Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Motivating Employees to Do a Better Job

Walmart, the place academic love to hate, is doing something that we all ought to take note of. The chain’s sales had been falling and they traced it to under-motivated employees providing poor
service. So they did something about it.

They did three things to address the problems. First, they analyzed what the problems were. They found out that they were not paying enough to get the right people who would be motivated to provide good service and who saw working at Walmart’s as a dead-end job.

Two, they decided that they needed to raise the pay of employees so they could attract the better worker who would be more enthused to work harder and with better service. Walmart’s had been one of the poorest paying companies believing that workers were just parts in the system who could be easily replaced. Corporate wisdom had been to keep wages low and see employees as a cost, not as part of their success. But after they studied the problems in customer service delivery leading to more sales they decided to raise the basic hourly pay to $10.00 an hour and department manager pay to $15 an hour. This made the jobs more attractive.

Three, they realized that their workers wanted to know how to do things correctly and most importantly, have a path to move up in the company. Employees wanted to see their jobs as possible entry-level positions from which they could move up to department manager, assistant store,manger and store manager positions. They were motivated to do more and Walmart gave them not only the opportunity to do so, it provided the way.

Walmart created training academies that would teach employees the skills and proficiencies needed to have a chance to succeed and go higher in the company to whoever who wanted to move up. The training is both formal and impromptu. For example, new department workers and managers get two weeks of training in basic customer service and business concepts, inventory management and administrative skills.  They also get training that pertains to the area in which they will be working at the store.

The increased pay got much of the intention but the training and the opportunities to move up (Walmart will do more promoting from within) will likely pay the larger dividends. The pay will give people the basic wage they need to want to keep their job and the ability to move up will provide the incentive to do the job well so they can be rewarded for their work and thus be the more meaningful in the long term for the store, as well as its customer retention, sales and revenue.

Colleges should consider doing the same. They should study their workplace environment to see where and what is keeping employees from doing the very best job they want to do. What they will find at the very least, as we have discovered from our campus workplace environment studies, is that people feel discouraged because they do not get training to do their job well,  there is no clear path to move ahead, and the college seems to keep hiring from outside.

College employees tend to believe they are involved in a movement to help people better their lives and that is a motivating factor. They of course care about how much they earn, but that is not the whole picture for a college employee. They want to be recognized for their work and have a path to grow and move up.

An example: when I was the president of a community college, we had an opening for a full-time tenure track faculty member. The department seeking the new full-time faculty member had settled on three candidates from outside. They had overlooked all adjunct faculty believing if they were adjunct they may not be good enough for a full-time position. They were prejudiced against adjuncts to be blunt. This was sending a terrible message to the 55% of the faculty who were adjuncts.
When the department’s recommendation came to me, I sent it back with a directive to reconsider some of our adjuncts. Some of them had been teaching an all but full-time load for as much as eighteen years. They had been evaluated and deemed very good to excellent by students and were qualified enough to be hired over and over and given loads just shy of full-time. I sent the recommendation back again when they overlooked the adjuncts again and told them the full-time position would go to another department if they could not understand the message.

They said they did not feel adjuncts were as good as recent graduates because they might now have current research and would not recommend any of them over their choice. I decided that I would interview their choice and an adjunct that had been highly rated by students and re-hired for eighteen years. I finally chose the adjunct because he was the best qualified to fit into our college and to send out a message that we were into upward mobility for adjuncts and others who had served us loyally and well.

It will come as no surprise that the adjuncts were overjoyed and that we had more people calling us about getting adjunct position at the college. Interesting too was the increase in student evaluation scores on adjunct. The part-timers now saw it was possible to get a full-time position and they were going to do all they could to be considered when one came open.

Colleges and universities may not be able to increase wages much because of union contracts but then again, the unions would not complain about a wage increase. But recognizing that revenues are tight in most schools, they can at least create training academies to give people a path to moving up. They should give people the training they want to do their jobs well and to have the opportunity to be recognized and move up. And hire from within to let employees know they are recognized and are good enough to move up. They will be better motivated and grateful for the training and opportunities.

If this makes some sense to you contact us today to find out how you can get a campus workplace environment study for your school by emailing us or calling 413.219.6939

To get more articles and advice on improving customer service, retention and revenue on your campus, get a copy of From Admissions to Graduation and The Power of Retention by Dr. Neal Raisman.

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