By: Larry Fish, President
You know the feeling . . . you have been in business for quite some time, have attained and struggled through far too many economic ups and downs, and are continually searching for field operations personnel and feel no need for additional layers of management. Business is decent and you are experiencing positive trends, you are at about the right size, but you feel that productivity and morale are at an all-time low and you know employee turnover is at an all-time high. You talk to your employees and discover that a primary concern for many of them is career enhancement. As a business owner, you recognize the problem, but continue to struggle with what to do.
The challenge then becomes how to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive environment and fulfill individual employee development needs, yet still achieve acceptable levels of profitability. One of the first things you can do is to start thinking smarter and facing the realities of operating a business in the year 2015.
Positioning employees for upward advancement is making less and less sense. It often perpetuates a false reality, creating a cycle of frustration, low morale, and poor productivity. If this sounds like your organization, try shifting your thinking.
Picture the rungs of a ladder. Two choices: go up or go down — rather limiting in what you can do. Now picture chain-link fencing material. With a little skill, you can go up, down, to the sides, and at any angle. Consider how your employees can have this flexibility, while supporting business goals and getting their career needs met as well. The rungs of the ladder, once the path, now becomes only one option. Let’s now consider how to apply this concept to your business.
Let’s start by committing to thinking about employee development and advancement differently. “Rungs of the ladder” thinking gives the business owner the responsibility to recognize and promote people into the next position. Conversely, the cornerstone of “chain-link” thinking is self-management and encouraging employees to take control of their own careers. With support and information from the business owner, employees learn to take control by discovering what they are best at, accepting an active role in their own development planning, or by working with the business owner toward internal job placement.
Lateral moves should make more sense, given there are fewer rungs to grasp, but employees need incentives to make career moves — up, down, or at any angle. To tell people a particular move would be good for them may work in the short term (as we all know!), but in the long run, career mobility works when employees discover what is best for them and the organization. The business owner’s primary responsibility is to provide positive and realistic incentives.
Incentives for moving laterally (e.g., transferring from residential landscape installation to commercial maintenance) would include: learning new skills, getting closer to the customer, receiving a pay increase, and working more complex or prestigious projects.
As Winston Churchill once said, “The price for greatness is responsibility.” In the same light, the price for career advancement now and in the future is taking responsibility. The employees’ responsibility is to find out what they love to do, to prioritize their values, to identify their skills, and to clarify their interests. Then, they must discover how they can apply their skills and abilities. As they research and question you about opportunities, they are truly contributing to the development of a more efficient and competitive organization.
Your company may not be ready for all of these practical suggestions. If not, consider starting slowly and building upon this framework and new thought process. Overall though, realize that relying on past patterns of career advancement, employee development, and your own bias towards employee expectations will only hinder the growth of your company.
Whatever segment you are competing in within the Green Industry will require new ways of thinking, planning, and acting in constructive, productive patterns. Interested in expanding your thinking regarding employee development? Contact GreenSearch® at 1.888.375.7787 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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