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Posted: March 08, 2011

Ten hardcore realities for employers

You want to keep the best people? Then listen up

John Heckers

In a previous article, I wrote about 10 hardcore workplace realities for employees . Now, employers, it is your turn. Here are 10 things that employers must deal with if they intend to keep employees as the economy recovers and jobs become more plentiful.

1). You must have compassion. Yes, employees must do more with less. But this doesn't mean that they aren't still human. People have a variety of concerns other than the workplace. Some of your employees might be close to foreclosure, going through a divorce, just have had a death in the family, major health concerns for themselves or for their families, and so on.

A good employer is one who recognizes and has compassion for these things. Generous time off, an understanding ear and even just knowing what is going on in your employees' lives will go a long way toward making your workplace humane and human. Not offering these things will cost you in morale and good employees. No one will stay in a workplace where their humanity and needs are not recognized and served. Nor should they.

2). No rigid hierarchies. While there has to be a time where the boss is the boss, rigid hierarchies create a nasty workplace. This isn't the Army, and even the Army is moving toward a more "team" approach. Rather than having people work for you, have them work with you. See your employees for what they are - valued associates upon whom the success of your business depends. Treat them as fellow workers.

3). Health insurance. I just know the trolls are going to hit me on this one, but I believe it is a moral imperative for companies to provide their employees with good health insurance. We pay 100 percent of our employees' health insurance, and have a very good plan. At the very least, health insurance must be affordable for every employee. This is going to be a major competitive incentive as the economy gets better. Those of you who do not provide your employees with health insurance (and other types of insurance) will lose out to those of us who do.

4). Pay differential. Of course there is going to be some differential in what the top people in your company are paid and what the employees are paid. Any reasonable employee expects this. But if you're paying yourself a king's ransom, and your employees like paupers, you are going to lose some of your most valued associates in the future. Keep the pay differentials as small as possible. Again, realize that your success if dependent on the morale and loyalty of your staff, and act accordingly, not with greed.

5). Perks. The worst employers treat executives one way and other employees entirely differently. One major well-known Denver employer was telling employees about laying them off and, at the same time, bragging about how many executive aircraft the company had and how expensive they were to keep up. This is just plain bad business! I am also against bonuses for executives in a company that is laying off workers. Lay-offs are failures and should not be rewarded by bonuses for those whose decisions made the lay-offs necessary. In fact, unless you're a Fortune 500 company (for whom there is no moral hope), your benefits and "perks" should be very similar to those of your valued associates (employees).

6). Attitude. No one has the right to the service of another person. Ordering employees about, screaming at people and simply expecting servile attitudes mark you as a very bad boss. While a certain amount of discipline must be maintained, this should be done with courtesy, sensitivity and skill, not with ham-handed demands.

7). Employee time. While we all have to work evenings and weekends, employee "off time" should be respected insofar as possible. Some employees might need to be "on-call" 24/7, depending on your industry and their job title. But some bad bosses have employees work unnecessary weekends and evenings, and have no respect for their time.

8). Be reasonable. A 40-hour work week is probably dead. But the work-week should not consistently be 80 hours, either. Set deadlines as reasonably as possible. Manage client expectations so that your staff doesn't have to pull back-to-back "all nighters" to produce. And have generally reasonable expectations of your associates. After all, they are humans, not robots. Humans need sleep, food, play and family. Speaking of which...

9). Value family. Divorces, breakups and unhappy kids mean less productive employees. Do everything possible to work legitimate work needs around legitimate family needs. Everyone needs family time. And don't pile loads of extra work on the singles, either. They need time with others just as much as the family folks do.

10). Balance profit with a caring, moral workplace. American businesses often pursue profit regardless of the cost. Profit is necessary, but must be balanced with a workplace that treats people as people and operates with morality and integrity. Take the high road, and you will find you will succeed.

