Our current struggles finding good people to perform the work we have is getting in the way of business success. New business is being declined, existing business is taking longer to perform and waste, and error is increasing. In short, the absence of a quality workforce is getting in the way of our productivity, profitability, and improving shareholder value. How can we fix our workforce shortage? What can we do to improve our workforce culture by turning it into a workforce culture of excellence?
The answer is much more than paying sign-on bonuses or increasing starting wages. While they may prove to fix an immediate problem, they are not sustainable solutions. In fact, they do little more than increase our operating costs in the direct form of wages followed by an increase in other expenses such as taxes and some benefits. Add to that a questionable level of return because in reality, all we have done is throw a less than creative solution into the middle of our challenges; a short-term solution that will only cause us more problems in the future.
Developing a sustainable Workforce Culture of Excellence takes work. It means, in many ways, we will have to cast off some of our limiting beliefs and other views regarding business.
I know of few businesses who won’t claim that their workforce is their greatest asset. I know fewer businesses that practice that by “walking the talk.” Some may be troubled by those words but let me offer this; do you treat your workforce as an asset whose costs need to be managed or controlled, or, do you treat your workforce like an investment where you expect a demonstrable return? How you answered those questions tells you how well you walk the talk that your workforce is your greatest asset.
So Where Do You Begin?
You begin by looking at your mission and the strategic plan you have that supports it. If you don’t have a strategic plan then get one as it is critical to solving your workforce dilemma. Ask yourself, what Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Experiences, and Behaviors (KSAEB) do I need to execute my mission and my strategic plan? You have just taken the first step in creating a Workforce Culture of excellence.
The next step is to identify those positions within your business that can best impact the execution of your mission and strategy. That isn’t your entire workforce. Reality says that not all of your business can directly impact that strategy and mission execution equally. This is the first time you will challenge your previous beliefs because you are experiencing that not all positions and by extension, not all employees are equal in value. “A positions” have the greatest contribution, “B Positions have some but not the greatest contribution and so on.
Once you’ve identified the positions, it is time to assess the workforce in them. How well does the workforce stack up against ALL OF THE KSAEB’s you previously identified? Those that do, and who perform highly, have become your “A Players.” Those that do but perform on an average level are now your “B Players.” (You may find some who meet most of your criteria but not all, these could be “B- Players.” Everyone else is a “C Player.”
How do you pay and reward your employees? Are you focused on giving everyone the same annual increase, are you giving good workers a 3% increase and average workers a 2%? Do you give your C Player employees a raise? That practice needs to change. Now is when you begin to offer a greater reward to your A Players who are in A Positions. This means more than likely your reward and recognition plans are going to change. A Players give more in return, so you invest more in them. You give less to B Players, and you may give little or nothing to C Players. The key to success here is how you measure and recognize their performance.
The result of this effort is that you get a return from the marketplace because you are recognized as both valuing and rewarding high performers. Some of your B Players will be motivated to become A Players, some of your B- Players may become strong B players or even A Players. C players are not a group you should be overly concerned with. Further, you become known to A Players who work for companies that operate like you used to and now they want to join a business that values them more.
By strategically focusing on how you identify and reward your workforce, instead of just arbitrarily increasing wages to attract applicants, you create a culture of workforce excellence that produces more, creates greater profits and also increases owner equity. This makes recruiting and retention simpler while improving the Cost-Benefit ratio and Return on Investment of your workforce.