This is the second of a three-part series of articles discussing the challenges faced by businesses today in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article, I discuss human capital – your employees. In my first article, I mentioned that businesses that struggle the most in this COVID-19 pandemic generally have lack of resources and low operational efficiency. To stay afloat, some businesses have had to enforce unpaid leave of absence, mandatory pay cuts, and even retrenchment. Many businesses also lost employees during this pandemic because these employees lack a very important trait. What is this trait? Let me tell you the fable of the pig and the hen.
In this fable, a pig and a hen were thinking of opening a restaurant and were deciding on a name. The hen suggested “Ham-n-Eggs”. The pig thought for a while and said to the hen, “Hey, then I’d be committed but you’d only be involved!”
I hope you can relate to the plight of the pig in this fable, where the hen is merely involved by laying an egg whereas the pig has to cut a slice off his own body to make the ham. Now, THAT’s commitment, don’t you think? The good news is that you, too, can develop commitment in your employees with the right environment and practices. So let’s discuss the best practices needed to build committed and resilient work teams.
Build Your Desired Culture First
These are the core values that drive everything you do in your company. These values also define who you are, what’s important to you and how you treat your customers. They must be so clear that anyone reading it knows exactly what they mean. Before you hire your first employee, you need to have these core values in place. And tell every employee you hire that their performance and progress in the company are determined by how well they live these core values.
A company without defined core values is like a ship without a rudder. So, before you build a business, you need to build your values first. Here’s what you stand to gain from having defined core values:
- All decisions are made based on these values.
- Employees feel they belong to something meaningful.
- You attract the right kind of employees.
Make Every Employee a Stakeholder
Not to be mistaken for shareholder, a stakeholder is someone who has a stake or an interest in the business. How do you give every employee a stake in your business? Here are two easy ways:
Make every employee see how their job contributes to a business goal. The story of the three bricklayers illustrates this point very well. Once there were three bricklayers. Each of them was asked what they were doing. The first answered, “I’m laying bricks”, the second, “I’m putting up a wall” while the third said enthusiastically and proudly, “I’m building a cathedral.” Employees need to feel important and valued. No matter what job they do, if they can see how their effort contributes to the larger goal, they become more interested to do well. What you can do is regularly show – with charts, tables or numbers – how what they do has contributed to the outcome of a business goal. When employees see the value of what they do on the job to a larger goal that adds value to the company, they feel like they have a stake in the success of the company.
Listen to them. Even if you’re already doing this today, this has to be engineered, meaning it needs to be part of the work process reflecting your core values. That means you may need your supervisors and managers to set aside time to listen to their workers. To avoid these sessions becoming complaint forums, set a theme for each session so that the discussions are focused.
Remember, the key is commitment. When you make every employee a stakeholder in your business, their commitment level goes up and this leads to higher motivation and employee loyalty. In the context of this COVID-19 pandemic, when you are forced to make difficult decisions on the business, being a stakeholder, your employees are more likely to accept your decisions and rough it out together.
Empower Your Employees
Following closely behind making every employee a stakeholder is empowering them. The common reason I hear for not giving employees decision-making powers is a lack of trust. But you trust your supervisors and managers to make those decisions because they’re better trained, right? Surely, every employee can be similarly trained? And now that you have defined your core values, surely you can attract the right type of people? Trust is a two-way street. If you empower your employees to make certain decisions on the job, you are in fact saying to them, “I am empowering you to make these decisions because I trust you.” Do you know how powerfully this motivates your employees? And motivation equals productivity equals excellence equals innovation. It leads you back to the same reasons you make every employee a committed stakeholder.
So, let me summarise the key takeaways.
- Build actionable core values that define who you are and how you do business.
- Hire people who are aligned to these core values.
- Link every employee’s job to a business goal.
- Listen to your employees and empower them to make (certain) decisions.
Some say employees are your most important assets. As with all good management processes and strategies, commitment starts at the very top. Only when you have the right core values in place and you make every employee a stakeholder do they feel they belong to something meaningful. If you haven’t already realised through this pandemic, having a resilient workforce is no longer a nice thing to have but a business necessity. In my next and final part, I shall be discussing the benefits of training and development.
About the author
Joseph Wong spent 36 years at Standard Chartered Bank in myriad roles spanning many business areas. In the last ten years with the Bank, he headed the Transaction Banking global Sales Proposal team and spearheaded the Bank’s transformational digital learning blueprint.
Joseph left the Bank’s employment in 2015 and founded Delapro to impart his knowledge as an independent life and business coach, focusing on communication and leadership. He also authored the three-book children’s series titled, “I’m So Ready For Life”, where he teaches parents how to develop critical and creative thinking in their children.