I popped into a donut shop while doing research for my book on employee motivation. Well, not just any donut shop – this happened to be the busiest Dunkin’ Donuts store in the world, located outside Boston on Route 18 in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. This one store serves between 2 000 and 3 000 cups of coffee per day.
I was there to speak to the fired-up employees who keep the lines of customers moving, and keep customers coming back. I wanted to know (as I always do when I visit high-performance businesses) what it is that motivates these people to work as hard as they do.
Amy McCaul, age 21 at the time of our meeting, works the front counter. Does her job ever become kind of boring? “No way,” she says with a big smile. “It’s fun. It’s busy, time goes by fast, you’re always doing something.”
Fun? Did she say fun? As a customer I have personally set foot in other donut stores, and whatever it was the employees there were having, I’m pretty sure fun wasn’t it. McCaul’s co-worker Tracy Brown works in the small out-building from which drive-through customers are served. Must be pretty dull work in pretty cramped quarters, right? “No,” she blurts without hesitation, “I like it. The time goes by fast, because I deal with thousands of customers every day.” Brown describes how her regular customers keep coming back. “I like seeing them every single day,” she says. “That’s what makes me happy.”
I ask Brown if one day she might like to own a business similar to the one she presently works for. Her boisterous reply is, “Yes, I would like this one.”
Both of these employees independently mention their impression that “time goes by fast” on the job. This is of course the very opposite of the traditional “clock watcher” image of an employee bored stiff. But why does time seem to pass quickly in this workplace (and in every other similarly energised business I’ve visited and written about)? Time passing quickly is a characteristic usually associated with a pleasant game, hobby, or pastime – forms of play. To help us understand how some businesses make work feel more like play, we need to review the four elements that make play itself enjoyable.
1. The element of challenge.
Ask any employee who dislikes his or her job to give a reason, and the reply will almost certainly include words like “boring”, “repetitious” and “pointless.”
Now, visit any bowling alley. Each time a bowler manages to knock all the pins down, a mechanical contraption promptly sets them right back up again. An observer unfamiliar with the game might conclude this must surely rank as one of the most boring, repetitious and pointless human activities ever devised.
Yet the bowlers themselves seem to having a grand old time. In fact, many of them can’t wait to get away from their boring jobs in order to pay money for the pleasure of knocking pins down over and over again.
Would bowling be even more fun if the pins were closer, and therefore easier to knock down. Everyone understands that it’s precisely the challenge of attempting something difficult that gives structured play activities like bowling, golf and billiards their basic appeal.
Children’s games like paddle-ball, leapfrog, skipping and others are often based on a “keep the kettle boiling” theme. In businesses like our donut store, the challenge is to “keep the lines moving through the store,” “keep the cars flowing through the drive-through,” “keep the shelves stocked with fresh product.” The whole operation is one big keep-the-kettle-boiling game from opening time to closing time, and the workers love the challenge.
2. A clear set of rules.
Another factor that makes play activities like bowling more satisfying than work: The basic objective – and the rules by which this objective can and cannot be achieved – are clearly understood by all the players. Everyone’s trying to accomplish exactly the same thing, in exactly the same way.
In most business settings, if there’s a primary objective at all, it can usually be boiled down to “make more money.” There’s no single clear approach, however, for achieving this objective. Priorities shift and change, and are often in conflict with each other. In this game, the rules are not only unclear, they keep changing. And in this game, a “win” is exciting news for management – but it doesn’t mean much for the employees who made it happen. The boss can talk about improved “job security,” but to the workers that just sounds like “plenty more frustrating and unfulfilling workdays comin’ your way.”
The kinds of high-energy businesses I profile in my book are all aligned toward a single clear objective: delighting every customer every time. The workers know in advance they won’t be able to achieve this perfect score, much as bowlers and golfers know ahead of time their own scores will not be perfect. But it is the pursuit of a perfect score that makes the game challenging and fun. In these businesses, everyone understands the rules: You must do nothing to harm the organisation financially (or in any other way) while you strive to deliver a delightful customer experience. And in these businesses, a “win” is exciting for the employees themselves, because it translates into positive customer feedback, the most meaningful and lasting employee motivator of them all. (A win is exciting for management, too, of course, since higher levels of customer satisfaction generate repeat business, positive word of mouth and a powerful competitive advantage overall.)
3. A scoring mechanism for immediate feedback.
All play activities allow participants to track how well they and the other players are doing at all times. Would these activities be as enjoyable if this form of immediate feedback were removed? How much fun would bowling or golf be, for example, if the players could not see the pins or the cup, and had their scores mailed to them at home weeks after the game?
In many business settings, workers receive positive feedback about their work only during formal “performance review” meetings. From a motivational point of view, this is usually too little, too late.
