Creating Effective Employee Relationships – All About the Bottom Line

The purpose of relationship building in the workplace is pretty simple really. There is value for all sides of the equation and within that, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a bottom line.As employees; indeed as business owners, managers and team leaders, we are all in it for something, because the most of us need the work we do.When we attend work, we do so for some pretty basic reasons. We want shelter to keep us from the elements. We want to be fed and kept healthy. In modern societies we are very fortunate that these are pretty much covered off for most of us.So we need more. The basics – the core rewards that work provides us with – are sufficient to provide the minimum we need. If that was all we went to work for, well then, that’s pretty much sorted!

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The more we need is the cerebral value that work provides for us. The stimulation of the work we do provides a healthiness that is not measured by outward disease. Our mental well-being is provided for by finding stimulating challenges that we enjoy and get personal satisfaction from.Work is not about material reward alone.When we manage others, we take that on as a stimulating challenge that gets our juices flowing, so we too are satisfied from the fulfillment that we get from the achievements we make.Both sides achieving successes in their own personal challenges, are leveraged by organizations to ensure that results from the whole, go to meet and exceed the results that need to drop out for the financial bottom line.If managers and their employees have personal goals they want to achieve and these are aligned with the needs of the bigger organization, then we are all in business pulling together.The glue that binds us is the way we communicate together. And we communicate most effectively by having close working relationships that enable us to make the best outcomes possible, where everyone is a winner.

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That bottom line for the relationships we build is the pleasure – the joy even – we get from achieving what we want from the work we do.It isn’t just about financial reward. It isn’t about getting a company car that’s a bit bigger. It’s not about the pension pot we build.Relationships enable us to work together towards a common goal. The purpose of the relationships we co-create, is the bottom line for all of us, which is very personal, yet always contributes to the outcome our employers expect of us too.So we are all winners together.

The Frontline Equals the Bottom Line

Most of us have heard the expression, “The frontline equals the bottom line,” as it pertains to a company’s employees. It means that as far as the customer is concerned, a company’s frontline employees ARE the company. After all, rarely do customers come in contact with the executives of an organization. Those frontline employees are truly the face of the organization. But as leaders, do we perform in a way that is consistent with the frontline equals the bottom line philosophy? In many cases, I think the answer is no.I was thinking about this issue recently while eating in a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant. As I was observing the employees, the reality of the frontline equals the bottom line really hit me. These servers, bussers, bartenders, etc. are the most important people in the company. I knew this intellectually (I’ve talked about it for years), but the trueness of it hit me at that moment. These employees are typically the lowest paid in the organization, treated as expendable, often treated in a condescending manner, and yet they are the most important people in the company. If these employees fail in their duties, it makes no difference how smart the Sr. VP of Marketing is. The transaction between the customer and the company (the frontline employee) can easily crash and burn if that frontline employee doesn’t do his or her job well. This is true in restaurants, hospitals, banks, grocery stores or any other industry/organization. Executives can call in sick, but if the truck drivers for a distribution center don’t show up one day, now there is a situation. When they do their jobs with pride and enthusiasm, the likelihood of company success is exponentially increased. When they do their jobs with boredom and skepticism, the greatest technology systems in the world won’t help.

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We should treat our frontline employees like the stars that they are. We should honor them for the work that they do because they are the ones that make the world turn. All of our strategies, visions, and corporate goals are only as good as the execution of those plans; and execution ultimately comes down to frontline people doing things. Theirs is the most honest work of all. The customer was either happy or she wasn’t, the delivery happened on time or it didn’t, the cooler was either stocked or not, the food was either hot or it wasn’t. Frontline employees don’t need a report in a binder to know how things are going. The score is real time for them.I think what is missing in business today is knowing the importance of the frontline at a gut level. Most of us know that we should say the frontline is the bottom line, but I don’t think it often shines through in our actions. If it did, we would be having pizza parties regularly, pitching in to help when things are busy, taking employees to lunch regularly to ask what can be improved. We would hold celebrations all the time. We would say thank you at every opportunity. Think about those times in your personal life when you were grateful for something that someone did. I mean truly grateful. Remember how sincere and heartfelt your appreciation was toward that person? Can you remember the last time you showed that level of appreciation to an employee or group of employees in your organization?The need to be appreciated is one of the strongest needs of all. When employees work hard all day, doing the real work of the company, being treated with honor isn’t too much to ask. Asking me to clock in and clock out says something about how you feel about my honor. Giving keys for the supply cabinet only to managers and above says something about how you feel about my honor. Having a lavish holiday party for the executive team while giving me a $2 tree ornament says something about how you feel about my contributions. Walking by the reception desk, the loading dock, or the stockroom without acknowledging employees, taking a moment to see how things are going, or just saying thanks, are all behaviors that tell employees what management really thinks. Is it any wonder that most studies show employee engagement is abysmally low?

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My wife and I used to have a housekeeper, Val, who cleaned our house once a week. She was truly an excellent housekeeper and cleaned even the hardest to reach areas. Debbie (my wife) sincerely appreciated the extra effort and always showed her appreciation. My wife and Val became good friends. One time Val mentioned that although she cleaned a lot of houses, Debbie was the only one who appreciated those extra touches and actually showed appreciation. What is important to note is that Debbie didn’t say thank you to get Val to do the extras. Debbie thanked Val because she did the extras. Val, however, said that she wanted to do more because of the appreciation. It was simply a sincere cycle of performance and appreciation. Saying thank you to people who work hard is simply the right thing to do. And usually when we do the right thing, we get the right thing in return. Not always, but usually.You know who the frontline employees are in your own organization. I challenge you to take a hard look at the level of appreciation that you show those frontline employees.Something to think about: Do your employees know you appreciate them? How do they know you appreciate them