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Just Do It - Part One

Getting Employees to Do the Things You Want Them to Do


You will probably remember the title of this article as being the slogan used by Nike for their commercials for several years. In addition to seeing it on television, you would have seen the slogan on much of the clothing that Nike produced. It is however, not where the slogan began. Think back to your childhood and remember what Mom always said, "You don't need to know why. I am the Mom, and I said, just do it!"

While it may have worked for Mom, and it definitely made a lot of money for Nike, it will not work in your business as a motivational tool for your employees. Of course, if you have been in business for a number of years, you have already found this to be true. Perhaps, you would like to know why it does not work. And more importantly, perhaps you would like to know what does work.

From the many years this writer owned and managed a family business, I remember a piece of paper that was taped to the wall next to my desk. It was a small bit of information from a book by Ferdinand F. Fournies. The title of the book was, "Why employees don't do what they are supposed to do, and what to do about it."

All the paper had on it were the headings for each of the chapters of the book, but as I had read the book, that paper served as a reminder each time I spoke to an employee to discuss a job assignment. Again from my experiences, I was amazed at how simple each of Fournies points were, and how correct Fournies was.

In this column, and for the following column, we are going to discuss most of the ideas that Fournies shared. I invite you to take each of these articles, highlight the various points, and tape them to the wall next to your desk. I trust you will be impressed by how well these ideas can work for you.

Reason #1: They do not know why they should do it. Again, Mom's reason does not work here. More importantly, if you take the attitude that people want to contribute to your business, you will most likely find that they want to do so. Explaining to an employee that accessories are put next to the key item to increase add on sales can lead to an employee becoming creative in building an attractive display. And if your employees are on an incentive pay program, everyone wins.

Reason #2: They do not know how to do it. Too often we tell an employee to greet every customer. And they do so with a, "Can I help you?" This is fine if you like being a mediocre business. But if you want to increase sales, and have knowledgeable employees, you need to have staff meetings where employees are educated as to how to better perform their jobs.

Reason #3: They do not know what they are supposed to do. Ever walk into a business and see employees standing around? Or worse yet, walk into the business and have to interrupt an employee who is sweeping the floor to ask them to wait on you? These are the two classic examples of employees who do not have simple and easy to follow job descriptions.

Your job description does not need to be three pages long. It can easily be a list of 5 to 10 items, with the number one item being the top priority item, and the last item having the least priority.

Reason #4 & #5: They think your way will not work. They think their way is better. These two reasons are classic examples of an employee having a lack of confidence in their manager or owner. This lack of confidence comes from a communication problem which too often begins with an owner or manager who, in words or actions, is telling employees their way is right because they are the boss. Asking an employee, "What do you think?", can be one of the best team building questions the boss could possibly utilize.

Reason #6: They think something else is more important. This goes back to the job description situation. In my seminar presentations, I tell the audience that I think I could visit their business and determine their best staff members within 30 minutes. The technique is to ask the manager and each of the staff members to provide a written list, in the sequence of priority, naming their most important assignment through their least important job assignment.

When each of the staff members' list is compared with the list given by the manager, it will be easy to determine who the manager thinks is the best as the staff member's list will most closely match the list of the manager. Again, staff meetings being held to "re-sequence" the priority list, will solve the sixth reason.

Reason #7: There is no positive consequence for them for doing it. Most businesses are paying employees an hourly rate. And when the job is done correctly, there may be little more than a "thank you" if even that. This is not to say with each completed task, you need to give a financial reward. But, giving recognition in front of their fellow staff members and having semi-annual job reviews provide this positive reward for a job well done. In next month's list of reasons, we will discuss the reverse situation. As you will see, when the consequences are the same no matter what, the will to excel can quickly die.

Reason #8: They think they are doing it. How many times has a manager given someone an assignment, and then left them completely alone to perform the task? In many situations, a visit by the manager to review the job, even ten minutes into the effort, can provide the necessary corrective information to get the task completed on time and correctly.

Imagine how discouraged the staff member would be as they are announcing their completed task, only to hear the manager or owner say how wrong the entire effort is. It is that occasional checking in by the manager, and the "atta-boy" that can make a difference.

So far, we have covered eight reasons as to why employees do and don't do what they are supposed to do. And as Ed McMahon used to say in his comedy book review routine with Johnny Carson, "You would think with all that information, we have covered every possible situation that could occur with regard to employee management."

Not so, my friends and readers.. See you next month, with the second half of "Just do it - why employees don't do what they are supposed to do, and what to do about it."

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179