Business growth requires investment in the future, even during tough times. Prudent growth cautions against being penny wise and pound foolish and invests in people. An IT consultant once made the observation that the small foundries whose computer systems he managed tended to make the same general mistake: When the going got tough, they laid off their design engineers who were the highest paid employees. Then, when they needed someone to design the tools and parts for their production people to make, they found themselves at a loss because they no longer had design engineers.
Especially during periods of slow business, “organisations that treat employees like disposable assets rather than their most valuable one inevitably suffer across the spectrum of retention, recruitment, productivity, customer service, brand reputations–and profits,” writes Stephen De Kalb, TP3 Head of Marketing. In other words, shortchanging staff to save money only damages the business by reducing capacity, destroying morale, and building resentment. Your clients know when your employees just don’t care any more.
Business growth demands investment in your human resources, not just equipment and technology. However, equipment and technology upgrades, easier to manage and quantify than people, should be included in the commitment to growing the business.
● Improve your website. This effort requires thoroughly understanding your current website. Google Analytics offers a good place to start, but don’t just count “clicks” or the number of visits. Analyze navigation through the site, the appearance, and the content. Consider deleting anything that obstructs navigation, obfuscates comprehension, and just doesn’t advance the purpose of the site. Every word and every graphic on the site must serve a purpose.
● Repurpose your content. That white paper your vice president spent a week to write might not be your best marketing vehicle; however, the information contained within it is perfect for promoting your business. Find ways to distil and restate information so that it engages as well as informs. Use infographics to convey in a picture what would take a thousand words to explain.
● Understand the true cost to acquire new customers–and retain existing ones. As advised in the RevUp Blog by Betaspring, “Everyone’s acquisition performance varies over time. Knowing that, you can’t divide lifetime costs by lifetime customers. You end up with a skewed number that doesn’t reflect what’s actually going on.”
Commitment to growth requires just that: commitment. Business growth won’t happen without the wholehearted support of your staff. Don’t just say the words, let your actions lend meaning and veracity. Writing for SmartCEO.com, Jeff Hanhausen says, “If you’re going to grow revenues and margins, it will require a superior level of coordination and collaboration.” This refers to people, not equipment or technology. People must work together and support the goal because they support the goal, not because they’re afraid for their jobs. He adds, “You cannot grow revenues and margins until this is accepted, committed to and planned for. So if we’re going to talk about growing, first you must produce powerful teams.”
Calling a group a people a team doesn’t make it so. The old truism “There’s no I in TEAM” is often followed by a cynical response: “But there’s a U in SUCK.” In a real team, the focus shifts from the individual to the whole. “Some high-performance traits, like assertiveness, negatively affect teams,” notes Hanhausen. The people on a genuine team bring out the best in each other. They work effectively with each other. Unlike certain televised competitions in which “teams” are comprised of individual competitors who must cooperate for a short period in order to overcome a single, short-lived challenge, a genuine team pulls together for the long haul.
More than ever, the USA is an immigrant nation. Historic demographic norms are shifting substantially, making the current “white, non-Hispanic” category a minority demographic. New Republic states, “The waves of Hispanics and Asians and multiracial Americans reshaping the country’s population are full of young people, who by some measures already outnumber their white counterparts.” In 2014, non-Hispanic whites constituted only 53% of the country’s population, down from 70 percent in 1990. With these changing demographics in mind, the likelihood that you’ll come into contact with someone whose cultural background differs significantly from yours is certain.
Business reflects demographic changes in population, if for no other reason than because it must draw its workers from that population. More than ever, the success of business requires respect toward other cultures. To comply with legal requirements, many companies have developed diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies that recognize the major demographic differences and ignore the other, more subtle distinguishing characteristics. D&I programs emphasize respect for cultural diversity. Dr. Asim Shah states his view of cultural diversity: “To me, cultural diversity means merging different cultures; introducing good aspects of your culture to others, but also accepting the positives of a new culture.”
Nowhere is this more applicable when combining two corporate cultures through a merger or acquisition. Before integrating your company’s cultural style with another’s, you must first understand your company and conduct background research to understand the other company’s current culture. Performance of this due diligence research allows prediction of how the combined workforce will mesh. Or not.
Once you’ve developed an understanding of how the two cultures relate and their differences, it’s time to meet with key leadership of both companies to develop a transition plan. Don’t beat around the bush during this phase of the consolidation of companies: be explicit and candid regarding both your observations and expectations.
The discussion should result in an implementation plan that takes the best practices of both organizations. In that way, each company culture gives a little and the integration of a new culture should result in an improvement over both. Understand that employees of both companies will worry about how the changes will affect them. Clear and candid communication may include delivery of bad news to certain individuals; however, it will also prevent the spread of rumors that destroy morale and build resentment.
