How do you increase the probability of your agency’s survival and success?
According to accomplished entrepreneur Dan Schulman (CEO of PayPal):
"The only sustainable competitive advantage that any company has is the strength of their workforce," says @dan_schulman. pic.twitter.com/eBNgPgmjQC
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 13, 2021
Mr. Schulman made that statement last year; however, it is no novel concept.
Nearly 20 years prior, Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, said (from LifeCare® Inc.’s Life Event Management Conference, 2003),
“Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage.”
Strong teams result in strong businesses, so knowing how to acquire and retain great talent is paramount to a company’s survival and prosperity.
The tips below will help you foster a culture that will transform your employees into your company’s greatest asset.
1. Staff Proper Talent
Making sure you have the right players on your team is the foundation of a strong workforce. The following philosophical concepts about staffing will help arm you with the right people.
You Are What You Hire
Ten years ago, my wife and I declared the grocery budget off limits for budget cuts because few things impact a family’s health more than what they eat.
Just like food is not a great place to save money in a family, staffing is not a great place to save money in an organization. Within reason, prohibit cost from impacting your hiring decisions.
Think of payroll like an investor. Higher salaries will result in more significant gains in productivity and retention.
Hire people because they are great at what they do and will complement your culture, not because the price is right.
Correct Bad Hiring Decisions Quickly
Allowing the wrong people to remain on staff is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people.
From Jim Collins’s book, Good to Great (2001):
It is also unfair to that wrong person for every minute you allow him to continue when you know he will not make it in the end; you’re stealing a portion of his life, time that he could spend finding a better place to flourish.
Making a poor hiring choice is inevitable. The key is to rectify the situation promptly.
You will have the essential ingredients for a strong workforce if you have the right people on your team.
2. Avoid Subordinate Language
Making sure your great talent never has a reason to leave begins with how you view them.
If you utilize a ranking system, confirm that hierarchy is limited to how you organize your team vs. treat them.
How you speak about and address your coworkers will influence how you think about and treat them.
People who work at oxbird are my employees; however, that is not how I refer to our team. I have staff who work with me who I refer to as colleagues, not employees.
“Boss” is not a part of my vernacular either.
To be clear, I am not referring strictly to workplace vernacular. I am referring to a philosophy that influences how you think of and refer to your staff in any context, e.g., staff meetings, a friend’s birthday party, etc.
Production should be driven by individuals motivated to perform for their team, not imposed by organizational structure.
The more authoritative you are, the less influence you’ll have, whereas the more influence you have, the less authoritative you need to be.
Cleanse subordination from your thinking, and you’ll help foster a productive team culture.
3. Meet In Person
I can’t stress this point enough in an age of dispersed teams.
My favorite time of the business year is our company summit. Zoom calls are great, but the most advanced video technology can hold no candle to being in the presence of teammates.
Just writing about our times together excites me as I recall greeting colleagues in person for the first time in a while. I often meet new employees in person for the first time as well.
Priceless camaraderie isn’t the only significant benefit to these times together.
A business summit can be a legitimate perk for staff if you choose an impressive estate and some fine dining. Our team lives like royalty for a couple of days, enjoying accommodations some might otherwise never experience.
Meeting in person at least once a year can cement relationships and spoil your team.
4. Offer Compelling Benefits
Businesses must get creative to offer compelling perks, especially when not providing health-related benefits, which is the leading benefits category.
Enter unlimited PTO. Imagine the freedom of capless time off. Ponder the level of trust between employee and employer required to pull this off effectively.
Consider how good it feels to say, “as much as I want,” when asked, “how much vacation time do you get?”
Is there a better fit for your organization than unlimited PTO? Do you already offer some form of health care?
My aim isn’t to advocate for a particular benefit; instead, the main takeaway is to ensure your team enjoys some juicy perks, which may require creativity.
5. Increase Pay Proactively
Insofar as it is possible with you, never lose a great employee to a company willing to pay them more.
Why does the military offer lucrative bonuses to soldiers who remain enlisted? Because it is a lot more expensive to recruit and train new employees than to increase the pay of existing staff.
More importantly, proactive raises are a powerful way to communicate that you prize your staff. While there are many other ways to communicate value, none are more convincing than this.
At one point, our white-label PPC (pay-per-click) agency proactively raised salaries annually; however, we now do so semi-annually.
Semi-annual, proactive pay increases help teammates avoid long periods of questioning their value.
To insure against an entitlement culture, be careful not to formalize pay increases into policies. Ideally, these increases are organic (vs. formal) and correspond to performance highlights and gratitude.
Pay increases are where it’s at if you want to “boost morale, incentivize employees, and ensure that staff feels rewarded and appreciated.”
6. Implement Feedback
Notice I did not say solicit feedback. Solicited feedback is impotent without implementation. Not all feedback can be implemented, but some can and should be.
Few disciplines communicate care better than listening, and few practices demonstrate listening better than implementation.
Don’t forget to celebrate implementation moments to ensure your team connects the dots between input and change.
Implementing feedback declares, “We are listening!”
Everything up to this point could easily be placed under the idea of care. Below are additional, practical ways to be thoughtful toward your teammates.
- Make sure staff is taking time off.
- Call people when there is a family emergency.
- Explicitly provide the benefit of the doubt during performance concerns.
- Provide dismissed employees with an opportunity to resign vs. termination.
- Recognize important days like work anniversaries and birthdays.
- Take time to highlight exemplary conduct.
- Provide bonus pay during heavy workloads.
- Prioritize unhostile work environments over revenue by firing unpleasant clients.
If your teammates are well-provisioned and know that you care about them, why would they leave?
If you are looking for a path to bolster your competitive advantage, look no further than your workforce.
Both business leaders mentioned above (Dan Schulman and Anne Mulcahy) have more in common than their view of employees as competitive advantage: They both spearheaded historic turnarounds and profitability for their organizations.
Xerox went from near-bankruptcy to a renowned American tech giant, and PayPal transformed from a Silicon Valley dinosaur to one of the world’s leading tech companies.
Strengthen your workforce by consistently reinforcing the value of your team members, and you will strengthen your brand.
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