As the job market continues to lag behind leading indicators of economic recovery business leaders are struggling with maintaining employee motivation. Complaints of having to do more with less grow. Between hovering layoffs and employees seeing co-workers laid off or neighbors still struggling to find jobs, employee motivation and workplace attitudes are in decline.
In this environment organizations may be struggling with ways to maintain employee engagement levels. But, there is one easy, effective and inexpensive solution to the challenge. That is finding ways to communicate directly how an employee’;s role makes a difference in helping the organization achieve its vision and mission. Unfortunately, this strategy is rarely used because few business leaders understand its power or how to integrate it into their company’;s culture.
There is an urban legend which describes a story when consultants were walking the halls at NASA in the late 1960s evaluating the progress of the Apollo Moon mission. In their travels they came upon two janitors in two different areas of the organization. They asked both what their job was. One said, "I’;m a janitor. I just clean up around here." The other said, "I’;m helping to put a man on the moon."
Which was more motivated and probably did a better job?
Whenever askable employees are to identify what their job is most default to their mundane job titles. You often hear things such as, "I’;m just the receptionist" or "I’;m a customer service rep." But, upon visiting my newest client for the first time a couple of months ago, I was greeted by the "Director of First Impressions." The uninitiated would have called her "the receptionist." This "Director of First Impressions" presented me with a printed menu of soft drink options as if I had just sat down at a fine dining restaurant to review its wine list. This idea for presentation to office visitors was just one of her "first impression" additions, once she was given autonomy over her position.
Another recent meeting with a well-respected law firm in my region, Finkelstein and Partners, exposed me to a story of how one person in the firm’;s mail room made a $ 5 million difference in the life of one of its clients. In a personal injury case in which the client had been left a paraplegic from a car accident the firm was getting ready to go to trial. Late on a Friday afternoon a FedEx package arrived for the attorney assigned to the case.
The mail room attendant measured the importance of the package and took it up to the attorney’;s office before the end of the Friday workday. Inside the package was a settlement offer from the defending attorney of $ 5 million, with an acceptance deadline of 5 pm the arriving Monday.
Had the mail clerk waited for the FedEx package to go through the usual mail distribution process it would not have reached the attorney until Monday morning, giving the attorney and client only hours to evaluate the offer to make a decision. Instead, the attorney presented the offer to the client on Friday night and they had the entire weekend to make a decision. The offer was accepted giving the injured client a much needed guarantee of financial resources while a risky, emotionally difficult and expensive trial was avoided.
This story proves that a mail room clerk is more than just a mail room clerk and can make a difference in the lives of a law firm’;s clients, much like a janitor "helping to put a man on the moon."
When business leaders can identify ways their employees make a difference in a customer’;s life and find ways to communicate it so the employees connect their specific contribution to achieving the company’;s vision, mission and purpose, it is extremely rewarding and stimulating.
Give it a try. It’;s more exciting, stimulating, rewarding and less expensive than anything else most business leaders offer, guaranteed.