What Can One Word Tell You About a Company?

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Living in a home built in 1910, I spend more time in Lowes than I care to think about. On one recent trip, it occurred to me that I’ve been seeing an awful lot of dogs in the store lately. It's not uncommon to see a service dog, but you certainly don't see multiple service dogs on a single visit to a store. At checkout, I commented on it and the clerk responded, "they're dog friendly now."

I casually said I'm sure the dog owners enjoy it and then went about my business. But on the way out of the building, I found myself thinking about the employee's use of "they" rather than saying, "we're dog friendly now." Admittedly, it’s a very small difference that I probably shouldn't have read into, but could it be more telling than it seems?

Would an employee at the Apple Genius Bar say, "We’re selling a lot of iPhones" or would he say, "They’re selling a lot of iPhones?"  Would a cashier at Chick-fil-A, known for their customer service and use of the phrase my pleasure, say, "We have a new menu item" or would he say, "They have a new menu item?"

Although this question certainly depends on each employee’s experiences with the company, I believe it may indicate his level of satisfaction with the employer and how connected that person feels.  Companies should not only want their employees to feel connected, they should be striving every day to make sure they are because employee satisfaction has a direct impact on the end customer.

The ten years I’ve spent in public accounting have allowed me to work with many different clients, yet I still remember one particular client from my first year who taught me that the tone at the top really does filter all the way down.  The owner cut corners, challenged customers and didn’t appreciate his employees.  In turn, my firm received this same type of treatment from the employees we worked with directly.  The company is no longer in business but, perhaps, the outcome would have been different if everyone in the company had worked together toward success.

So what, then, can a company do to make sure employees feel like they matter?  There are many guides with steps to make employees feel connected.  Most of the steps can be summarized into one general rule: pay attention to them. Too often, time goes by faster than we realize and employees may be left on their own with little guidance.  Although less oversight may sound like a dream, most employees want to be challenged, trained and have their ideas heard.  They want expectations that are clearly defined so they know the path to succeed.  And they’re willing to be held accountable for not meeting those expectations as long as they are rewarded when they do meet them.

The days of working for one company your entire career are mostly gone.  It is up to employers to show their employees why they should stay.  Creating a connected and happy workforce not only helps to keep employees longer, it benefits the company from top line revenues down to each individual customer experience.  So the next time you hear one of your employees use “They” instead of “We” in reference to your company, give it a second thought and contemplate whether or not they feel connected.

Chris Mennel is an audit manager for Alerding CPA Group.

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