigma. Also called operational excellence, lean transformation, Kaizen, or any other number of names, the act of continually honing and perfecting a company’s operations has become an imperative in today’s business environment. For example, it’s a particularly good tool for improving employee engagement. “At its core, continuous improvement is designed to empower employees to solve problems that bug them and gradually improve the efficiency of their work processes. Lean lets employees know that their ideas are important,” Nawras Skhmot writes in 5 Benefits of Continuous Improvement. “When an employee makes a suggestion for improvement, the idea can be carefully tested; and, if successful, implemented company-wide. This changes the employee’s role and responsibilities from being a passive actor to being an active participant of the business processes.” Power says electrical distributors can kick off their continuous improvement initiatives by experimenting with the 5S workplace organization method (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain). “When things are set up in a way where workers can find what they need to be able to do their jobs,” says Power, “they’ll feel good about coming into work.”
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