Archive for December, 2012

Bullying and the Bottom Line

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Much attention has been placed on bullying and its impact on the lives of its victims. It is so important that the Ministry of Labour introduced anti-harassment laws to protect workers from being bullied at work. Yet, many companies overlook the negative bottom-line impact bullying produces. If they did, perhaps more managers would focus on creating a more harmonious workplace rather than one that is merely focused on the numbers.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2007:

  • 37% of workers have been bullied: 13% currently and 24% previously
  • Most bullies are bosses (72%)
  • More perpetrators are men (60%) than are women(40%)
  • Most Targets (57%) are women
  • Women bullies target women (71%); men target men (54%)
  • Bullying is 4 times more prevalent than illegal discriminatory harassment
  • 62% of employers ignore the problem
  • 45% of Targets suffer stress-related health problems
  • 40% of bullied individuals never tell their employers
  • Only 3% of bullied people file lawsuits

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that a worker who feels bullied at work is apt to quit. But has your company calculated the costs associated with the exit of this worker?

First, there are the inevitable sick days; those days when the worker cannot bear to come to work. In addition, there is the increased usage of medical benefits for prescription drugs for depression and/or anxiety, medical tests to investigate headaches and chest palpitations, and other decreased brain function. Some workers self medicate by drinking more or using recreational drugs. These could leave them groggy and less able to concentrate during the day.

Not only are the workers who are the prey of bullies affected. Data from research from the Sauders School of Business at the University of British Columbia, Canada that “the results also indicate that people who experienced it as bystanders in their units or with less frequency reported wanting to quit in even greater numbers.” Not only is the apparent victim psychologically leaving the workplace due to the mental and physical stress caused by being bullied, but so is the rest of the workforce who witnesses it.

In a report written by Think of all the lost productivity a company may encounter if 20% or 30% of their entire workforce became less productive all at once. At $14.00 per hour, that means that the company is actually losing up to $8,200 in lost production for each employee. To a company with 10 workers, that means that the company is losing approximately $16,400 each year because of workers who are too stressed to perform their jobs properly. And this does not even take into account the increased sick time silent observers take during the year.

Of course, when the worker finally makes the decision to leave, there cost to replace them. This entails having staff cover job duties while searching for a qualified candidate, something that further decreases their productivity as they “fill the shoes” of the vacant role. It also entails management’s time to recruit, interview, and select the successful candidate. This process can take weeks or even months, depending on the role, all the while current staff are overburdened and not fully functional.

According to the Studer Group, “A survey of 610 CEOs by Harvard Business School estimates that typical mid-level managers require 6.2 months to reach their break-even point.” Further to this, Eric Koester of MyHighTechStart-Up, “estimates range from 1.5x to 3x of salary for the ‘fully-baked’ cost of an employee – the cost including things like benefits, taxes, equipment, training, rent, etc.”

http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/The-Cost-Of-Hiring-A-New-Employee.aspx#ixzz24mPN7Bh0

For a front line worker, even at the lowest end of the scale of minimum wage and entry level would cost a company over $28,000 to get a new worker completely trained and fully productive. Multiply that by the number of staff who quit during any given year, and you can see how the financial toll of bullying takes on the bottom line.

To find out if your company has a problem with workplace bullying read our blog “Diagnosing a Toxic Workplace”. Then call us to find out how we can help you to identify the undercurrent of your organization and its cost impact on your bottom line.

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Cups Over Customers

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Customer service training

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all experienced it: we walk into a store and the clerk is busy doing some menial task such as sorting bags or stocking a shelf. As a customer, we want to be polite, so we wait for the clerk to recognize us. Instead, the clerk ignores our presence until they are finished with their task…

This happened to me the other day. I was at our local grocery store picking up a ready-made salad to bring to a pot luck lunch. In a rush as usual I ran in, picked up the salad, and headed to the “meals-to-go” section to pay. The clerk was stacking cups for the hot soup. After several attempts to get her attention (“uhm, can I pay for this here?”, “hello, is it all right if I pay here?”, “hi, are you on this cash?”), the clerk looked up from her cups. “Yes, you can pay for that here. I’ll be a few minutes.” She returned to stacking her cups and again ignored me standing at the cash register. I thought “a few minutes” was just a figure of speech, but obviously not!

