Friday, 24 February 2017

How to win employees and influence them!

Back in the 80s, when I was in School, two writers significantly became the flag-bearing keepers of our soul. They, with their path breaking works, became mentors to help us iron out the intensely complicated relationships we had personally and officially.  

For any teenager coming out into their own and for young professionals wanting to get a foothold in their work settings, Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale became the guides who would coach us to weed out differences, work towards a state of harmony and make our equations less chaotic and more conducive. 

Carnegie’s bestselling book, ‘How to win Friends and Influence People’ became a bible for a whole generation when it was published in 1936 and stays relevant till date.

The success of such books has always underlined the fact that it is absolutely essential to get along with one’s significant others and develop a healthy, mutually beneficial and psychologically rewarding relationship with them. In the work atmosphere, employees become one of the biggest and most important stakeholders.

When one is younger and perched on the first few rungs, one is brash enough to think that things will not function smoothly if it were not for one’s brilliance alone. 

As you move up and along, you realize that there are several people and things that contribute to your growth process and keep you in the reckoning. It is the other employees, your company colleagues and inter / intra departmental teams that help pave the path for your company’s and your advancement.

I have seen the wrong set of employees break the best of places and happy, positive, motivated teams take even small establishments to great heights of fame and fortune.

So how do you win employees and influence them positively for the greater good of the Company and the people that make it what it is!

Here are five simple tricks that pack quite the punch - 

1. Call them by their name

With this practice I have seen strangers step easily into my circle of acquaintance. They feel that they have an equation with me. Leave alone educated, well-bred folk, even the construction workers I have been dealing with, for the better part of the year, feel identified and accepted. Imagine what this simple habit can do with people who are well-exposed to education and are advanced enough by experience.

The moment you address someone by name, they feel recognized. It is an affirmation of their vital presence. It signifies that they are important enough for people to recall their name. It is a vocal acknowledgement of all the things – background, experience, responsibility – the name brings with it. 

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts have made quite the art of this corporate philosophy. Many Four Seasoners have told me that it is imperative for all senior executives to memorize the names of all employees and their spouses. 

Think about how much positivity, a sense of bonhomie and professional bonding, mutual respect and just the right dose of familiarity this injects into the organizational climate, decidedly making it a better place to work in.

When you call somebody by their name you establish a direct line of contact with them and make them more accountable to what your need or expectation is of them.

Calling somebody by their name is the easiest way to show respect and the quickest strategy to convey inclusion.

2. Get to know them

In the service industry at large and in hotels in particular, we end up doing long hours and work on shifts that never seem to end.

When an organization is so much about people – on either side of the table – it makes a whole lot of sense to invest in this software and make genuine efforts to know the team members.

That is why there are employee meets, Annual Sports Days, birthdays that are celebrated collectively, Employee-of-the Month Recognition, Staff parties, Team events, Departmental outings. Also the formal appraisals and reverse appraisals. Make use of these tailor-made occasions; or else create special opportunities to really get to know your people.

Learn about their ambitions, aspirations, drives; encash it where necessary, employ the talents where they fit in and carve a path of succession for them.

Your people pool is one hell of a goldmine of talent and experience that can help you reap rich business benefits. In turn, you give fillip to the vertical and horizontal growth trajectory for the people who bring power to the organization.  

3. Get to know them up, close and personal

That is why Bowling events, Staff day outs, Quarterly Picnics and the like were invented. 

That fellow in the starched uniform is actually a fun guy with a special talent for singing or mimicry. He is the heart of any party. That lady Housekeeper who makes the beds perfectly has a great hand with origami. No wonder then that she churns out jaw-dropping works of towel art that take the breath away of guests from around the globe.

At almost all the hotel chains I have worked with, there are these two important fixtures on the HR Events Calendar – the Annual Staff Party and the Departmental get-togethers. 

The Human Resources, Sales and PR Departments go all out to make these events a resounding success by creating fantastic party themes and mini events that keep the evening buzzing right through and by going to lengths to ensure wonderful gifts for as many employees as possible. 

At one such event, my Assistant won the ‘Miss XYZ Hotel’ title, the euphoria of which stayed with her for a long time giving itself away in the spring in her step, the twinkle in her eye and a radiant smile. From iPods to Chanel first edition scarves to trips to Maldives or Dubai – we have had hotels think up the best tricks to make these bonding events difficult to forget. 

