People: Our Greatest Asset

CPC Business Development

By Ken Keis.

People First, Profits Follow. The connection between business performance and employee morale is far from casual. For disbelievers, North American Tool and Die Inc. is a fine example. After a change in ownership and management style, in just three short years, the firm tripled sales and profits increased six fold. Staff turnover dropped sharply.

Employees commented that they never imagined the company could become such a challenging and exciting place to work. The philosophy that created such dynamic improvements: A company’s most important asset is its people.

The conviction that people make the difference between success and failure influences company philosophy and decisions. How do we achieve optimum levels for our team and bolster the bottom line?

Communication skills are the cornerstone of good labor relations. To improve the way we manage, our attitude must be congruent with our values.

It helps to understand what really motivates employees—the real issues, not what we think they may be. In a recent report comprising 12 studies and 1,685 personnel, results clearly indicate factors creating job satisfaction greatly differ from those generating dissatisfaction. One erroneous business assumption has been that if the work week were reduced, wages increased and benefits expanded, we would find our employees miraculously motivated.

What the report showed is that the six major contributors to job satisfaction and motivation are:

  • achievement
  • recognition
  • the work itself
  • responsibility
  • advancement
  • growth

Elements causing dissatisfaction include:

  • company policy and administration
  • supervision
  • interpersonal relationships
  • working condition
  • salary
  • status
  • security.

I was asked to do a personnel development series with the new crew of one of our clients. When I asked my customer what areas needed focus, there was no clear response. Starting the series off with a needs assessment, which included all team members, the staff accepted the program much more freely, allowing the content to be custom designed to reflect their requirements.

Focus on the development of the current team by increasing job satisfaction and productivity.

Ohio Bell has implemented a program called “Three on Three”. The senior vice president meets with each individual in the company twice a year and asks some simple but valuable questions:

  • What three things do we do that you appreciate?
  • Re. the above, what would you like to see more of?
  • What three things do we do that you dislike and would like to see less of?

Requiring a commitment by owners to address challenges, this procedure is a vehicle staff can use to be involved in the strengthening of the enterprise. Because achievement and recognition are the top two motivators for staff, this area must not be overlooked. Instituting programs of recognition for jobs well done is essential.

Rewards for achievement include trips, dinner or tickets to the next professional ballgame. Every month, hold a company-wide (or division-wide) meeting—on house time.

Recognize one or more employees who have done a super job during that month.

Have a plaque engraved with the employees’ names, and display it in the work area.

Bring personnel up to date on the direction of the organization; inform them about your current business performance. Every time a customer makes a compliment, tell everyone in detail at one of those meetings. Compliments don’t cost a thing and we all appreciate them.

In addition to handing out compliments, work at trying to promote your employees’ best interests. Does that sound obtuse in today’s cynical work environment? Look at the workers’ jobs from their perspective: Would you enjoy working with you as the boss?

A friend of mine admitted he would quit before he would do that. Leading companies now invest 1 percent to 3 percent of their gross sales back into employee education. (Some might even consider that figure low.) The training of labor, now called adult learning, is a continuous process requiring a great deal of time and patience.

The varied aspects of human resources may sometimes appear impossible to administer. It may help to reflect on this riddle; “Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time”. The unfolding of personnel development should be the same; divide any situation into smaller parts and accomplish a little at a time.

Studies reveal that seven out of 10 workers dislike their jobs.

What would happen if a business reversed these statistics? If work meant achievement, recognition and fun for your staff, would they accomplish more?

Both leaders and employees do care a great deal, and yet, misunderstandings exist and continue to plague companies across North America. If you can tap this well of concern and connect it with the goals of your corporation, the results will truly astound you.

The implementation of a company-wide personnel development formula can no longer be avoided. The traditional adversary role between management and employees is not productive. Expertise is available to help you gain knowledge and technology to realize top performance from your team.

Choose to utilize that experience. Your long-term economic survival depends on it.

Ken Keis is the president and CEO of Consulting Resource Group in Abbotsford, B.C. ( He can be reached at (604) 852-0566 or

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