A second clerk came out of the stock room, saw me standing at the cash, looked at her fellow worker, and proceeded to ring me out. All the while the other clerk continued to stack her cups to get them ready for the lunch rush. Now here is a worker who is destroying the company’s brand and not fulfilling her role as a brand ambassador.

What’s wrong with this picture? We see it all the time. When we do, our first thought is normally, “Wow, there is a person who hates his/her job”. Our second thought is “how rude”. I won’t even mention the third thought that runs through one’s mind.

Whatever happened to customer service? Where did courtesy at work go? When did the worker begin to place a higher emphasis on cups over customers? Is it because management places a higher value of stacking cups rather than providing exceptional customer service? I highly doubt that. However, somehow management has forgotten some critical factors of creating a shopping experience for the customer that draws them back time after time.

1. Employees must understand that their entire job revolves around satisfying the customer. The mundane tasks they are doing is a means to an end – and that end is a delighted customer. Employees may do things to please their managers, but lest we not forget, our entire job is centered around a paying customer. THEY are the ones who pay our paycheque. The manager just signs off on the hours.
2. Make customers feel important (and yes, that means NOT ignoring them Ms. Cup Lady). Our customers are not there to serve our needs, we are there to serve theirs. Customers are not “pieces of work” and deserve a little respect. Customers are individuals, each with their unique personality and reason for being in the market for your particular product or service.
3. Listen to the customer – they can give an employee clues to what they want. Customers are not merely buying our products or services, they are buying the entire experience. Just because we sell the best ice cream this side of the Mississippi or the strongest glue ever made, our employees can lose customers by failing to fulfil the customer needs and expectations along the path from prospective shopping, to sale, to delivery, to after sale experience.
4. Give more than expected. Had the cup stacking lady acknowledged me right away, it would have been a start. Making me more important than her cups would have been appreciated. Coming over and offering me a smile and pleasant attitude would have put me over the top.
5. Even if she had stacked a few more cups after acknowledging me, Ms. Cup Lady could have explained why stacking the cups was so important. Maybe they were a bit behind and she had to get them out quickly because staff would be coming for lunch in a minute. Maybe she was in the middle of a count, and didn’t want to lose where she was. Maybe… Trust the customer, if they know the system and how it works at your company, they will probably understand and cut you some slack. Who hasn’t been in the middle of counting something, or adding along list of numbers, only to be interrupted and lose our place? Help the customer understand where you are coming from, instead of sticking to a regimen that may end up frustrating, annoying, or upsetting the customer. Customers give feedback by going somewhere else when they don’t get good service or the quality of care they deserve.

Why did Ms. Cup Lady place more priority to stacking cups over customers? My gut tells me that she feels underappreciated or unimportant. Employees are the company’s ambassadors to the world. I believe that both managers and workers alike often forget that simple yet powerful fact.

If we want our employees to be exceptional ambassadors, managers need to remember that the staff are management’s internal customers. Give the workforce a reason to be happy at work. Their smiles will be infectious to our customers. Respect the workforce, and they will respect the customer in kind.

Giving good customer service is not hard. It takes no more time to be courteous as it does to be cranky. According to the blog “getsatisfied.com” (http://blog.getsatisfaction.com/2010/10/04/fastest-way-to-lose-customers/?view=socialstudies), 68% of customers leave a company because of poor customer service.

Will I be back to that local grocery store again? Not any time soon. In fact, since I have choices (do you hear that Ms. Cup Lady? CHOICES!!), I’ll be taking my business elsewhere. Yes, it was only a salad. But I too do not just buy products or services. I buy the experience of spending my money where I feel appreciated, cared for, and recognized as the person who makes the company’s sustainability in business possible. Take that Ms. Cup Lady, AND your manager!

We work with clients to develop a culture of exceptional customer service, one where the customer experience is always top-of-mind – at all levels of the organization. Call us today to learn about our training and coaching programs that deliver practical tools and techniques to enhance awareness of how best to delight your customers.

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Why Write a Policy and Procedure Manual?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
We create company policies

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Policies are broad in nature, and their function is to tie work activities to the company’s vision, mission, and strategies. Policies help managers provide a consistent and transparent method of governance regarding common work practices and direction. Policies save countless management hours by streamlining and communicating expectations, as well as answering common questions.

In essence, the Policy and Procedures manual is the company’s collection of answers to employee’s frequently asked questions.

