Employee feedback means money for remodelers

Face it, with 10 percent unemployment, improving employee morale, or even measuring it, is not high on your priority list. But in a recent survey of workers by CareerBuilder.com, 33 percent say they dislike their current job and will begin looking for a new one when the economy begins to ease.

January 03, 2011
Employee feedback

Face it, with 10 percent unemployment, improving employee morale, or even measuring it, is not high on your priority list. But in a recent survey of workers by     CareerBuilder.com, 33 percent say they dislike their current job and will begin looking for a new one when the economy begins to ease. Now think about what you might do six, 12 or 18 months from now when one-third of your employees, maybe even the best you have, walk out the door. How much will that cost you?
That is a rhetorical question, but one you may have to answer if you don’t begin to focus on all of the A and B players who’ve, no doubt, kept you in business during the downturn. More than likely, you cut the C players from your team many months ago.
The cost of replacing a key employee is typically 1.5 times his or her annual salary. This, according to the experts, includes time spent searching for the right new person as well as other intangibles like lost productivity during the new employee’s training period. For remodelers, whose lifeblood is a steady stream of satisfied customers who are willing to refer your company to friends and who are also willing to hire you again, the costs can be significantly more.
It has often been noted that dissatisfied employees leave their jobs in two ways. Some take work with another employer. Others check out and stay, doing the bare minimum to hold onto their jobs. For remodelers whose employees interact with customers every day, the latter may be the more damaging kind of departure. Their indifference and lack of engagement negatively impacts customer satisfaction and employee morale.
The flipside of allowing dissatisfaction to fester without any channel for feedback is the positive result often cited when employee feedback is valued and properly responded to by managers and owners. First, some of the best moneymaking and cost-saving ideas come from frontline employees who are the first to encounter inefficiencies like extra trips to the lumber yard or opportunities like an under-served market niche. Second, a company focused on customer satisfaction often creates a mission, vision and values around that goal. Good employee feedback is the only real way to ensure staff alignment with the vision and values to serve the customer. Feedback may reveal a pervasive opinion that management only talks the talk and does not walk the walk. Finally, many studies have shown that organizations that successfully create an environment of openness and continual feedback that is properly communicated and acted upon tend thrive on bottom-up employee engagement and higher levels of productivity.
Organizational consultants say the first step to gaining honest employee feedback is to allay fears that negative comments will be linked to them and hurt their internal relationships. A third party may be the best administrator of such a program, helping assure employees of proper anonymity.  However, because remodeling firms are typically small, a less formal approach might be the best way to gaining employee feedback.  
Three easy steps to take:
1. Many top remodeling firms conduct post-mortems on all projects. This process creates a sense of accountability that fosters trust between management and high performers who consistently deliver profitable jobs.
2. Regularly scheduled staff meetings that update the entire team on company metrics toward specific goals also engender a sense of direction and measurement that leads to honest, trusting feedback that is useful to an organization.
3. Lastly, many firms also offer spiffs for cost-saving or moneymaking ideas — $50 gift cards or a night out with their spouse. This type of pay for feedback is tried and true, but typically does not generate the same level of trust among team members as other methods that require measurement and accountability.
The most important step is to begin thinking about engaging more with our team. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the economy will improve to a level that the job market for
A players will heat up. At that point, it might
be too late to develop a strategy around employee feedback.

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