There's still room to join up to 40 of your executive colleagues at our exclusive Executive Structured Networking Event on Monday, March 14. No vendors! More info and required registration here.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

does it make any better to call someone a "troll" if you say it in advance?? You just can't resist can you?? By john wray on 2011 03 22
pretty good summation, esp the part about providing health care for your employees. When you get to 40 years of doing that, then you're doing sumething. My employees are especially afraid of losing the private insurance that I provide because they won't be able to see doctors in rural colorado, but lets hope that obama care never accomplishes that. They also know that if the "penalty" for not providing hc is less than the premium that they will be thrown into a central payer. This is inevitable if it continues. I don't think that I'm special in this situation because most of the hc is provided by business (small at that). The ONLY good part is that my competitors will have to provide it which evens the playing field. By john wray on 2011 03 22
Well, Thad, I think that it depends on a). the size of the company and b). the management thereof. Larger companies tend to spread the responsibility for nefarious deeds over a larger number of people and so are more likely to DO nefarious deeds. Smaller companies have direct accountability, and so are less likely to be dishonest, in my experience. But, of course, when you're speaking of the 400 people in America who hold more wealth than the bottom 19 Million put together, you're speaking clearly of people who got there through lying, cheating and stealing. Few, if any of us, will ever be in the top 400 people...or even close. Yet we are convinced again and again by our "leaders" in Washington to give these people a pass, not to regulate them, and not to look at what they do the average American. As for the military....the military mostly has a great deal of honor and integrity. Even the military, at the very top, plays politics, however. But if you want to find the degree of honor and integrity that exist in the military, you'll have to go back into the military. You're probably not going to find this in corporate America, as there is not the mental discipline one finds in any of the armed services. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 03 21
If the best companies recognize the value of their employees and have high ethical moral standards, as Mary says, why are all the criminals behind the bank failures, no-bid government contracting, 401k stealing and generally failed US MBA management culture have all the money and therefore political power in and out of the office place. One thing MBAs don't know is that leadership and loyalty come from demonstrated commitment to your followers as having their best interest in mind. This is West Point 101. As a soldier and liberal arts major I have seen a strong pattern of profit for management over corporate success too many times to believe sound leadership is to be found in America's management class or business schools. By Thad Cummins on 2011 03 21
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -- Martin Luther King Jr. A colleague of mine gave me a postcard with this on it as a parting gift.I understand and appreciate the financial arguments you make. The excuses for bad behavior? Not so much. By Mike Cote on 2011 03 09
Annie --- what you say is certainly some degree. I understand that employers may have to drop some benefits. Frankly, I think that the cost of health insurance is being exaggerated for political agendas. We have a top plan and it really, truly doesn't cost that much to keep us and our employees covered. If there is pain, such as vanishing perks and benefits, that pain should be shared by both the owners or executives and the "rank and file" employees. What I see too often is that the execs (and owners) take the pain last, not first, which, in my opinion, is the opposite of how it should be. I'm just saying that owners/managers/execs have an obligation to their staffs. As to management...hard times are no excuse for micromanagement or abuse. Yes, you should be grateful for a job in these hard times. But, as the economy gets better, if you're not being treated well and with respect, you should be looking. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 03 08
If so many business owners weren't struggling right along with their employees, perhaps it would be easier for them to follow your 10 hardcore 'realities'...however, the 'reality' is that they simply can't afford perks, benefits, extra time off, or any employees who wastes a minute of time.. They too are stressed, and as a result can become intolerant, rigid, overbearing, and yes, at times insensitive.. Under 'normal' and more financially relaxed circumstances and times, my employer has been generous, thoughtful, exhibited far less micro management, and was able to offer perks and benefits. However, what I have systematically experienced as times became more and more difficult (financially) for the company, was how the stress of doing everything possible to keep the business operating, has changed how the employers' expectations and management of the employees (including me) has drastically changed... including the ability to provide the benefits and perks I once enjoyed.... I'm personally just happy to still have my job and I try to do everything I know to be understanding during this most difficult time.. By Annie on 2011 03 08
Well said! The best companies recognize the value in their employees and also run their businesses with high ethical and moral standards. By Mary on 2011 03 08

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