Motivating Employees

By Christie Walker
Few people grow up thinking, gee I want to be a lens grinder when I grow up, and yet your lab is filled with indispensable employees that keep all that high-tech equipment churning out product every day. Image if everyone walked out, where would that leave your lab? The number-one resource lab owners have today are their employees, the people whom they entrust to produce the products they sell, work with their customers and sell their services. Your people can make or break your business in a very short period of time. All too often, we see business owners who fail for reasons such as:

* An unwillingness to realize the worth of experience and successes in past performance.

* A propensity to sacrifice quality people who demand a higher rate of pay in turn for a less-than-optimal performer who needs training and will work for a lesser salary.

* A mindset that does not allow room for seeing the value of recognition and rewards for exceptional performance.

* Promoting from within based principally on tenure. A common misconception is that promoting from within saves money by offering a cheaper salary for the new position. This most often creates a position that fills the skill set of the present employee but most often does not fit the needs of the lab.

* Avoiding conflict and confrontation by being inconsistent with employee reviews and raises. Such avoidance can create a resentful environment, where strong employees pick up the slack.

Even in a manufacturing environment there are things you can do–with varying degrees of expense–to change the work environment within your lab to create a world-class environment in which people will want to come to work every day.

Reward-based Programs

Businesses can save both time and money if they understand both the value of promoting a reward-based program, and the loss of money from employee turnover. When employees leave, they take the skills acquired and knowledge gained, which were provided to these employees at great time and cost. What's most difficult to face is that this loss is compounded by the additional expense of replacing the employee. Among other costly factors are absenteeism and general internal dissension that can drain profitability as effectively as a 10 percent breakage rate. Understanding lab employees is the key to your success. Having confidence in your employees and creating a positive working environment will support your business growth. By embracing employee recognition, employees will be more motivated to do a better job for you.

According to research by James Oakley, Purdue University assistant professor of marketing, a direct link exists between employee satisfaction, motivation and a company's profits. After studying 100 employees of U.S. companies and their corporate culture, Mr. Oakley concluded that engaged employees are inspired to provide good service and be proactive in their work.

Employees indicated that they favor recognition from managers and supervisors by a margin of almost two to one over recognition from other sources. And nearly seven out of 10 employees say non-monetary forms of recognition provide the best motivation. Committed employees develop loyalty to the organization, adjusting their performance to higher standards of accomplishment.

The solutions need not be elaborate to be successful. The cost of employee rewards and recognition is nominal, the results, abundant. To appreciate an employee for loyalty and performance requires only a simple thank you. That is free. To reward employees for work beyond expectations may slightly dent the pockets, but the benefits will soon show up on the bottom. Employee recognition and performance rewards drive individuals to work harder and smarter. Every employee embraces recognition regardless of his or her position, from customer service to shipping.

Money Can’t Buy Me Love

Money can't buy everything! Employees have personal schedules separate from the workplace and may need you to accommodate their non-work responsibilities. Some workers are more interested in work arrangements that mesh with their personal lives.

Consider rewarding current employees, or attracting new hires, with: flexible hours; and bonuses tied to attendance. (Less absenteeism and turnover means additional cost savings to you). The only way to know what they want is to ask them. You might spend a ton of money providing a free lunch every Wednesday, only to find out that they would have preferred movie passes. When this happens you’ve wasted money and haven’t accomplished your goal.

Just asking employees what they would appreciate most shows respect and goes along way toward employee satisfaction. The reward doesn’t have to be the same for everyone. Employees in customer service might appreciate chair massages (which would work in customer service but not out on the lab floor) while the finishing department might appreciate movie passes. Here are some ideas for rewards: gas cards, Starbucks cards, gift cards to general stores like Target, an extra paid day off, have the employees’ car detailed, bonuses to employees who recruit and train new employees, pizza lunch day, bring in a masseuse for chair massages, spa treatment gift cards, or movie passes. Create out of the box ways to say thank you for being part of my team. Send a positive message that the employee is valued, not simply perceived as a means to a profit for the pocketbook of the owner.

The different positions within your lab require varied degrees of experience, skill and education. It is clear there are people working in your lab whose life goals do not include the optical industry as their ultimate career path. To take that one step further, not everyone who works for you is internally motivated or inclined to advance in their career. With that in mind, understand and accept that some of the necessary positions within your organization do not allow for advancement. How do you create a challenging and rewarding work environment? How do you show that you value your employees?

The goal is to create an environment in which employees have fun, and work performance still exceeds expectations. Labs that embrace this idea will see an overall decrease in turnover, a decrease in absenteeism and the elimination of workplace drama. A fun, rewarding working environment is good for you, your employees and your business.

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Labtalk November/December 2018