The Friendly Factor

June 6, 2006

Creating a Work Environment that Attracts and Keeps the Workforce

By: Gregory P. Smith

By year 2011, the U.S. will face a worker shortage of 8-10 million people. In many industries today, jobs are going unfilled. In should go without saying if you cannot attract and keep your workforce then you must change what you are doing or face extinction.

Take your pick. Which type of place do you want to work at: One that is cold and gives you a sense no one cares, or one that makes you feel good and appreciated? Money and benefits are important, but studies show in the long run the work environment--the feeling they get when they come to work--is more important in retaining and motivating people.

People like a friendly place to work. The friendly-factor does not require a large investment and expense, but it does require time and thoughtful consideration. Take for example a construction equipment dealership in Louisville, KY. Their turnover is almost nonexistent. This is quite an accomplishment in an industry facing a shortage of 100,000 technicians.

Their employees and service technicians share in a profit-sharing plan that could possibly mean $700,000 upon retirement. They are eligible to participate after one year and become fully vested after six years. No one has quit after becoming vested in this company. To further help his employees, the owner brings in a financial advisor to help the employees pick stocks, plan for retirement, or to get advice on buying a house or saving for a child's college education.

Other friendly-factor benefits:
--Every year employees celebrate their work anniversary with a cake. They also receive $100 for each year employed, made out in a check so they can buy work tools for the shop.

--Twice a year the employees children receive a $50 savings bond when the child brings in their "all A's" report card.

--They reward employee safety records with what they call, "Safety Bonus Program." Each employee's driving record is screened twice a year. Anyone who has a citation during the year is removed from the program. At the end of the year, the ones who remain get to split $2,000.

--To minimize the we-they syndrome, every Friday employees rotate jobs. The person in the Parts Department gets to be a service technician and visa versa. This builds a stronger team and improves communication within the company.

--During your new employee orientation, make sure you send a welcome gift or letter to the family of the new employee welcoming them to the company. Assign the new employee a mentor to help them adjust to the new environment and make them feel part of the team. After their first 30 days on the job, have a new employee celebration and invite his or her family to attend.

--Be involved in the important aspects of your employees' lives. You should respond when there is a birth, illness, death, graduation, or wedding. These are the important events where you have a golden opportunity to build a bond between the individual and the company.

--One company photographed each employee who had worked at the company over five years. Then they put the photos on a wall for all to see. This small act built a bond and showed the employees the pride their employer had in them.

--Have a "Bring children to work day." A couple times a year allow your employees to bring their kids and show them what they do.

Creating a friendly-factor work environment takes time, and it takes managers who truly care about individuals.

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Greg Smith is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and business performance consultant. He has written numerous books and featured on television programs such as Bloomberg News, PBS television, and in publications including Business Week, Kiplingers, President and CEO, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the President and "Captain of the Ship" of a management-consulting firm, Chart Your Course International, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Phone him at 770-860-9464. More articles available:

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