ONE OF FORT COLLINS’ claims to fame is Sign guyTim Farnsworth, the M&E Painting sign dancer guy.  He’s been working for the company for six years now and is an energetic asset to the community.

He cares deeply about his job.  He’s an expert and puts his whole heart into what he does.

Let’s contrast this to, oh, the other twenty sign flippers around town.  They stand there.  Maybe they wave their sign around a little.  It a fit of inspiration, they might even turn it around for ten minutes.

You get the impression that it’s just a job, a way to make a few bucks before moving onto something which will pay 50¢ more.

But this isn’t a tirade about sign flippers.  There’s great ones and not-so-great, just like in any job.

Did you ever think about the fact that your employees aren’t particularly fired up because you haven’t given them a reason to be?  Let’s think about this for a moment.

The standard agreement for entry-level employees is something like:  Do as you’re told, don’t screw up, and we’ll pay you.  If you don’t, you’re gone.

Yet you decry the fact that your employees don’t care as much about the business as you do.  You’ve put your heart and soul into this venture, it’s the lifeblood for you and your family.  Why don’t those employees seem to care?

Because you haven’t given them a reason to.

It’s not about paying them a lot of money.  Well, if you pay them a pittance and treat them poorly, you don’t deserve their loyalty at all.  But there’s an appropriate level of pay for every industry and job, set by the market.  You probably can’t pay a WHOLE lot more than that, lest your expense structure get out of whack.

No, this is about engagement.  I see loads and loads of quite well-paying jobs where employees still don’t care about the company.  You can’t just buy peoples’ hearts.

So how do you build up employee loyalty and engagement?

First, demonstrate the company goals (more than just money) and why that benefits everyone.

  • We’re a fast food place serving this local community.
  • We’re known for fast, good food, reliably prepared.
  • We address each and every customer concern which comes up, because these customers are not only our income but the people we live with.
  • Our environment is clean, friendly, someplace you want to bring your kids.
  • Inside the company, we try to reward people who are really great contributors, and who help the business overall to grow and prosper.
  • We really have to pay attention to any wasted money.  Yes, we’ll throw out food if it’s not up to standard, because the customer is the most important thing.  But any waste is just money that can’t be in our paychecks, which isn’t fun for anyone.

Second, help them to see the connection between the company goals and their particular job.  I do this by connecting from the goals down to the individual, and then back up to the company again.

  • Those goals up above are actually delivered by me, you, the managers, the teams, everyone in the company.
  • Since you’re a front counter employee, how you treat customers is critical.  It’s your smile and friendliness which will cause them to come back again, or tell bad stories to their friends.
  • You also interact with the cooking staff, and if we’re going to deliver a great product to our customers, that has to go flawlessly.  When it isn’t flawless – stuff happens sometimes – it’s your job to make sure things get fixed.  Without playing games and fighting, because that helps no one.
  • Your supervisor plays an important role here, to schedule hours, to assign tasks, to solve problems.  When you make her job easier, you’re making your own job easier too.
  • When this works well, customers return.  They bring friends and family over and over again.  We grow and prosper as a company.  Which means you and I will both have jobs in the future.
  • If this is a great place to work, we’d love to hire your younger brother or sister when you go off to college or a future career.  Please help us to make this a great place to work.

Third, establish the open communication.

  • “My door is always open.  Here’s my cell phone number.”
  • “I care about whether you’re satisfied with this job, and I want to help fix it when you’re not.”
  • Deliver this message constantly and sincerely.
  • Ensure your managers and supervisors understand that this is a mandatory part of your company culture – both for bringing concerns to you, and for being available to their teams.
  • Then SOLVE PROBLEMS when they’re raised to you.  It’s your job.  Don’t punish people who use this communication, otherwise your door will slam shut on everyone.

This isn’t a one-time exercise that you do when you hire someone.  It’s a constant, daily exercise, and deeply impacts every employee conversation and meeting you have.

If you’re interested to find out more about Tim and M&E, check out my previous blog profile on the founder of the company.