Raise Employee Morale

Rodney Hall of The Talon Group discusses the connection between sales and happy, thriving employees -- possible even in the midst of a difficult housing industry.

By By Rodney Hall, The Talon Group | September 30, 2009
Morale Boosters


By Rodney Hall,
The Talon Group

I recently asked my network of home-building professionals about the link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and everyone agreed employee satisfaction affects customer satisfaction. While you can manage around an unhappy employee and achieve customer satisfaction short-term, it wouldn't be sustainable. The key to long-term success is to have happy, thriving employees.

The key to long-term success is to have
happy, thriving employees.

So, what can a company do to promote employee satisfaction today, given the current market environment? The answers are diverse:

  • Study up on motivation. More than a few respondents cited Abraham Maslow's Theory of Human Motivation and Frederick Herzberg's Motivational Theory. Both provide great insights into what drives your team.
  • Hire the right people from the start. Look for people with a healthy, optimistic outlook on life. These are candidates who enjoy serving others; who use "we" when describing successes and "I" when describing failures; who take ownership of things that need to get done; and who are the least likely to pass the buck down the line when a homeowner complains. They're more anxious to delight the customer, too.
  • Manage better and more clearly. Several respondents noted that employee satisfaction comes from challenging people, empowering them with decision-making authority and being held accountable for the results. Employee satisfaction was higher among teams who worked for "demanding but fair" supervisors over "nice guys."
  • You can't over-communicate. "Keep people informed on a weekly basis." "Be open and honest." "Tell the truth." Companies are not doing anyone a favor by sparing the details, no matter how bad they may be. Warns one builder: "Withholding information leads to rumors and speculation on worst-case scenarios, which are usually worse than the reality."
  • Have a plan and stick to it. Once you've communicated that the sky is falling, be ready to share a survival plan. This shifts the employees' focus from the problem to the solution. Remind everyone — daily if necessary — to focus on the job at hand. One builder described it as a Zen-like focus: "Be here now and use your energy on the things you can control today, not on what you can't control."
  • Take your own medicine. Don't ask your team to go the extra mile if you aren't willing to do the same, regardless how much you control their destiny.
  • Loudly celebrate the small wins along the way. To paraphrase Bonnie Raitt, let's "give them something to talk about" — something positive.

Author Information
Rodney Hall is a senior partner in The Talon Group, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home-building industries.

Do Incentives Work?
Rodney Hall's Blog on HR, The PeopleZone


Morale Boosters

Recognize and show appreciation. An enjoyable and rewarding work environment makes people happy.

Offer employees an extra paid week off annually or one Friday off per month.

Give all managers gift cards to hand out whenever someone goes above and beyond.

Offer company-owned vacation homes to all employees.

Ask employees their opinions. Be prepared to share the unfiltered results with the entire team and let them know solutions.

Cut the reins and "authorize" employees to exercise creativity and ownership over challenges facing the company.


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