Employees in places focused on customer delight receive immediate feedback every day in the form of appreciative comments from happy customers, generous tips and the cheerful return of “regulars.” Their work earns these employees a succession of “high scores” that keep them motivated.
4. The satisfaction of winning.
Our bowling alley observer watching the game for the first time may be surprised to see the reaction each time a player succeeds in knocking all the pins down at once. The spontaneous hoots and leaps of triumph suggest bowlers find this accomplishment extremely satisfying.
Understanding what this kind of satisfaction feels like is key to understanding employee motivation in the workplace. Knocking pins down over and over again may seem a pointless exercise – until it’s turned into a challenging competitive activity with clear rules and a means of immediately tracking performance. With these elements in place, the activity suddenly becomes fun and satisfying.
Energised businesses such as our busy donut shop challenge workers to attempt something difficult – keep a steady high-volume flow of customers happy and coming back. There are clear rules, and the employees receive continuous immediate feedback from the customers themselves. And when they “score” (i.e. when the feedback makes it clear they’re delivering a delightful experience and attracting business away from competitors), their satisfaction can be as great as that experienced by players in any structured game.
For managers in less enthusiastic business settings, the question should not be, “How do I change my workers so they’ll be more motivated on the job?” Instead, the question should become, “How do I change the job to make it more motivational for my workers?”
Virtually all businesses have a particular cultural element in common – one that does more damage to employee motivation than any other. Eliminating this one biggest motivation-killer can transform any workplace into a much more motivational setting for all employees.
Listen To Lead – Giving Staff Space To Speak Can Pay Dividends
Are you listening or hearing your staff?
Excitement, vision and determination are all great qualities for an entrepreneur, particularly when you are setting up your business. But when you move into the consolidation and then growth phases, they could backfire.
It may come as a surprise to you that such positive qualities could ever cause any negatives. But once you have driven every last muscle to get your business up and running, you need to transition yourself into managing it. For that, you need to work as hard on your people skills as you did on your start-up.
It is true that decisiveness is a key attribute of a successful manager but your decisions must be based on solid evidence and intelligence you have gathered. Try as you might, you cannot be everywhere in the business at once and so you need to soak up and sort out the observations related to you by your staff.
Make a point of being seen regularly on your shop or factory floor and chatting in a relaxed, non-judgemental way with your staff and any customers who may be around. Stalking around saying nothing is just as intimidating to your staff as the habit that some bosses have of appearing very infrequently simply to bawl people out.
People skills are so critical because it is people who buy your product and people who work for you. Whichever way you look at it, your business is people-driven.
So to win the loyalty of your shareholders, customers or surveyors, you need to show that you treat all people with the respect each one deserves and can mix positively with each and every one. Getting to know your staff in this way will develop in you the subtleties of emotional intelligence, a skill that is vital to your ultimate success.
With emotional intelligence, you will be able to adapt your management style to achieve the best results from each individual. You will know instinctively when a staff member needs a few words of encouragement or comfort, or when and how much to push to get the best out of them – perhaps even more than they knew that they had to give.
At Cash Converters SA, all our managers are expected to polish their people skills to achieve the best for themselves and the staff reporting to them. Even our top management team is not exempt and makes a point of putting a day or two aside each month to visit a different franchisee round the country.
That way we can help mentor and coach them to deal with any management problems that they may be encountering. From a corporate and strategic point of view, we can also check that the corporate branding is on track and listen to feedback on whether any new lines are working well or not and to suggestions for new brand extensions or even new and complementary income streams.
In that way, an apparently soft skill can make your business even more competitive. By insisting on strong people skills among your staff, you will build a more harmonious working place. To complement this, incorporate relevant feedback into your planning. This will have a positive impact on the bottom line, which is exactly what leaders want to achieve.
So keep quiet and listen as much as you can. Make a point of not anxiously filling nervous silences with hasty instructions or long technical lectures. Then you will benefit the business by hearing what your staff need to get the job done and who is blossoming into a promising talent.
Use Talent As Your Key Competitive Advantage In 2019
What separates top performing companies from their more mediocre counterparts?
Ever since Jim Collins wrote about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus in his best-seller Good to Great, there has been an ever-increasing focus on the role that talent plays in the success of an organisation.
But, If you thought that great companies are successful because they attract, hire and can afford more talented employees, you’d be dead wrong. While conducting research for their book, Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, Bain & Company experts Michael Mankins and Eric Garton evaluated the relative productivity of 308 companies worldwide, and found that on average, all roles, across organisations, are made up of 14% A-level talent. This statistic holds true for the best-performing companies as well as poor performers.
In fact, the top-performer in their focus group was 40% more productive than the rest, but did not have significantly more A-level talent. This means that they had achieved what their peers had by 10am on a Thursday — and then continued to produce for the next two days.
