Distinctive service is the only competitive edge for many distributors, and it's something that can't be provided without a service team that believes in providing that distinctive service, according to Bruce Merrifield in B2B Means Back to Basics for Now. If employees truly are your most important asset, why don't executives treat them that way?
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Paying more and investing more into frontline employees gets a lot more in return. "'Hire them cheap and work them hard' works only when the owner is the 80-hour-per-week foreman in a perpetually small business," Merrifield says. Paying a higher starting wage while clearly communicating your expectations can help create a higher sense of loyalty to the company and, as a result, better retention.
In addition, companies that invest in education to cross-train employees create an environment of understanding what happens at every step in the process. "Wire every employee's wallet, mind and heart into achieving basic service brilliance for one niche of customers at a time," Merrifield says. Defining the connections between each step in your organization is essential for creating an effective organization, says Chuck Emery in A Practical Approach to Lean, and helps employees be more aware of issues that arise for a more rapid response.
Finally, give employees responsibility for growing re-invested profits by being part of the solution to improve service and productivity goals. While responsibility may seem to be a strange reward, "Playing a game with no way of keeping score or knowing how we are progressing toward some measurably excellent goal is not fun," Merrifield says. "If our occupational pride and well-being is at stake, then its time to leave if we have any ambition."