Richard Branson - Train People Quote

I published this blog on LinkedIn at this time last year but felt that it deserves to be hosted on this blog. Enjoy and I look forward to reading your comments.

Times have changed dramatically. Gone are the days where you keep a person in your circle of trust/friendship/company if you fail to treat them well. With so many options to move on it is very difficult to not give someone or something 100% of your time, care, effort, and keep them. Richard Branson said “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” What does that really mean?

If you train people well enough, so they can leave for any other company or job then you are doing well. There is no doubt that you have made a difference in this person and you have benefited from them.

The potential you saw when they came in for the interview, with clammy hands and a forehead to match has been released. Maybe it was not training in the classic sense, maybe it was a little coaching along the way. Either way, you have certainly done the right thing. When employees are trained well enough they improve operating proficiency and demonstrate they are an excellent investment. A good thing, or place to be.

Treat them well enough so they do not want to leave. Every year The Sunday Times publishes a list of the Top 100 Companies to work for voted by their employees using anonymous surveys. Have a look at the list published February 2016 and see how many companies you know. These are the companies that attract the best talent; the best of the best.

These companies without a doubt treat their employees well enough that they do not want to leave. How do they achieve this and what do they do? That is another blog for another time.

What are the surveys assessing?

  • Leadership: How employees feel about the head of the company and its senior managers.
  • Wellbeing: How staff feel about the stress, pressure and the balance between their work and home duties.
  • Giving something back: How much companies are thought by their staff to put back into society generally and the local community.
  • Personal growth: To what extent staff feel they are stretched and challenged by their job.
  • My manager: How staff feel towards their immediate boss and day-to-day managers.
  • My company: Feelings about the company people work for as opposed to the people they work with.
  • My team: How staff feel about their immediate colleagues.
  • Fair deal: How happy the workforce is with their pay and benefits.

Taking off our compensation hats for a moment. The “title” thing only achieves so much and will reach the point of little return or impact. Performance-based compensation, however, has no point of diminishing returns, so let’s talk about that.

Minimum Bonus Target – MBT. Daily/monthly/quarterly/annual target vs performance. Have one, even if it is small and every employee will focus on, take ownership of, ask how to and be creative, thinking about “how we can”.

The overall team bonding is amplified to levels perhaps not otherwise gained or realised. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. An MBT provides a common ground that reaches beyond the cliché of “It is not my department”, “It is not my job” and formulate an organisation marching under a single banner in one single direction and a motto, “It is OUR job”. Everyone is responsible for customer service, and therefore everyone is responsible for sales in one way or another.

The small perks. I once heard a company accountant present a report that illustrated how much the company could save by not paying for employees teas and coffees. I also heard a team manager ask the perfect question in return, “How much will it cost us if we remove free employee teas and coffees?” The accountant could not understand, he thought he just came across a perfect way of saving £50k+ per year. Yet he is being questioned about something that only requires a second perspective.

The Team Manager was pretty angry as the accountant was so out of touch with the people that make the business what it was (and still is). Basically, the team manager was asking if they start to not treat the employees as well, how much will it cost in employee retention, recruitment, training, sales revenue, team morale, employee development. Not all accountants are out of touch, but this one was.

Sticking with teas and coffees theme. I have witnessed an executive director change the entire agenda of a meeting to focus completely on how well does the company treats their people and address site to site equality. This occurred quite simply as he approached to have his coffee scanned and when asked for payment he was dumbfounded.

To the counter assistant’s credit, they didn’t know who he was, treated him like everyone else and insisted on payment. Turns out in the Scottish offices were the only offices in the UK at this company that were paying for their teas and coffees. Within an hour a communication was sent out to all Scottish offices, that from that point going forward teas and coffees were free of charge.

2 months later, fresh fruit was provided, also free of charge. Most of us were completely unaware we were being treated differently and appreciated being treated well. With thousands, upon thousands of employees, this was a costly decision but one that lifted the morale of the Scottish offices and the employees were proud of the director for addressing this.

Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said “Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are, or, as we are conditioned to see it”

Consider this, have you ever heard of two people getting divorced and one party says; “I want a divorce because the other person treats me very well”. A child who said; “I ran away from home because my parents treat me very well”. An employee who said; “I quit my job because the company treats me so very well” Replacing a proficient employee is very, very expensive, disruptive and time-consuming.

Unfortunately for us all, not everyone will get into an established team as quickly as we would like, sometimes not at all. Treating your people well once or twice a year only offers temporary benefits. It is confusing and unfair to treat a child despicable all year round, except on their birthday and at Christmas. So why would company mirror this frequency with their employees? Treating an employee well consistently is easy and quick.

Treat’em mean to keep them keen? No, train them up so when you treat them well, they will sell. Sell your product, sell your service, sell themselves, sell your company. Most importantly, they will not leave.

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