Most companies have a policy and procedure manual, or at least some version of a manual. In today’s virtual world, it is tempting to lift policies off the internet and apply them to the organization. However, there is a risk to using something found on the internet: it might not be correct, and it might not be relevant or legally binding for a company in your country.

When writing a Policy and Procedure manual, it is important to consider the following:

Know the difference between a Policy and a Procedure: a policy is a written guide that outlines what employees are expected to do, while a procedure outlines how it should be done. Both policies and procedures are important, because one without the other creates incomplete direction for work activities.

In addition to acting as a communication tool, Policy and Procedure manuals can also act as a legal advocate to the company. When consistently applied in a consistent, persistent, firm, but fair manner, policies can protect the company when legal concerns could potentially turn into legal problems.

In many ways, policies define and communicate the rules and obligations of both managers and employees. Having clearly written and applied policies protects the legal interests of the company. In today’s litigious environment, it is more important than ever to have policies that say what they should, are applied correctly, and legally allowed.

So if your company is in need of a policy manual that is clear, concise, and covers all the bases, give us a call today!

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Finding Fault or Correcting Problems?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Workplace investigations

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever been chastised by someone? A parent, a teacher, a boss… It feels terrible, and it undermines the confidence and willingness to work hard for that person, doesn’t it? It is embarrassing to be called out for something we did wrong, especially if the person calling us out treats our mistake as if it were incompetence.

Mistakes happen. That is a fact. It is also a fact that many managers and business owners find it hard to fathom that anyone could be so “stupid.” These are the people who want to find out who is to blame; to figure out who is at “fault” and then put their heads on the chopping block. Especially if those mistakes cost the company a lot of money.

 

Before you push forward with conducting a forensic inquisition, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  1. Is there a procedure in place to avoid this sort of mistake? If there is, and the worker failed to follow the procedure either through laziness or carelessness, this may be a good counselling moment to emphasize the reasons companies have procedures in place. If there is no procedure, perhaps it is time to put one in place. If this sort of mistake happened once, chances are good that there it could happen again. This then becomes an excellent coaching moment where a manager can develop critical thinking skills within the workplace.
  2. Were clear instructions given to the worker? Just because the person sending the message believes they were clear, communication is a two-way process. And the receiver cannot look into the sender’s mind to figure out critical nuances or missing details. Often companies develop their own sort of “lingo”. Procedures get shortened names, like “non-con” for non-conformance problems. Or “cred test” for credibility and reliability testing. We all know what a “non-con” is, right? Or do we? Before we can point the finger at someone, it is important that everyone has a shared understanding of the message. They also need the full information in order to do their jobs properly. In our hurried workday, we habitually give sketchy messages with too little information. Then, when things go wrong, we look for heads to roll. Perhaps we should be looking into the mirror first.
  3. What circumstance allowed the problem to go unnoticed until it was too late? When processing orders or entering data, it is vital that companies have a system of checks and balances along the path. Mistakes that get to the end of the process without detection demonstrates that there are insufficient quality control measures along the process. “Just-in-time” does not mean “push-it-through”. “Streamlining procedures” does not mean “steamrolling the process”. “Lean manufacturing” does not mean “starving the line.”
  4. What can we learn from this mistake? If we only look for blame, we are looking backwards to find fault and punish the person. When we ask what we can learn, we enable ourselves to make improvements on a regular and continuous basis. This is what “continuous improvement” is all about. It is how we help prevent the same or similar mistakes from happening in the future. Unfortunately, it is like that companies will never know how many problems it avoided. Seeking lessons from mistakes is sort of like eating healthy – we will never know what illnesses or disease our healthy eating has avoided. But most would agree, that is not a reason to eat unhealthy, because the risk is far too great.

This is not to imply that mistakes should not be taken seriously. Nor is it to imply that discipline should not happen. Discipline in its true form is a behaviour modification process. It is designed to encourage a worker to start or stop something that is getting in the way of good performance. From experience, it seems that managers and business owners still cannot separate a mistake from incompetence, and their first reaction is to find fault and blame. In our experience, this is most often is the least effective thing to do.

To find out more effective ways to handle mistakes, and knowing when to discipline and when to coach, give us a call. We have leadership development and supervisory skills training that helps managers increase their comfort level and competency when dealing with performance issues.

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