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In a knowledge-based worker society where companies strive to attract and keep the best talent, leadership is a key ingredient on a very delicate recipe. It starts with hiring the right people. Hire folks who know what you do and why you do it; people that know your mission and believe in your service or product. Equip them with the tools they need to be productive and finally get out of the way. Yes. Let their creativity come to work with them. Once you have put in place the systems and processes for your department/floor/company to run on autopilot move to the next level and ask your employees a very simple question: “How am I doing as a leader?” How many times has your leader asked you that? How would you feel if she did? A bit humbling … right? That simple question changes the dynamic in a leader/employee relationship. All of the sudden the leader becomes real and concerned about what her direct reports’ opinions of her and her leadership style. Establish a culture where people are not afraid of sharing their ideas. There will be true synergy in suggestions and opinions in a non-threatening environment.
One of the ways to show employee appreciation is by providing perks. Around this time of year multiple publications reveal the top companies in the country to work for. This is when everyone wonders (except Google employees) how a day in Google Offices would be. They provide three organic meals a day to all their employees, healthy snacks, on-site massages, child care, car washes, yoga classes, a play room, $12,000 in tuition reimbursement and many more perks. Their employee engagement is among the highest in the country. Coincidental? Not at all. From that kind of treatment to “You should be thankful you have a job. Many people have your skill set, everyone is replaceable, you have been late two days in a row, five minutes each day, blah, blah, blah …” and everything in between, employee engagement is directly correlated to feeling appreciated and valued. Work place rules are necessary, but it is so much more productive to have employees who buy into your mission and wear your t-shirt proudly. You can have your employees operate from fear or from creativity. You will get results either way. Try them both to see where you have the highest productivity and lowest turnover.
I appreciate my employees, what kind of perks can I give them? That depends on your budget, but whatever you do, track employee engagement before and after perks implementation. Maybe your employees are mainly single and pet owners. Provide pet insurance and bring your pet to work day. Tuition reimbursement is a big perk, and if you can afford it you should offer it, student loan repayment could be a great alternative to the traditional tuition reimbursement perk. Doing staff development in your office? How about at a local restaurant, in Bora Bora or Hawaii? Let employees bring their families on these trips. Train your folks for six hours and send them off to enjoy the rest of the day with their family. SC Johnson (makers of My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s favorite product: Windex) has an errand runner on-site to take clothes to the cleaners, deliver flowers, stand in line for concert tickets, go grocery shopping and other errands. Think of perks your employees would appreciate. You don’t have to spend a lot of money: Let them have their birthday off, cater lunch once a month, send everyone home early because you hit a sales record or a significant milestone, give away movie tickets, Amazon Prime Membership, have a refrigerator full of water, fruits and other healthy snacks. Above all this always have Staff Development Days to collectively move the needle forward. Never underestimate your employees. They are the heart of your business. If ever in doubt remember these words of wisdom:
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to. Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”—Richard Branson, Virgin, CEO
And remember Peter Druker’s famous line, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Happy leading, not managing people. Manage tasks, lead your folks.
Elizabeth Morales is business development director for Long Beach, Calif.-based Applied Business Software Inc., creators of The Mortgage Office and The Loan Office Software. She may be reached by phone at (562) 279-7424 or e-mail Elizabeth@ABSNetwork.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.