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Half Way Down the Third Page, the Following Sub-heading Caught My Eye

As I was gathering my thoughts and ideas in preparing to write this article I decided to look back through some notes I filed away a few years ago. At the time, I was revising and updating material which I had written for a “Customer Excellence” workshop. Half way down on the third page the following subheading caught my eye: What Customers really need, want and expect”1 After reading this list several times over I kept glancing back and forth to the heading “WHAT CUSTOMERS REALLY NEED, WANT AND EXPECT.” I replaced the word “CUSTOMERS” with “EMPLOYEES.” The list below applies as well to “What Employees Really Need, Want, and Expect.

Here are the 10 items that were suggested by the author;

  1. Help
  2. Respect and recognition
  3. Comfort, compassion and support
  4. To be listened to with empathy
  5. Satisfaction
  6. Trust and trustworthiness
  7. A friendly, smiling face
  8. Understanding
  9. To be made to feel important
  10. A quality product or service at a fair price

The Vibrant Workplace

Why is it that I hear so many people tell me their customers come before their employees because without customers we would have no business? Surely leadership has figured this out by now, right? Maybe not. In Dr. Paul White’s introduction pages of his latest book, “The Vibrant Workplace” he writes, “Managers don’t like their work as much when staff report lower levels of appreciation. In fact, one study found that 81 percent of employees were just marginally engaged in the workplace, yet only 30 percent were thinking about looking for another job. That means 50 percent – half – of employees weren’t fully committed to their job, but they weren’t going anywhere else.” (Just recalled the other day while shopping for groceries a voice from the storeroom said in a very sarcastic tone, “that’s why you’re the boss”)! Lot’s of fun working with people who don’t want to be there!

Is Appreciation Just An American Concept?

When the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace was released over 6 years ago I was given a copy before they went on sale to the public as I was working in the book industry at the time. That same evening I read the entire book and burned through two highlighter pens. In fact, the words printed in black had turned into a sea of yellow! The stories, issues, solutions and concepts of the book resonated clearly with me as I had enjoyed a great career where I felt genuinely appreciated by the people I worked with. I had also experienced a not so great career in another organization where appreciation was a foreign concept. But I was hung up on one particular issue. The examples were American and the author was American so I assumed this was probably an American problem. Co-incidentally, in a very recent newsletter authored by Dr. White (5 Languages of Appreciation) he poses the same question, “Is Appreciation just an American Concept?  A must read! As I was seriously contemplating adding this training process of languages of appreciation to my portfolio (which dovetails nicely with leadership development, health and wellness and customer service) I proceeded to conduct some of my own research on a very limited scale.

It Doesn’t Matter which Country you Reside in, Appreciation is Important

Where else does one start to do their research? Their family and friends! I asked the question that Dr. White asks in his book, “Do you feel appreciated by the people you work with?” I also asked, “When was the last time someone said they appreciated you at work?” Lo and behold I was getting roughly the same results and feedback. I wondered how they felt about appreciation across the pond where I have some family. Similar results. It doesn’t really seem to matter which country you reside in, appreciation is important.

Why Do Some Organizations Seem To Put Customers Before Employees?

Back to my original question. “Why do some organizations seem to put customers before employees?” Is this still possible today to believe that customers are worth more than the people that serve them? Good leadership understands that customers are of course important but they are also wise enough to know that taking care of their employees first is critical to engaging a positive, productive workforce. Companies who achieve this experience top-notch cultures which is evident by their low staff turnover, low absenteeism rates and high levels of customer satisfaction.

What Employees Really Want and Respect

I recently had a chat with a new neighbor who holds down a full-time and a part-time job. He shared with me how great the company is where he works full time. I was anxious to hear more about this great company as it seems to be rather rare lately. He passionately explained that the owner of this mid-sized company knows everyone’s name AND uses it in a very appreciative, sincere manner. He personally takes an interest in their families and home life. He pays them above the minimum wage. When he sends emails he starts off by saying (are you sitting down for this?) “Good morning” and ends by saying “Thank you!” The employees put in extra time when it’s required without having to be asked. When issues arise the management doesn’t get angry. They approach the issues with calmness and a win-win attitude. ALL the time. They’re consistent. It’s what employees really need, want, and expect.

He Never Hears a Word of Appreciation

The conversation was re-directed to the culture experience at his part-time job which was totally opposite. He never hears a word of appreciation. No please. No thank you. Nada. Nothing. He’s glad he doesn’t work there full-time – no matter how much they pay him! (Interestingly, both companies are unionized).

Raise The Bar Of Your Work Environment

I continue to embrace the 5 Languages of Appreciation concepts and always readily available to make a difference in the culture of organizations whether they are profit or non-profit. Every organization has the potential to have a positive environment. It can be done by keeping in mind what employees really need, want, and expect. The last few organizations I had the opportunity to introduce the concepts to were in fact, already successful and enjoy a healthy work environment. Their goal was to raise the bar and level of effectiveness which was accomplished!   

1 Kent Burns Consulting