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Party Time!

Socializing with your employees to improve performance

Everyone likes a party, right? A party is a great way to relax, meet people, and find areas of common interest. In retailing, you will find people that work together in a store or mall, taking the time after a week's work to spend a few hours together. In their effort to relax, these people are actually working to create a corporate culture. Hopefully for the manager or owner, the results are of a positive nature. For if their informal discussion centers on the problems of the workplace, odds are they will not be creating the solutions.

Have you ever been to one of these events? When the discussion of the evening turns to work, someone brings up the question of the current project at work. If the staff does not understand, or fully buy into the direction that management has decided to take, the negative aspects of the project will surely be the center point of discussion. Not to say the discussion will cause the project to fail, but it surely will not help.

As the owner or manager, you can do something that will improve your management skills. For surely, part of your job description is to create a team from among those you employ. Regularly scheduled staff meetings are a beginning, but creating your own get-togethers is a great way to have all of your employees buy into the team concept.

People that work in your business spend many hours with each other. If they are full time employees, they are probably spending more hours with their fellow workers than they are with their family.

Some employees may see their fellow workers as being their extended family. The cost of hiring and training a new employee can run as much as 40% to 60% of the annual cost of the employee. This should be incentive enough to want to retain the employees you now have, assuming they are quality employees. Research in employee issues show that salary is not the primary issue with most workers. They are looking for a sense of belonging and knowing their efforts have made a difference in the success of the business.

Again, the party issue. In an effort to foster the sense of belonging, many successful businesses are spending more of their efforts to address this issue. One successful technique is having parties. One restaurateur closes his restaurant one evening each quarter. Signs are posted on the doors of the restaurant a week before the event telling customers the business will be closed at 5pm on the selected day so that the staff, management, and ownership can enjoy an evening with their families together. Everyone is invited to the owner's house to have dinner. The owner gets the large grill fired up, and a steak dinner with all the fixings is served to all by the owner and his wife.

Dessert follows with most of the children in the yard playing together, and the adults visiting in the den. There is no agenda for the evening. The owner makes a point not to mention anything about work. If the business has a bonus program, this is an excellent opportunity to hand out bonuses as well as awards. The only thing that beats giving your employees recognition is to do so in front of their families and co-workers.

It makes a tremendous statement about where the owner places his values in regards to his employees. He has said the same with the sign on the front door of the restaurant. It does not just say we are closed today.

It says the customer is valued, but the owner places a higher value on his employees and their families. This demonstration of concern probably explains why some of the employees have worked in this same single location restaurant for the past 30 years. You see, the owner and management are able to get past the token, "How is your family?", and generally express their concern for the employee and each family member.

A second business owner previously hired a company to decorate his store for each season. The store was decorated in cold and icy colors for winter, pastels for the spring, patriotic colors for the summer, fall colors in early September, and traditional colors for the Christmas selling season. The idea was to invite the customers to see a store that was attractive and with the decorations, also entertaining. Eventually, the decorating crew was fired. Not because of the expense or making a decision to stop decorating, but because he had a better idea.

Now the business has employee parties to do the same thing. Just like the restaurant owner, families are invited. When they are decorating for Christmas, the party is held on an evening just before Thanksgiving. Each employee is invited to bring a small tray of snack food. Christmas music is played throughout the store; the owner has Santa caps with each person's name embroidered on them. There is a gift for the children of each employee, a gift for each employee, and then the party begins. Together they decorate the store for the season. The owner reports they rarely get the entire store decorated in the one evening. That is ok with them as they finish the job the next day. This business owner likes to tell the story of the year in which they decorated the store for Christmas on the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving but didn't get to finish the job the next day.

However, when everyone came to work on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving all the decorations were in place. How did the job get done? One of the employees owned up to the job. He explained the Thanksgiving dinner was held at his parents' home at 5pm. As he was single, and not a football fan or parade watcher, he decided to come to the store and finish the job. Are these employers worried about employee turnover? Probably not as much as most other businesses. And yet, they report they are not paying top dollar for their staff. They have found one of the secrets of human need. And, they love a good party.

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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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