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Kenneth W. Keller: How workers can help companies

Brain Food For Business People

Posted: February 23, 2010 10:06 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
The past two weeks, this column has covered who is responsible for doing what needs to be done to turn a company around.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the owner of the business needs to be present, take charge and demand action from his or her management team once an action plan has been created and communicated.

Last week I wrote about the role of managers, which was to step up to the challenge of doing what they are paid to do or leave for another company.

My focus this week is on what employees can do to help the company that gives them a paycheck in exchange for their time, effort and energy, to turn things around.

The first thing an employee can do is to promise he or she won't cause or create any additional burdens at work. This means arriving to work on time, taking only the allotted breaks and lunch off and following the rules and policies of the company.

Managers don't want to manage employees; they want to coach to higher levels of performance, making the employee more valuable to the company.

When a manager has to document people who arrive late, leave early, call in sick often, and take long breaks and long lunches, it is a burden taking resources away from what the manager should do.

As an employee becomes a problem, the manager is just looking for a reason to write them up and terminate them as soon as possible.

The second thing an employee can do is to request a performance appraisal. Having a one-on-one conversation to discuss how things are being perceived from the manager's point of view is valuable for an employee.

The alternative is to wait for the manager to jump on the employee when they make a mistake; this is something no employee wants to have happen. Unfortunately, this is how many organizations run.

Asking for a performance appraisal is not the same as asking for a raise, an increase in salary or a promotion.

The two are different. The appraisal is feedback. The raise is reward. The two do not always go hand-in-hand. Too many companies tie these two activities together.

Companies hire people for the long term. Performance appraisals serve as a regular source of feedback to keep people doing what they are paid to do but also to improve their performance.

Raises are often tied to financial performance of the company.

Once employees have had an appraisal, they need to determine, with their manager, what the needed course of action is to improve. The third thing an employee can do is to heed what their supervisor says about what they need to do to become better.
The fourth thing the employee can do is to learn more about the company. This means a better understanding of how the company functions and makes money.

It is OK to be inquisitive but being seen as nosy is not. The difference is that the inquisitive employee is usually doing a very credible job in their current position.

The fifth thing an employee can do is to help save the company money. Every company leaks money and plugging a leak can improve profitability and cash flow.

For the employee, documenting the savings can be beneficial; companies of 10 often reward people for this effort.

Leaving a job when it becomes nothing more than a paycheck is the employee's last option. Companies today don't need takers; they need people committed to helping the company turn things around.

When I was a young man, I read a quote from Elbert Hubbard that reads: "If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him! If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him - speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none."
The quote still holds true today, from owner to employee.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Brain Food for Business People" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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