As you head into a new year, consider what you could have achieved with an additional 90 to 100 days over the course of the past year? Where would your company be now?
Unlocking your potential
If talent is not the deciding factor, then what is? According to Mankins and Garton, it’s how that talent is deployed. They found that most companies have one A-level talent per team, spreading talent evenly across the organisation.
The problem is that this doesn’t take critical roles into account. Organisations that take the time to map critical positions within the company that directly impact key business objectives tend to be more productive. Why? Because their A-players are in the right positions and not wasted on non-critical roles that could just as easily be filled by B-players.
As an entrepreneur or team leader, your role is to grow your business or department. Your people are key to achieving this, so consider the talent you have to work with:
- Are your top players in mission-critical roles?
- Can they directly impact revenue growth?
- Are they filling roles that a B-player can just as easily do, and which won’t impact revenue if the same level of productivity or efficiency is not achieved?
Related: Competitor Analysis Example
Efficiency versus productivity
While you evaluate your workforce, consider how Mankins describes efficiency versus productivity.
Efficiency is when the same amount is produced with less. To become more efficient, businesses need to find wastage and eliminate it.
Productivity on the other hand is when we produce more with the same. This is achieved when you increase output per unit of input and remove any obstacles to productivity.
Lean organisations are very good at finding efficiencies. Growth organisations are highly productive. If you want to achieve both in 2019, start by ensuring your A-level talent are in the right positions. Then look at all the areas in your business that are costing you money and consider how you can strip those costs away without affecting your productivity. You do not want to hinder growth. You want to run a smarter, leaner business.
Finally, you don’t need to do it alone. Too many entrepreneurs work independently of their teams. You’ve hired great people — use them. What are their suggestions on improving productivity and efficiencies across the business? Ask the right questions and you may just discover talent you didn’t know you had.
Working Remotely? Why You Need A Car
The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.
Remote work can be an amazing experience. You do not have to wake up at 5 am to beat the morning traffic and you can work from the comfort of your own home office (or bedroom). Working remotely can become lonely and you might have to visit the office for certain projects. This means that you will need to have a car.
If you are in search of an affordable but reliable car, vehicle auctions in Gauteng could provide the perfect car to meet your needs. Not sure why you need a car if you are working from home? Below are just some of the reasons why it is a necessity.
You might need to go into the office
While some remote work does not require you to be in the office, there are some instances that you might be required to go into the office. This can prove difficult if you do not have a car and have to rely on public transport.
Public transport can be unreliable, which means that you might not arrive on time for meetings or project conferences. Being on time for meetings and group chats is important, and being late can add to your stress levels. Having a car will help to make this journey easier. The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.
You will need to perform daily errands
Whether you work from home, from a coffee store or in an office, the truth of daily life is that there are always errands to run. And without a car, you might not be able to perform these errands easily.
Grocery shopping can become heavy to carry home if you walk, and an appointment in a suburb far from your own might have to be cancelled. While these might not be as important as your work, you will soon find it frustrating having to call for a lift from a service such as Uber whenever you need to leave home. Not only will this become costly, but you will find it ineffective if you are in a rush or need to be somewhere at a certain time.
You might get lonely
Remote work does allow you a lot more freedom, but you have to put in the same hours as an office job. And these hours can become lonely if you are cooped up inside all day, alone. Having a car will allow you to meet up with friends in the afternoon or weekends.
Auctions will provide you with a diverse array of cars to choose from, including 4×4 options for those who enjoy longer journeys and adventures. Becoming lonely can be distracting and cause you to run behind on your work. If you are looking at working remotely but know that you could fall victim to this feeling, be sure to socialise with friends and family whenever possible. Having your own car will make this possible.
There will be client meetings
Remote work will mostly mean that you work from home or from your favourite coffee store. But it can also involve meeting clients to discuss a brief, which can be tricky if you have to rely on public transport. Not only will being late cause you to stress, but it will be a bad representation of your company for the client.
If you are able to drive yourself to meetings in your own car, there is a higher chance of a successful meeting. An Uber driver might get lost and a bus might break down, but your own car is reliable and affordable. If you have to meet a client urgently about a project, having to rely on public transport can be disastrous.
It is vital to take the fact of client meetings into account when you decide to work remotely and ensure you are able to represent your company the best way possible.
There will be company get-togethers
A company that consists mostly of remote workers is guaranteed to have regular get-togethers so that all the team members can meet each other and get to know one another. Sometimes, these get-togethers might be far away, and you will need an easy and effective mode of transport.
If you are in search of a car to get you from home to the next work gathering, the auction cars in Gauteng will certainly fit your needs. Not attending company get-togethers and events will reflect poorly on your ability to work in a team, regardless of if your team works together in an office or not. You will be able to learn more about your team and the company as a whole at these events.
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