How to Appreciate, Empower and Retain the Best Employees
By Tim Conn, Founder and President of Image One USA
Employee appreciation and employee empowerment are two key concepts in human resource management that significantly contribute to the growth and success of a company. For building service contractors (BSCs) who often face high turnover rates, losing employees can place a substantial financial and even emotional burden on an organization. It’s inefficient to have to constantly train new employees.
What I’ve learned through more than 35 years of experience in this industry — both as a commercial cleaning company owner and as a franchisor overseeing franchise owners running contractor businesses nationwide — is that you keep more employees engaged when you encourage them to grow in their own career. This starts with appreciating what they do for you.
Employee appreciation refers to recognizing and valuing employees' contributions to the organization. It ranges from simple gestures like saying "thank you” to more formal programs like "Employee of the Month,” which often include a small form of compensation — say, a gift card. For instance, Google’s peer-to-peer employee recognition program allows colleagues to recognize each other’s contributions on its internal communication system, fostering a culture of appreciation and respect.
Another way to show people you care is to meet them where they are. This is embodied in Matthew Kelly’s book The Dream Manager. Some of you in the industry may be familiar with it. In the book — which is based on Cincinnati-based building service contractor Jancoa — a fictitious building service contractor is struggling with really high turnover. After surveying employees to determine what would encourage them to stay at the company, leadership realizes that workers struggle to get to their job. Many don’t have cars, and public transportation isn’t reliable. The solution? They implement a shuttle system so staff can get to and from the facilities they clean.
The real-life company The Dream Manager is based on — Jancoa — experienced a lot of success with their transport program. Turnover has decreased from more than 100 percent, down to 40 percent, according to a CleanLink article.
The benefits of employee appreciation are multifold. It boosts morale, increases loyalty and job satisfaction, reduces employee turnover, and enhances productivity. For instance, a study by Deloitte found that organizations with a strong recognition culture have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than those without it. These businesses spend less time and resources training new hires and benefit from boosted productivity from experienced employees performing the work.
Encourage Employees to Grow
It’s one thing to appreciate, but empowerment goes a step further. Employee empowerment involves entrusting employees with decision-making authority and responsibility over their work. It can be seen in organizational structures where employees are prioritized for promotions over outside hires.
The United Parcel Service (UPS) exemplifies commitment to employee empowerment through its unique promotion-from-within policy. This policy encourages and supports its employees' personal and professional growth by offering frequent opportunities for advancement within the company. For instance, the current CEO, David Abney, started his journey at UPS as a package loader. This approach motivates individuals to enhance their skills and competencies and fosters a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization and its leadership.
UPS believes that invested and empowered employees are instrumental in driving superior customer service and business success, and it is a strategy that I highly recommend for business owners looking to retain highly motivated team members. BSCs of all shapes and sizes can make this kind of commitment to their team.
Employee empowerment also brings numerous benefits. When employees feel empowered, they're more likely to be engaged, innovative, and committed to their jobs. This results in higher productivity and quality of work. A McKinsey study showed that organizations with high employee empowerment score 50 percent higher on customer satisfaction surveys than those with low empowerment. The study demonstrates the interconnectedness of worker appreciation and empowerment, but both concepts are unique in the approaches that business owners must take to achieve them.
Both employee appreciation and empowerment are crucial for a company’s growth. When employees feel valued and empowered, they are more likely to exceed their performance expectations, contribute innovative ideas, and stay committed to the company's objectives. General Electric’s growth in the late 20th century under Jack Welch is often attributed to his strong emphasis on employee empowerment and appreciation.
Welch put in place a series of strategic changes which fostered an environment of trust and authenticity. He reworked hierarchical structures, which resulted in a more collaborative atmosphere, and encouraged open communication, cultivating a sense of ownership among employees. He also introduced the Work-Out program, which aimed to reduce bureaucracy and give employees more decision-making authority. These changes not only improved morale but also led to significant productivity increases and solidified GE's position as a global leader in innovation.
Employee appreciation is about acknowledging and rewarding employees' efforts, while empowerment is about giving them control and trust over their work. These practices are not only pivotal for companies like General Electric but also essential for BSCs. Such employers attract top talent, further boosting productivity and reputation. By empowering employees, BSCs can drive the overall growth and success of their business.
Both employee appreciation and empowerment foster a positive work environment, enhance performance, and drive company growth. It’s essential for organizations to create a balance between the two, to develop a company culture where employees feel both valued for their work and entrusted with meaningful responsibilities.
Tim Conn is president and co-founder of Image One USA, a commercial cleaning franchise that trains franchisees in all facets of the business, including sales, operations, and quality control. Based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, Image One has many franchise locations in the Chicago region and across the United States. The company has been recognized for franchise owner satisfaction by the Franchise Business Review. For more information, visit imageoneusa.com.