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Culture Fundamentals: Respect and Appreciate your Employees

A cautionary tale about workplace culture: A local coffee shop opened a store on the other side of town.  The coffee shop struggled to achieve sales and lost all of the coffee shop employees it hired within 9 months of opening.  Because of the pressure the owner was under to recoup her investment, she managed the team like a hawk, monitoring them through cameras she installed in the business.

When she saw employees not performing up to her high standards, she quickly called or texted to give them feedback.  If she saw on camera an employee texting on his phone, she texted them immediately to stop.  She published the schedule with only a few days’ notice.  

She asked the team to cover shifts back-to-back when a scheduled employee did not show up.   The team never saw their manager work a back-to-back shift or put in extra hours to help the store stay afloat.  They never heard the manager give positive feedback.  The manager wondered how she could hire motivated ambitious employees.  

For the fundamentals of building culture, the emphasis is on easy steps to show your employees you value them.  In the cautionary tale above, do you think the manager showed she valued and trusted her employees?  Cameras tell the employees that they are not trusted by the management.  And this type of management has an invisible impact on an employee’s internal motivation to work hard. Without trust, connection, relationships and respect, employees will not be internally motivated to do more than necessary for a paycheck.

Once an employee feels valued and respected, then the foundation is built for the employee to return that by going above and beyond. The first steps to building a work culture that values employees are recognizing employees for hard work, personalizing birthdays and work anniversaries, publishing a work schedule with more notice, and managing with empathy.

1. Employee Rewards and Recognition

Recognizing employees has an unseen impact on motivation.  Praising a team member in public when they have gone above and beyond demonstrates with your actions what you value.  Recognition will be meaningful if you make it public and personalize it.  You do not need to spend a lot of money.   If you value employees who go the extra mile to help a customer, say thank you in a public and personal way by giving a small gift to the employee in front of the team.  When you pick out the gift, think about that employee’s interests, like a coffee table book about their favorite band or a gift card to their favorite manicure salon.  If you value employees who give their blood, sweat and tears to the company by cleaning the bathrooms or arriving early in the morning to meet delivery trucks, how do you personally recognize that behavior?  If you shortcut recognition with routine and repetitive gifts it won’t have much of an impact.


2.Employee Birthdays and Work Anniversaries matter

Businesses that don’t remember their employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries signal to employees that the relationship is merely transactional, which leads to plummeting employee motivation, customer service, and sales.  With birthdays and anniversaries, it is not how much you spend but simply that you cared enough to notice.  Keeping a stack of birthday cards and a sack of balloons on hand for birthdays and thank you cards for work anniversaries will help you make the day special with little-to-no cost required.

On my five-year anniversary, my manager gave me an angel statue from Hallmark.  The angel held a sign that said, “Angel of Good Things”. My boss said she picked it out because she thought it looked like me.  Even though angel statues are not my taste, I was surprised by how much it meant to me.  I frequently wondered if I added enough value to the team but the thoughtful gesture improved my confidence and my desire to work hard for the team.

For milestone anniversaries, here are some low-cost work anniversary present ideas:

    Parking space

    Extra paid day off

    A coffee table book of their favorite band, artist, or movie.

    A framed photograph of a picture of them on their first day of work

    A sentimental low cost keepsake from hallmark.

    Gift cards to favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or yogurt place


3. Predictable Schedules

Publishing employees’ schedules further in advance has a significant impact on the quality of life for your employees and dramatically reduces turnover.  Unpredictable schedules impact this group’s ability to secure child care, health care, transportation to work, and even access to government benefits.  

Homebase conducted an anonymous survey of over 100 job seekers and 100 current hourly employees.  46% of current hourly employees and job seekers preferred a dependable schedule over earning 10% more in wages.  For half of respondents, predictability is more valuable than money!  Homebase looked at the number of days in advance that over 6000 small and medium sized businesses published their schedule for hourly employees and the impact it had on turnover.  When businesses published their schedule with only 1-3 days notice, turnover was at an average of 42%.  When businesses published their schedule with 8 days notice or more, turnover dropped to only 26%!


4. Managing with Empathy

Alex Villanueva, a Customer Success Manager at Homebase, spent many years in the retail business prior to Homebase.  Alex says that without question the best manager he ever worked for (not including Homebase, of course) was Lisa.  “She was the type of boss that if you were late, she always first made sure everything was okay before she said, ‘Don’t be late anymore.’  If things weren’t going well in your life, she wanted to know and did what she could to help.  When she called me up for a job paying less money at her new store, I jumped at the chance to work for someone again who I felt cared about me as a person.”  Alex also managed retail stores and said that in managing retail employees, attendance and work quality must be constantly managed but taking a minute to have empathy for the employee takes so little and has a dramatic impact on employees’ motivation.

The first step and most powerful step for effective leadership is to understand your employees’ lives outside of work.  Check in with your employees about challenges they currently face, goals they are working towards or successes they have achieved.  Think through what you can do to help those employees.  They will return the favor with the performance that goes above and beyond just as their manager does for them.  

In “It’s My Pleasure:  The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture” by Dee Ann Turner, Former VP of Corporate Talent at Chick Fil-A, she describes that at Chick-Fil-A they believe the company’s success is from management’s commitment to servant leadership.  Servant leadership is a management style that prioritizes helping the employees — with an empathetic eye toward what the employees need to be successful at and outside of work.

She describes how store managers and operators have paid for scholarships for their employees or employees’ children, sent limos to employees’ houses on prom night, located assistance for medical care, or reached into their network to help their own employees find a job outside of their organization if they desired.  The employees in turn have the same level of commitment to their jobs.  Stories include employees walking almost a mile to work after a hurricane to clean up the property, walking customers to their cars with umbrellas in the rain, or reserving a table for a customer who became a regular after losing his wife.  

Recognize employees for hard work, personalize birthdays and work anniversaries, publish a work schedule with more notice, and manage with empathy.  It’s all you need to take your culture from a cautionary tale to greatness.   

The Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture

In the Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture, we cover:​

1. Introduction & Team Culture Quiz

2. Culture Fundamentals: Respect and Appreciate your Employees

3. Having a Great Culture: Improve Teamwork
4. The Cultural Holy Grail: Empowered Employees
5. Want to Reduce Turnover Among Your Employees? Try Advanced Scheduling
6. My Employees Are Fighting: How to Manage Conflict in a Small Business
7. Career Development for Hourly Employees When There is No Room for Growth

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