Then there are the out-of-station get-to-know-your-team trips from which colleagues come back knowing an impressive lot about the boss or the direct supervisor or the cubicle neighbour – all in the way to create happy, productive, non-conflicting work atmospheres.

If you know your people well you not only know what keeps them ticking, you have the knowledge to utilize their best attributes in the right place at the right time making them feel more involved and appreciated. 

You can also do an easy SWOT analysis to see what are the traits that can be underplayed or aspects that can be trained upon to improve or shoved under. 

I knew this Sales colleague who was extremely good with numbers and had a keen business sense. He was always the one to make the FRM presentations for his Director. He went on to do due diligence for the Hotel Owner in his next role and eventually moved into international strategy and business development for a multinational chain. 

On my part, not only my command over the language but my interests in training saw me offer tailor-made capsules to a wide range of people from the telephone operators to chefs, engineers to the HR folk.

Therefore, knowing your employees is an integral baseline to a happy organization and a healthy bottom-line.

4. Get to know their family and the family dog

This actually happens at some of the best international chains. Even the Dog bit is true, I am told by an ex-boss who worked for Four Seasons for a long time. 

Not just Indians and Asians, I have seen people from all over the world gush over their families and enjoy sharing about their spouses and children. Making an attempt to know the families has several pluses. 

With the family getting to know the place of work, it infuses a happy and healthy energy for the organization in the minds of both the team member and his significant other. In the times of professional exigencies – in the tough-scheduled, round the clock hotel jobs this is more a rule than an exception – the family is much more understanding of the occupational pressure and willing to support. The employee on the other hand is less stressed and more mentally free to engage in the work at hand.

A French boss was so proud of his lively wife and would talk about her with such glee. The rather nice lady had a bent for interior designing and readily extended help to the F&B team when they were doing up one of the restaurants for a food festival. 

Then there was this French-Australian Executive Chef whose Australian wife would help us put up a great show during Melbourne Cup celebrations or the Oak’s Day with her wide network and first-hand knowledge.

Knowing the family of your people provides you with so many more options to connect with them at different levels. It helps you become that little bit more familiar, which comes in handy when you wish to dissipate tensions, reinforce bonding and ensure the two-way loyalty – the company’s towards its employee and vice versa.

5. Get their family into the work place

I think this is the nicest and surest way to seal bonds, earn loyalty, reinforce brand affiliation, cultivate trust and leave an increasingly warm feeling for the Company in the employee. There is also the bonus - that of turning the family members into extended brand ambassadors.

When I was about eight, my Dad would take me to his office on certain days of the year and fill my day at his place of work with a set of unforgettable experiences – I could watch him work, have a site visit when he was in meetings, get to draw exciting stuff with those official red and blue pencils, walk the corridors with him and meet people who handled different roles. 

At the end of the day, I was so proud of what my father did, happy to see a wonderful place of work, learn about new things and in the process have an ineffaceable impression from the first-hand experience that would definitely stay with me for a long time.

Many years later, I was a visiting fellow to the United States and was meeting with the head honchos at the World Bank. On the day of our visit, guess what they were observing! A happy, energized, exhilarating Daughter’s Day Out! The biggest conference room had been done up for the special visit of the little VIPs. The Buntings and the balloons had been put out to give a facelift to the dreary room, the activity stations had been laid out and the elaborate menu planned for the lunch party. 

But most of all, I am telling you, I saw all the executives – even the senior most – strut their stuff about to impress their little wards in a fair attempt to leave lasting impressions. The working Mom or Dad was showcasing their company and their work to their impressionable children; in turn the kids would have one of the finest and enduring lessons on the goings-on at the World Bank. 

I truly believe that getting the family into the work place through the various HR tactics – Kids’ activities, rewarding meritorious children with certificates, gifts and scholarships, get-togethers where spouses are invited, Christmas and New Year parties where the employee’s family is the special guest – is one of the strongest ways to keep the employees happy, proud and bonded with the brand, which they would truly wish to promote from their heart.

Do take a minute to share with me the tactics you and your Company have employed to win over your employees and to keep them engaged and positively influenced. 

I would love to hear about all the great things you do.

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

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