In her paper “The Role of Corporate Culture in Mergers & Acquisitions,” Christa H.S. Bowman states, “Anecdotal and survey evidence suggests that cultural incompatibility between acquirers and targets is an important reason for merger failures.” She cites the failure of “high-profile deals” between Daimler-Chrysler and Sprint-Nextel as anecdotal examples of the importance of corporate culture when combining two companies.
What is the corporate culture? Typically created by a company’s founder, the corporate culture sums up the organizational personality: “its shared beliefs, values, and behaviors.” Bowman describes corporate cultures in four ways: role-oriented, task/achievement oriented, power-oriented, and person/support oriented. Incompatible cultures bode ill for successful consolidation. Accordingly to the TalentSpace blog, “In a true merger, no one culture should win.”
If history is written by the victor, then the acquiring firm generally overwhelms the acquired firm. This “us vs. them” scenario leaves the personnel of the acquired company feeling resentful and undervalued when nothing could be further from the truth. After all, if your company acquires another, it’s because that company produces a product or provides a service that you find valuable. Be sure to communicate that through word and deed.
Cultural due diligence and internal D&I programs basically boil down to the rigorous exercise of good manners, which shows respect toward others. This show of respect involves offering all parties a voice at the table and the honest treatment of their opinions as valid and worthy of consideration. It includes all parties within the business valuing the contributions and showing respect for those contributions of people in all parts of the business, regardless of title or position.
Respect yields increased innovation, improved morale, greater employee dedication, and higher satisfaction among clients. What’s not to lose?
You made the offer and the candidate accepted. Now it’s time to bring on your newest employee.
Your new hire is understandably nervous. After all, he’s entering a new environment with unknown personalities and new expectations. The introduction of your new employee into your business can go either of two ways:
1. You can throw your new employee to the wolves and hope he survives; or,
2. You can carefully lay a foundation for your new employee’s career to build confidence and skills.
While the first option might initially seem less resource intensive, it ultimately costs the business money due to higher employee turnover, mistakes that must be fixed, and annoyed clients who rightfully think that your employees should know what they’re doing. Survival of the fittest might define business in general, but it shouldn’t define how you treat your employees.
New employee orientation takes time and effort, but benefits the organization in the long run. A new employee who feels uncomfortable in his new position will take longer to reach his full potential. Orientation, says Oregon State University:
• Provides the new employee with the information necessary to make him comfortable in the job.
• Builds employee confidence and helps him adapt more quickly to the job.
• Facilitates better communication and productivity among staff.
• Improves employee retention.
Forbes magazine advises focusing the new employee orientation process on the employee, not the company. They cite a 2013 paper published in Administrative Science Quarterly that found “shifting the focus to an employee’s personal identity leads to an increase in both employee retention and customer satisfaction.”
Bringing on a new employee is at least as crucial as bringing on a new client. As with most things integral to the running of your business and the satisfaction of your clients, a well-designed, thoughtful process benefits everyone.
According to Chron, the employee orientation program should create a positive first impression of the company. The orientation process helps employees acquire an understanding of corporate expectations with regard to attire, behavior, performance, and more. The process allows new employees to gain an in-depth understanding of benefits, especially those that require a certain waiting period before they become available. Finally, a new employee orientation program helps new hires to engage with staff and project work so they can hit the ground running. Assigning a mentor who can quickly establish himself as the friendly, go-to resource worthy of trust expedites this process.
The cost of a poor new employee onboarding process can be difficult to quantify. If the new hire’s skills don’t match the job or the new hire’s personality clashes with the company culture, you’ve got an expensive problem. Dice.com lists the potential costs companies incur simply during the interview process: “travel, hotel and meals, training and orientation, employment testing, termination costs such as Cobra, unemployment and potential litigation expenses should the candidate decide to sue you for wrongful dismissal, plus relocation costs and outplacement or career transition costs.” Costs that are more difficult to assign dollar amounts to can prove lethal to a business that fails to properly integrate new employees: “lower employee morale, customer dissatisfaction, lost customers, lost sales, reduced quality of products and low production.” That doesn’t include speculation among remaining employees as to why the new hire left, the resulting doubt about their own job security, and the resentment of having to shoulder the additional workload that person’s absence causes.
The Heggen Group can help your company design a process that takes new employees by the hand and guides them through integration into their new jobs. We help you lay the solid foundation for new employees to learn the policies, procedures, and culture of their new workplaces to facilitate a better understanding of company expectations and become valuable assets to the company.